“Santa is not going to be spreading any infections to anybody,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told the nation’s children last month. The question this year isn’t whether Santa will visit, but, when he does, will he leave more than presents behind. While little is known about how COVID has affected the self-isolated community in the North Pole, Dr. Fauci seems to have access to Kris Kringle’s medical history. “Santa is exempt from this because Santa, of all the qualities, has a lot of good innate immunity,” he said.
This bit is usually played by the president, but Dr. Fauci was wise not to leave it to Donald Trump; if the standard of success is not ruining Christmas for children, he was failing long before the pandemic. In 2018, seven-year-old Collman Lloyd thought she was calling NORAD, the government agency that “tracks” Santa’s movements on Christmas Eve but instead found herself on the phone with President Trump. “Are you still a believer in Santa?” he asked Lloyd, a question traditionally posed in a sneering tone by the meanest kid in school. “Because at seven, it’s marginal, right?”
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy received a letter written in pencil from Michelle Rochon, eight, who was concerned that the USSR’s plans to detonate a nuclear bomb in the North Pole “will kill Santa.” Kennedy, father of two young children, responded by acknowledging that he shared Rochon’s fears “not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world.” Kennedy appeared to know fewer details about Santa’s well-being than Dr. Fauci, but he seemed to be on friendly terms with him. “I talked with him yesterday, and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas.”
I’m not usually given to nostalgia, but I’ve thought about this letter since I saw Dr. Fauci attempt to comfort the nation's children. He was doing what he’s done all year: exuding stability and empathy during a global crisis that has radically upended American life. There’s nothing in the Constitution that mandates presidents must provide this service, but most have managed to do so with far greater success than the outgoing inhabitant of the oval office. I’m sure I’ll take issue with the next administration, but I look forward to the little things, like knowing that the president can talk to a seven-year-old girl without ruining her Christmas.
On a related note:
Eleanor Roosevelt, then First Lady, Christmas shopping for her grandchildren. (1933 via Getty)
Calvin and Grace Coolidge in front of the National Christmas tTree, lit by the president. Grace looks fantastic, but Coolidge probably told her she looked terrible because he was extremely rude to her. But that’s for another time. (1927 via Getty)
The Bush family Christmas card photo of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, and with future president George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, who would become the 43rd Governor of Florida. (n.d. via Getty Images)
Socks the Cat (1989-2009), the First Pet of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Socks was a stray cat who got lucky when he jumped into Chelsea’s arms as she was leaving a piano lesson in Little Rock, Arkansas. Unfortunately, he didn’t get along with Buddy, the Clinton’s dog (1997-2002). When Socks left the White House, he did so with Betty Curie, the president’s secretary. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower and family at the White House. (1956 via Getty)
First lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, read Christmas stories to children at the Children's National Medical Center. (2009 via Getty. Photo by Mark Wilson)
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I’ll be back next week with TheWashington Post’s Alexandra Petri, the first to play Study Marry Kill! In the meantime, find me on Twitter and Instagram. You Never Forget Your First and Alice+Freda Forever are available at Bookshop, Amazon, and your neighborhood indie.