Our problems remain epistemological.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

The first time a doctor ended a presidency

"For one doctor in particular, this national crisis was a rare and heady intersection of medicine and political power—an opportunity for recognition he would never see again." 

This describes Dr. Anthony Fauci to a T. But this was not written about Dr. Tony. This was written, by Candice Millard in her book Destiny of the Republic, about Dr. Doctor. That is, Dr. Doctor Bliss -- his parents named him Doctor to nudge him in the right direction. He would, in fact, become a doctor. More than that, he would become a historic doctor: the first to kill a U.S. presidency. Though madman Charles Giteau pulled the trigger, it was Dr. Doctor who killed President James Garfield, by his deadly admixture of pride and ignorance. Although Joseph Lister's germ theory was known at the time, Dr. Doctor was not about to share credit with any new ideas.

Giteau's shot had been non-fatal. Innumerable Civil War veterans were still ambling about in those days with bullets still harmlessly lodged in their insides:

Even had Garfield simply been left alone, he almost certainly would have survived. Lodged as it was in the fatty tissue below and behind his pancreas, the bullet itself was no continuing danger to the president. “Nature did all she could to restore him to health,” a surgeon would write just a few years later. “She caused a capsule of thick, strong, fibrous tissue to be formed around the bullet, completely walling it off from the rest of the body, and rendering it entirely harmless.” Garfield’s doctors did not know where the bullet was, but they did know that it was not necessarily fatal. Just sixteen years after the end of the Civil War, hundreds of men, Union veterans and Confederate, were walking around with lead balls inside them.

Unfortunately for President Garfield, he was in the presence of greatness. The Great Dr. Doctor would single-handedly save America. But what Dr. Doctor did not know was that his saving hand was covered in germs. So when Dr. Doctor plunged his expert ham hand inside Garfield, it poisoned him worse than the bullet had, and, in the end, Dr. Doctor killed President Garfield.

Unfortunately for President Trump, he, too, at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, found himself in the presence in greatness. Like Dr. Doctor before him, the Great Dr. Tony would single-handedly save America. So Dr. Tony plunged his ham hands inside our economy... and killed it.

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