In Cruz-Fauci fight over research, who’s more insufferable? Hint: It’s not the senator

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  • Ted Cruz
    Ted Cruz
    United States Senator from Texas

When we last checked on Sen. Ted Cruz, he was squabbling with Big Bird. Now, he’s got a much more worthy opponent: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Over the weekend, their spat over whether U.S. science agencies funded the kind of virus research that could create a more effective, deadly disease continued. And while Cruz has typically overshot the mark, Fauci’s reaction proved that the doctor/bureaucrat needs to spend more time in the lab and less in the media.

Cruz contends that Fauci may have lied to Congress when he testified that the National Institutes of Health didn’t fund “gain of function” research at the infamous virology lab in Wuhan, China. The Texas Republican points to a letter in which the agency acknowledged that work it funded demonstrated the kind of increased virality possibly associated with gain-of-function work.

The science is far too complex to pick apart here; suffice it to say that experts disagree whether the work in question constitutes gain-of-function research. The health agency did not expressly call it that, either. So, when Cruz called for Fauci to possibly be prosecuted for lying, he went way too far, too fast.

But Fauci’s response in a weekend interview with CBS News was cringe worthy. He painted the questions as attacks on science itself because, “I represent science.” And he tossed back a non-sequitur political attack about the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Fauci’s arrogance is astounding. He suggests that he is irreproachable because science itself is beyond criticism, when critical review is essential to advancing scientific work.

Fauci’s comment suggests an elevation of science to religion, with him as the infallible pope.

And a government employee shouldn’t mix it up politically with a senator. Cruz has his faults, but he represents Fauci’s bosses — the people. If Fauci wants to throw barbs about unrelated topics, he needs to quit and run for office.

Through all this, he neatly ducked questions about the research itself. As Cruz noted on Fox News, Fauci “basically did the ‘Beavis and Butthead’ defense. He just screamed ‘liars’ at everything.”

Fauci has long been an ineffective spokesman for battling COVID-19. His vagueness, admitted misdirection and casual threats, such as canceling Christmas, persuade no one to get vaccinated or take other precautions.

The doctor should know that letting Cruz seem like the more reasonable party is a screaming symptom of hubris that needs to be treated, fast.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in our opinion newsletter, Worth Discussion. It’s delivered every Wednesday with a fresh take on the news and a roundup of our best editorials, columns and other opinion content. Sign up here.

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