Editorial: Bob Woodward Only Confirmed What We Already Knew about Donald Trump

It seems that Donald Trump was right when he said at a 2016 political rally, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Over the last four years, we have seen time and again that absolutely nothing would change the minds of Trump’s base about their support for him. Though to our knowledge, Donald Trump hasn’t shot anyone on Fifth Avenue, Americans learned this week that since January, he has stood at the podium time after time, knowingly allowing nearly 192,000 Americans to die of COVID-19, as he kept potentially lifesaving information from them. As expected, Trump’s supporters are silent, except for a few weak utterings of justification and blame here and there.

On January 28, 2020, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien briefed Trump on the novel coronavirus, telling him that it would be the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. Trump also learned that day that the country could face a situation as bad as the 1918 pandemic. The virus was airborne, highly contagious, and could be spread by people who had no symptoms, Trump was told during the briefing.

Just a few days later, on February 2, Trump told Americans that the virus was contained, and that “we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” His message to Americans would continue to be, “Don’t worry, relax, it’ll disappear, it’s going away soon…” as the virus took hold and would soon spread exponentially throughout the country.

On February 7, Trump told investigative journalist Bob Woodward, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Rage, “This is deadly stuff. You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed… And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

In public, however, he said, “This is a flu. This is like a flu.” He had told Woodward that it was five times more deadly than the flu.

A month after his conversation with Woodward, Trump tweeted, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” (Trump had apparently forgotten that just weeks before, he had told Americans that it had been shut down “coming in from China.”)

While writing Rage, which examines Trump’s responses to the crises of 2020, Bob Woodward conducted nearly 10 hours of interviews with Trump, recording each of them with Trump’s consent. During those conversations, Trump talked about the magnitude of the coronavirus threat to Americans, even as he publicly talked about the virus as if it were nothing more than the common cold.

Trump continued to hold packed rallies and encourage large gatherings. He did nothing to warn Americans or advise them to stay safe from the coronavirus. Instead, he continually downplayed the threat of the virus, accusing Democrats of politicizing it, and calling the public’s concern over it the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

And so Trump’s base has taken that message forward, tweeting and posting and meme-ing. Even now, long after the COVID-19 death rate surpassed the average number of yearly flu deaths in the U.S., the base insist that the flu is more deadly. They have followed Trump’s example of eschewing face masks and scoffing at social distancing guidelines, even though the guidelines came from the White House’s own expert public health advisors.

And as Trump encouraged them to ignore public health guidance, later even stoking rebellion against the lockdown guidelines some governors had put in place to protect them, he knew all along how deadly and contagious the coronavirus was.

“It’s a horrible thing. It’s unbelievable,” he had told Woodward in early April. A week later, he told Woodward, “It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it.” Yet publicly, Trump continued to discourage mask-wearing and social distancing.

Over the summer, though Trump had told Woodard in March that the virus was killing young people along with older people, his public message was that children were “almost immune” from the virus. He insisted that schools should open for full in-person instruction, and threatened to withhold some types of funding from schools who didn’t comply.

Since January, Donald Trump has done what he could to stoke divisiveness among Americans around the coronavirus. He has made it a partisan issue to follow protective guidelines, encouraging his base to ignore them. He has downplayed the deadliness of the virus and promoted the idea that the “mainstream media” are inflating the death statistics. And he has been a barrier to testing for the virus, as he has proclaimed that more testing would mean more cases (“Slow the testing down, please,” he joked at a rally.)

What excuse can there possibly be for a leader to knowingly, willingly, mislead his country about a deadly pandemic? How does one justify the fact that Donald Trump, with full knowledge, placed Americans in harm’s way while denying that they were in danger?

Early on, Donald Trump himself acknowledged that he was minimizing the seriousness of the virus. On March 19, he told Woodward, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

He continued to play it down, and consequently, so has his base. In fact, the coronavirus has been so successfully played down to his supporters that it has become a popular topic for conspiracy theories. Mask-wearing has become a subversive plot to make children easier to abduct. Testing with a swab has become a sneaky way to implant microchips into unsuspecting brains. Protective lockdowns have become tyrannical violations of constitutional freedoms.

