It’s been a tough day for the Trump Administration, even by the low, low standards it has established over the past four years. Among the various news items that might have been their own lead, but were buried by the actual lead:
1) Trump’s Fascist-palooza on the White House steps did nothing for fundraising. Trump was forced to announce that he raised a mere $210 million in August, just more than half of the Biden campaign’s $365 million. Apparently having a death cult doesn’t pay.1Especially if it tithes 10%, or is fasting for Martha McSally.
2) USC’s tracking poll—one of the few that tracked Trump’s advance in 2016–continues to show him down a dozen points. Meanwhile, a Marist poll showed Biden up in Pennsylvania 49-40, re-establishing a high point in a state that had shown a little narrowing.
3) With so many of its flacks already discredited, the White House today had to turn to Robert O’Brien and Kayleigh McEnany, the discarded “His” and “Hers” towels of America’s Vegas shotgun wedding with the Trump Administration, to defend it on the airwaves. The last half-hour of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was less gruesome, though far more entertaining.
4) And speaking of O’Brien’s hair2Let’s pause to remember the CNN story reported in June that O’Brien presented Trump with a series of press clippings comparing his own public submissive obsequiousness to that of Secretary Of Defense Mark Esper’s. Never forget., it and Department of Homeland Security head Chad Wolf were accused in a whistleblower complaint of manipulating intelligence reports to facilitate Donald Trump’s dalliances with Vladimir Putin.3[REDACTED] At least one senior White House official has already confirmed the complaint is true.
Any one of these previous four circumstances standing alone would have made it a bad day. All four of them together should have been a perfect storm, and none of those stories is even over the fold on page 1 of tomorrow’s New York Times. That space is saved for the blockbuster revelation that Trump told veteran journalist Bob Woodward in February that he knew COVID was both (1) transmissible by air and (2) orders of magnitude more deadly than the usual seasonal flu.
With regard to Trump, the surprise is not so much that he knew this information—these are known facts to everyone but Republicans—but that Woodward recorded him saying them. This is because Trump’s COVID strategy has relied from the beginning on gullible ideologues—true believers—picking up Trump’s cues and spreading the misinformation that COVID is a hoax. Now it is established that Trump knew the truth all along, and left his followers out to dry. Go figure. Just the other day, a group of QAnons and COVID deniers descended on the Red Cross after it announced it could not handle physical donations while attempting to give aid as Fresno County descends into flames—no tragedy being too small to virtue-signal their Trumpitude. Well, as Trump would say, what a bunch of suckers.
Trump will always be political cancer. No helping that. But we must also address Bob Woodward. Trump made these statements in February, before COVID ever reached American shores. Nearly 200,000 people have since lost their lives, and one reason America has not been able to develop a unified response to the threat is that the 40% of the population with cult devotion to Trump insist that COVID is a hoax, no matter how much gaslighting or misinformation he may spread.
Woodward’s behavior really is inexplicable, except to sell his book. He is not protecting a “source” here, much less an anonymous one—these were Trump’s own words. And while Woodward sat on the tapes, Trump was using his carefully-groomed death cult to bully the virtuous, spread scientific twaddle, and construct an alternative reality all of us must inhabit. It’s not that we can’t go to church because anyone wants to limit our rights. We can’t go to church because we don’t know whether we can trust our Trump-wacky neighbors. We need this information to explain to people, reluctantly quoting the most obnoxious Trump sycophants, that “the facts don’t care about their feelings.”
Woodward has the receipts, as the kids say, and we should all be glad for that. But one can’t help but think more was required here given the circumstances. I concede that I do not know all the purported rules—written or unwritten—that have brought us to Labor Day without having access to Trump’s candid and newsworthy statements about COVID. But I know that if those rules have led to an embargo of relevant and once timely information that would have impeached this president’s disingenuous gaslighting, saving America the psychic, emotional, and financial consequences of his manipulations, then those rules need to change immediately.