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In 2000 he denied any link between smoking and lung cancer. Now Mike Pence is our nation's medic.

Mike Pence once maintained that God would eliminate the AIDS epidemic. By that he probably meant that gay men—the majority or AIDS victims—would eventually all die off as proof that Mike’s version of God was riding herd, or maybe culling the herd. While Mike was awaiting divine retribution, scientific humanity stepped in and produced an alternative solution—one that didn't kill people but saved them.

Now that same Mike Pence—the man who aggravated an AIDS epidemic in his home state by delaying a needle-exchange program (and there is empirical proof of that) is in charge of dispensing information on the coronavirus. He is a special appointee, courtesy of his buddy Don Trump. And what specific qualifications does Pence bring to this medical exigency? A shameful but undying loyalty to the president and a disdain for science. What could possibly go awry?

Yesterday Mr. Pence’s handler decreed that all scientific and medical statements regarding the virus be filtered through the vice-president first; and last night, as predictably as weekends mean golf for the president, we had our first whistleblower—an eye witness to the fact that medical personnel last week were not in any way shielded from or trained to deal with possible carriers of the virus. Stories like this are bound to multiply, and eventually the pandemic may reach the point where Trump can no longer choreograph its progress. In a battle of viruses, Trump may prove the weaker. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

And Pence, if he blindly subscribes to every lie his lord (that’s lower-case “l”) and master belches, does that make him a liar too, or is he just a willing dupe? Either way, if we can’t count on him, and by extension, on our government for the truth about this illness, how do we deal with it on a personal level?

There’s an old saying that even a blind horse finds water once in a while, and keeping that in mind, I hope Trump is right that he has everything under control. But his initial “willingness” to earmark $2 billion to fight coronavirus as opposed to $8 billion to construct his wall of shame makes me a little more dubious.

As for Pence, it’s no-win for him: if the disease burns itself out before ravaging the world, he’ll have been merely the executor of the Trump Plan; but if COVID-19 turns out to be Stephen King’s Captain Trips, then Pence will get the blame—though if The Stand is the model for the apocalypse, there won’t be many complainers left.

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