September 10, 2020

Woodward’s Trump Interviews

“President Donald Trump talked in private about the ‘deadly’ coronavirus last February, even as he was declaring to America it was no worse than the flu and insisting it was under control, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward… His public rhetoric, Trump told Woodward in March, was part of a strategy to deliberately minimize the danger. ‘I wanted to always play it down,’ the president said. ‘I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.’” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Trump’s downplaying of the virus resulted in a significantly higher death toll.

“During a press conference on Feb. 27, for instance, Trump encouraged the public to ‘view this the same as the flu’ and to ‘treat this like you treat the flu.’ Less than three weeks earlier, he told Woodward the disease was ‘more deadly than even your strenuous flus.’… [On March 4] Trump said. ‘When you do have a death … all of a sudden it seems like 3 or 4 percent, which is a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1 percent.’ He continued: ‘Personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent.’ Again, to Woodward less than one month earlier, he said ‘this is more deadly. This is 5 percent.’…

“Woodward’s recording makes it clear that the president was not simply misinformed or being wishful about the virus, but deliberately lying about what he knew.”
Jeremy Stahl, Slate

“Despite his apparent understanding of the severity of the disease and its method of transmission, over the next month, in five cities around the country, Mr. Trump held large indoor rallies… When the president dithered on testing and contact tracing, when he failed to make or execute a clear and effective plan for securing personal protective equipment, when he repeatedly belittled and dismissed mask mandates and other social distancing edicts, Mr. Trump knew the virus was deadly and airborne. He knew that millions of people could get sick, and many would die…

“Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have suffered grave illness — often followed by a slow, hard recovery and, in some cases, permanent disability. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, and millions are on the cusp of losing their homes. School systems and elder care networks are struggling to function. The economy is in tatters. Imagine what this picture could look like today if the president had been honest with the American public on Feb. 7, calmly taken charge of the nation’s response to the pandemic and did his best to protect them.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“Trump claimed in public that the virus would disappear ‘like a miracle.’ He also said that ‘you have 15 people [with the coronavirus], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.’…

“Experts say that Trump’s response to the virus — particularly the magical thinking that colored his public comments — fueled the outbreak in America. That fostered a sense of complacency among the public and other leaders, building resistance to necessary public health measures against Covid-19 like social distancing, testing, and masking… The result: The US is doing about seven times worse than the median developed country, ranking in the bottom 20 percent for Covid-19 deaths among wealthy nations. If America had the same death rate as Canada, 100,000 more Americans would likely be alive today.”
German Lopez, Vox

“A cynic might suggest that Trump wanted to keep things calm because he was concerned that a plunging stock market would harm his chances for reelection. But let’s lay that aside for the moment and consider Trump’s explanation that he does not want to create panic. That might be news to the President Trump running for reelection. His YouTube video channel is filled with apocalyptic images of violence, economic despair and disaster… Trump says he didn’t want to spark panic. But he’s running on fear.”
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post

Regarding Woodward, “Back in February, there were plenty of questions about just how deadly the coronavirus was, and how it could be transmitted. Was it really all that lethal? Could you catch it through the air? Some experts said it probably wasn’t airborne. Few seemed to have definitive answers. But the nation’s most famous celebrity journalist knew — and knew the president did too — but decided not to tell anyone…

“Let’s be clear: Stories take time to authenticate and fact check. But Woodward didn’t hold the story for months in order to fact check it. He wasn’t using the time to report it out… history should never forget that America’s most famous journalist had a rare chance to sound an alarm about the pandemic the country was facing and instead chose to stay silent so he could preserve his access to the White House and sell a few more books to a nation locked down in quarantine.”
Andrew Perez and David Sirota, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

The right is divided about Trump’s comments but generally does not believe that he is responsible for the death toll.

The right is divided about Trump’s comments but generally does not believe that he is responsible for the death toll.

“Any government tends to default to assurances, whether they are warranted or not. Trump’s repeated statements at the outset of the pandemic that ‘we have it under control’ are fairly typical of any leader confronting a situation he or she might not be able to control. His concern about not creating a panic is also reasonable and common enough. His lapse is failing to say consistently from the very beginning, ‘This could be bad, and we should prepare for the worst.’…

“While Trump hewed to his rosy scenario, his administration undertook a concerted effort to solve problems related to the response. It acquired ventilators, stocked the PPE and testing supply chain, and worked closely with states. This story has gone mostly untold, in large part because the president hasn’t related it in detail and his posture has always been that the end of the pandemic is right around the corner.”
Rich Lowry, Politico

Some argue that “The idea that he downplayed the severity of the virus in public to avert panic is silly given the time frame. On the day he said that, March 19, New York City was already locking down. San Francisco has been under a stay-at-home order for weeks. Public panic was a fact of life. What Trump was worried about was a panic on the stock market specifically, and the reason that worried him is because he was planning to run this fall on the big beautiful gains in the Dow since he took office… He wasn’t worried about public anxiety over the virus. He was worried about investor anxiety over their portfolios and what it would mean for his election chances.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“A president who admits that he knew from the beginning how bad this was going to be, but did not level with the American people about the seriousness of the Covid threat. That is damned hard to forgive… [but] I think that even if Trump had been at the top of his game on Covid, it would not have made a significant difference. Major European countries have been much more conventionally governed on their Covid responses, and they’re pretty much on par with us (except Germany, which has been quite good). Even at this late date, we are seeing bars and gatherings of people jammed together, when everybody knows better…

“This isn’t going to hurt Trump much. Way, way too much else going on now. As I’m trying to figure out my vote, I’ve already factored in Trump’s poor early Covid response. I think most people have, on both sides of the issue.”
Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Others argue that “Hindsight is 20/20 and, of course, you can say Trump ‘should have’ declared this or that a few days or weeks earlier. Of course, policymakers don’t have that luxury to look into the future and see what the situation is going to be. Arguments about when something should have been done are useless. It presupposes that another president — perhaps from another party? — would have acted more quickly…

“There was so much disinformation being thrown around by the media in the early days of the pandemic, it’s no wonder people were confused. Remember the ‘ventilator crisis’? And that was Trump’s fault too — even though New York had so many ventilators that they actually sent some to New Jersey a couple of weeks after Governor Cuomo blamed Trump for wanting to kill people. Remember the ‘2 million’ dead Americans? The advice from the surgeon general to stop buying masks?… The WHO was claiming until April that you could catch the coronavirus from any surface. It didn’t take long to debunk that.”
Rick Moran, PJ Media

“Normally ‘avoiding a public panic’ would be a reason for praise… Remember that this statement was made around the time that Trump halted flights from China, and Europe shortly thereafter. And what did the media and Democrats say? Xenophobia! Racism! Unnecessary! Keep in mind that as late as March 15 NYC’s Communist Mayor Bill de Blasio was still telling people to attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and San Francisco Democrats were telling people that it’s no problem to attend Chinese New Year. Ask yourself: if Trump had sounded a larger alarm than he did (with the CDC having blown the test regime), just imagine what Democrats and their media toadies would have said. They’d accuse Trump of whipping up panic for political reasons.”
Steven Hayward, Power Line Blog

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.