Thousands of Americans’ deaths could have been prevented, had Donald Trump not repeatedly lied about the deadliness of the coronavirus, and had he encouraged Americans to take protective measures.

Trump still defends his lying to Americans about COVID-19. This week, Trump maintained that he was “showing leadership” and trying to avoid “panic.”

“We have to show calm,” he said. “Certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We have to show strength.”

Yet Trump attempts to drive the country into a frenzy of fear about the dangers of mail-in voting, the threat of violence in the suburbs, the anarchy of war-zone-like cities, and the imminent takeover by antifa and Black Lives Matter. He stokes panic over that possibility of “Biden’s America,” where, according to him, chaos will reign, God and guns will be outlawed, and illegal immigrants will not only take over all of the jobs, but will also rape America’s daughters. He “didn’t want to cause a panic,” however, about a deadly, highly contagious disease that more Americans could have protected themselves from, had he told them the truth.

Vice President Mike Pence responded to questions about what Donald Trump knew, and when, by saying, “This president has put the health of America first from day one.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also responded by lying. “The president never downplayed the virus,” she said, even though Trump himself admitted to doing so. “The president expressed calm. The president was serious about this when the Democrats were pursuing their sham impeachment.”

Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communication manager, briefly attempted to rationalize that when news of the coronavirus was first breaking, Donald Trump was distracted by the Democrats’ “sham impeachment.” He then told The Hill, “The president has always said…that he views as part of his job as being leader of the country, is to calm people down, and not to create a crisis and cause panic.”

On Thursday evening, September 11, the day after the news broke about Trump’s intentional coronavirus coverup, Trump held his 18th rally since January 28. Thousands of MAGAs, mostly without masks, crowded together outside an airplane hangar in Freeland, Michigan, and chanted to their leader, “We love you!”

Donald Trump’s 2016 quip about his base’s unwavering support, even in the event that he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, was an insult to their intelligence. It appears, however, that he was accurate. Over and over, Trump has clearly shown his supporters that he really doesn’t care whether they live or die…He just wants their adulation (and their votes).

In turn, Donald Trump’s supporters eagerly show him that they really don’t mind that he doesn’t care whether they live or die. Trump aides and GOP lawmakers continue to enable him by lying for him themselves. The coronavirus is our Fifth Avenue, and those who continue to support Donald Trump and say nothing are his accomplices.

Trump Campaign TRIES To Defend Against Bob Woodward Book | The Hill

Trump talks COVID-19 with journalist Bob Woodward: “I always wanted to play it down” | CBS This Morning [2020-09-10]

Editorial: Trump’s MAGA Rally Planning Sums Up His Presidency

Donald Trump’s MAGA campaign rally in Tulsa Oklahoma, his first since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, hasn’t even taken place yet, but one need only witness its planning and logistics to see that it sums up the Trump approach to presidency, in general.

First (though it’s hard to decide where to start), there’s Trump’s typical disregard for science—in this case, infectious disease and public health experts. The indoor event, expected to pack in thousands of “shoulder-to-shoulder” attendees, is taking place in spite of the pandemic of highly contagious COVID-19 that rages in the background.

Despite a nearly 30-percent increase in the number of cases in Tulsa over the past week, Donald Trump, who continues to flout experts’ advice, refuses to wear a mask, and because he has communicated the idea that real men don’t wear masks, we don’t expect him to be wearing one during his rally. Consequently, neither can we expect the other “real men” (or their “real women”) at his rally to be wearing masks, either.

Since Donald Trump knows his base so well, he knows that they will follow his lead when it comes to what they should think. He has told them many lies over these 3-1/2 years, including that COVID-19 is mostly hype (it doesn’t matter which conspiracy theory they believe, though, so long as they believe one).

