The Vandals Who Moonlight as Repairmen
It’s no coincidence that the powerful elites who manage our unending crises sometimes turn out to have caused them.
Thanks to revelations from Anthony Fauci’s email account, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the American people have just wrapped up a murder mystery in which the helpful butler was revealed to be a cackling villain. The story of Fauci’s role in the birth of COVID-19 seems almost custom-made for conservative media outrage. Can it be real?
The evil butler cliché shouldn’t happen in real life—yet somehow, the same man that President Trump placed in charge of the nation’s pandemic response turns out to have funded gain-of-function development of SARS-CoV-2 through the National Institute of Health, ignored crucial mitigation and treatment methods as recommended by experts, and helped cover up evidence suggesting the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Plenty of Americans put this together as early as April of 2020. It was always painfully obvious that the proximity of the Wuhan outbreak to China’s foremost virology lab could not be explained away. We all remember when the December 2019 revelations of researcher and whistleblower Li Wenliang were followed by his swift silencing by Chinese police and suspicious death by “natural” causes. We were never fooled by Fauci’s flip-flops, duplicity, and ever-shifting goalposts. If we looked closely enough, we might have also noticed the EcoHealth Alliance controversy last year—the same organization Peter Daszak was working for when he emailed Fauci to thank him for discrediting the lab leak hypothesis.
Though the coincidence of Fauci as the pandemic plague rat seems far-fetched, if you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. The supermanager archetype so often placed in charge of problem-solving our national crises inevitably comes from a tight-knit group of elite bureaucrats: Ivy-educated, lockstep liberal, parasitical, and opportunistic. These are the men and women in charge. They don’t only solve problems; naturally, they create them, too.
Is it so hard to believe that our government—even one ostensibly headed by a Republican president—would hire the same bureaucrat to oversee both NIH virology funding in a foreign country, and a pandemic response for a virus from the same country? Fauci’s history of failure (accompanied by political shrewdness) stretches back to 1984, encompassing scientific blunders in HIV/AIDS research, a failed anthrax vaccine program, and several unforced errors responding to flu, ebola, and Zika virus.
In government, “whoops” is often the motto of the successful.
This has been true for as long as there has been a managerial elite: not an aristocracy or a meritocracy, but a rule by the most pliable and programmed pencil-pushers. Well-connected, “company men” mediocrities in positions of power cause big problems—and then, are ludicrously brought in to solve them while hoping nobody googles their resumé.
There are numerous examples of fêted failures—in foreign policy, for example, when the CIA thought it would be smart to spend $3 billion arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Three decades later, after former Mujahideen-turned-Al Qaeda operative Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11, President Bush sought to appoint Robert Gates, the CIA director who described himself as the “ultimate insider” of the Afghanistan proxy war, as the first Director of National Intelligence—a move recommended by the 9/11 Commission. If Gates got us into this mess, the thinking apparently went, he can surely get us out of it.
The same logic sustained Fed Chair Alan Greenspan’s legacy long after his statements and monetary policies fueled not one, but two financial crises—the dotcom bubble and subprime mortgage crash. Despite his tarnished reputation, the Senate called him as an expert on solving inflation and a tight labor market in 2009. There, he birthed the trope that immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t, and called for expanding both legal and illegal immigration as a “safety valve.” Perhaps Greenspan was striving for the elusive hat trick of national disasters.
Then there’s this more recent example: As Republicans look to regain their political footing, party leaders have chosen Paul Ryan to show the way forward. Armed with conservative principles and a glowing track record, he declared from the outdoor stage at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library that he knows just how to put the GOP back on track. Surely Ryan won’t run it straight into the ground to serve his ideology, as he has done consistently for the last decade. Right?
No matter how failure-prone and untrustworthy, this type keeps returning like a bad old penny. You happen to scroll the news, and they’re back in the headlines, wielding some position of power and authority. Anthony Fauci is just the latest in a long line of apparatchiks and managers who excels at failing up. Ruling-class functionaries like him—elites in name only—will continue this pattern until opposed by a credible replacement.
Andrew Cuff writes on conservative issues and policy reform from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. You can find him on Twitter @AndrewJCuff.