April 3, 2020

Confusion Fuel

Texans in Desperate Need of Consistent Guidance Amid Virus Fears
Don't Know Who to Believe as Cornyn Warns on Going Overboard


Anthony Fauci became one of the most famous and influential people in the world almost overnight as the face of the fight to minimize the carnage from the coronavirus in America. Fauci has been willing to risk his career as a high-ranking federal official by telling a frightened nation when President Donald Trump has been wrong and misleading with statements that he's made about COVID-19 since it invaded the USA three months ago.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn earned his celebrity status the old-fashion way with a political debut as a state district judge before stints as a Texas Supreme Court justice and the state's attorney general en route to the current post that he won initially in 2002. Cornyn had long been perceived as an establishment Republican who tea party conservatives had tried and failed to beat before he became one of Trump's most vocal cheerleaders in time for a re-election bid in 2020.

At a time when the lack of a unified message has fear and anxiety soaring to epic levels, it probably comes as no surprise that the senior U.S. Senate member from the nation's second largest state sharply disagrees with the most prominent medical expert in the land today on the need for a nationwide stay-at-home order.

Fauci - a presidential coronavirus task force member who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - said this week that he finds it hard to believe that every state doesn't have an official shutdown mandate in place. That is one of the reasons why he insists that a nationwide mandate is critical.

But Cornyn suggested on Thursday that everyone needs to chill a bit - arguing that the implementation of such a policy at the federal level would be overkill.

"Locking down the country more than necessary to defeat the virus to me seems like an overreaction," Cornyn said on Thursday.

The powerful Republican is on the same page with the president who's rejected calls from coast to coast for a more rigid enforcement of social distancing for the sake of saving lives despite the devastating effect that it's having on the economy and an unemployment rate that more than doubled in the past week. Governor Greg Abbott bowed to mounting pressure this week when he issued a watered-down version of statewide restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus spread through collective isolation and limitations on businesses and most public gatherings.

Cornyn is absolutely correct with the assertion that major urban areas in Texas have been hardest hit while COVID-19 has barely given lip service to parts of the state that have "more cows than people" as potential virus victims. Cornyn - like the president - seems to think that a one-size-fits-all approach in the coronavirus survival campaign isn't as smart as the patchwork quilt of strategies that governors and local leaders have been compelled to put in place in the absence of a centralized plan.

One of the glaring difference between Cornyn and Fauci is that the politician is telling the president what he wants to hear while the bureaucrat who has nothing to gain politically is not. Cornyn appears to be interested in finding a delicate balance between the public health and the economy as competing priorities while Fauci seems focused more on keeping the body count as low as possible regardless of the financial toll.

The people who are more prone to follow the advice of medical and scientific experts like Fauci would see Cornyn's concerns about going overboard with federal intervention as a new verse in the same song that Trump had played for a couple of months while ignoring warnings about the death and disaster that the novel virus would bring to America without swift and decisive action at the top.

Fauci seems to think that it would be impossible to overreact in a battle that the monster has been winning in a nation that could be hiding for months to come as consequence of the failure to follow the doctor's advice from day one. Trump could try to find a way to fire Fauci or get him out of the limelight. But Fauci doesn't have to get elected in November to keep his job like Cornyn has to do as an incumbent who's put all his eggs in the Trump basket with no turning back at this point.

Mike Hailey's column appears on a regular basis in Capitol Inside


Mike Hailey presents state politics with a personal touch. He's the only Texas Capitol journalist who's been to the dark side and back - having worked for two major newspaper bureaus before signing on as press secretary for Bob Bullock - the most powerful and legendary political leader of his time in the state. Hailey's Comment, which is published in Capitol Inside on a regular basis, is a direct reflection of that experience.

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