Biden’s Transition Team is Deciding Whether to Keep on Deborah Birx, ‘It’s Complicated’
President-elect Joe Biden has a multitude of weighty matters to consider, but perhaps the most important issue is what his transition team is dealing with now: whether to give Dr. Deborah Birx, who is part of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, a seat at the new table.
Right now, Biden’s team is considering a pretty big purge of officials closely connected with President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, Politico reports. Birx’s position as coronavirus coordinator for the task force puts her in an unfortunate position because her reputation has been tarred by Trump’s utter incompetence in handling the pandemic.
Advocates are encouraging the President-elect’s team to keep her on, thanks to her long-term experience in the healthcare field and because she’s certainly had plenty of experience on the frontlines of the pandemic. And there’s a good chance that the new president will be stepping into a deepening crisis as the pandemic rages on.
Others are skeptical however and are worried that her nine months working as a coordinator for the Trump administration’s task force has permanently stained her credibility. There are worries that keeping Birx on could hamper Biden’s hopes of implementing a completely reworked federal government pandemic response.
It’s a thorny issue, notes Céline Gounder, who sits on Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board.
“It’s complicated,” she told Politico. “It’s almost like she herself has been politicized.”
As Biden becomes President and the new administration settles in, there are expectations that nearly all of Trump’s task force will be replaced, leading one transition official to describe this as a “house cleaning” meant to signify a clear break from Trump’s disastrous handling of the pandemic.
The only person guaranteed a position on Biden’s pandemic team is Dr. Anthony Fauci, and that’s a fortunate thing because the good doctor, a foremost expert on infectious diseases, has managed to survive Trump’s unhinged verbal attacks on him, not to mention even more unhinged attacks by Trump sycophants Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. It’s likely he’ll take on a key role as a high-profile messenger as the incoming administration gains steam.
And indeed, Fauci and Birx are old friends. He has even served as her mentor in the past.
It’s also worth noting that unlike others in the current task force, she’s not a Trump appointee, and she has spent decades working within the federal public health bureaucracy, Politico notes. She recently served as ambassador-at-large and under President Barack Obama she served as U.S. Global AIDS coordinator.
Birx has spent the last few months distancing herself from the Trump administration’s herd-immunity response to the pandemic but at the same time kept close involvement in daily efforts to fight the pandemic even as her influence within the Oval office wanes. She continues to warn that the situation will only worsen if stricter adherence to health measures like wearing a mask isn’t mandated.
But the one issue that has dogged her the most is perhaps the one in which she basically dismissed Trump’s absurd suggestion that an “injection” of disinfectant might ward off COVID-19 in a person.
“When he gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue — and so that’s what dialogue he was having,” she later told Fox News.
Birx received clap-back for that, with some people disappointed that she didn’t play a larger role in convincing Trump to escalate the federal government’s response. And she’s earned the ire of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who privately told White House officials the task force coordinator was “the worst” and decried “what horrible hands” everyone was in. Then Pelosi really went for the jugular, publicly saying she had no confidence in Birx.
Fortunately, this political circus helmed by Trump is soon to end, and whomever President-elect Biden brings on, they will almost certainly be considerably more capable of handling this pandemic than Trump and his minions.