On the other hand, fully aware that he’s downplayed and lied to them about COVID-19, the Trump campaign is requiring rally attendees to sign a waiver agreeing not to sue, should they become sick from breathing in the droplets of an infected person while the masses are chanting, cheering, singing…or booing Hillary. The waiver lets him slither out of culpability…not unlike his slithering out of other accountabilities…such as removal from office following impeachment.

It seems more likely, though, that, as with other aspects of what some would call the abusive relationship between Donald Trump and his base, Trump knows that if thousands do become infected as a result of the rally, they would likely make excuses for him and continue welcoming him back home as they find a way to blame a Democrat conspiracy, Chinese drones spraying chemicals overhead, or Hillary Clinton. The waiver is simply extra protection.

Tulsa’s health director, Bruce Dart, said, “I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”

Trump’s willingness to put his supporters at great risk in order to bask in their adoration could not be more characteristic of who Donald Trump is.

From his efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act to his reversal of environmental protections to his promotion of unproven and potentially fatal COVID-19 treatments, Donald Trump’s M.O. has been to place others into jeopardy as he reaped the rewards and praise. Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his disregard for whether Americans—even his base—live or die.

And speaking of disregard: Did Donald Trump or his campaign intentionally schedule the original date of the rally for Juneteenth…and in Tulsa, Oklahoma?

Originally, Trump’s MAGA rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was scheduled for Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, June 19. Juneteenth is celebrated in the U.S. to commemorate the announcement of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves on June 19, 1865.

The fact that Trump’s rally had been scheduled on this date, when he has almost completely ignored the reason for the current Black Lives Matter demonstrations while sending in violent police and military forces to break them up…Is the irony in picking this date founded in simple ignorance or oversight, or does it come from a conscious effort to mock African Americans?

As if choosing that particular date weren’t enough, Tulsa, Oklahoma, the rally’s venue, is the site of the Tulsa Massacre, one of the worst acts of racial violence we’ve seen in the U.S. Donald Trump is a president known for his racist comments, his defense of and association with white supremacists, and his complete refusal to acknowledge the problem of systemic racism in the U.S. Again, is the irony in this choice of locale born out of oversight, or cruelty?

It’s possible that Trump wasn’t aware of the significance of the date and locale. If that’s true, then surely, someone working on his campaign knew, and should have pointed it out earlier. If, indeed, no one was aware, it is just another indicator of how oblivious and out of touch this administration is with Americans who are not white.

If the rally date and location selection were not accidental, or, if the planners planned the rally despite knowing the significance of the date and location, then it was a conscious slap in the face of the African American community.

Oblivion, whether out of ignorance or cruel intention, is a hallmark of the Trump presidency. We’ve seen it play out in Trump’s approach to history, medicine, science, integrity, people of color, the law…

Trump was pressured by controversy to finally reschedule the MAGA rally to June 20.  “Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday,” he tweeted on Friday.

We can expect that he and his supporters will lean on this one feeble action as “proof” that Donald Trump is not a racist.

We can be reasonably sure, without even attending one, what a Trump campaign rally will be like. We’ve seen enough clips to expect the self-aggrandizement, the exaggerated statistics and claims (and those without any basis in truth at all), and the vilification of anyone Trump perceives to be against him. And incidentally, from this rally, we can also expect a rise in COVID-19 cases a couple of weeks later.

We don’t need to attend one of his campaign rallies to understand Donald Trump or his presidency any better. We need only look at the planning of his first post-lockdown campaign rally. The Dunning Kruger phenomenon, the gaslighting, the endangerment of Americans to stoke his ego, the racism, the oblivion. It’s all right there.

Trump delays Tulsa rally after criticism over Juneteenth date | CBS This Morning [2020-06-13]

News Wrap: Trump defends Juneteenth rally in Tulsa as ‘a celebration’ |
PBS NewsHour [2020-06-12]