Trump's taped confession shows one of America's greatest betrayals
Donald Trump's taped confession during a February interview with Bob Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was "deadly stuff" but blatantly and repeatedly lied about it to the public is hands down the most damning recorded revelation from an American president in U.S. history.
Trump, as only he could possibly do, managed to eclipse last week's bombshell that he disparaged fallen soldiers as "losers" and "suckers" with an even more devastating news story this week. The worst part of the recordings wasn't just that Trump told mistruths about how lethal COVID-19 was or the fact that kids can contract it—it's that his own words revealed how vile and sinister he is to the core. Trump knew, but he deliberately blindfolded Americans and led them to slaughter because he didn't want to panic the stock markets. We know this is true not only because of Trump's almost singular fixation on the stock market but because of reporting that he "fumed" over a market crash in late February following the spot-on warning from a CDC epidemic expert that community spread of the pandemic was definitely coming to America. It wasn’t question of if, but when and how bad the outbreak would be.
Even though Trump's betrayal of America has dominated the past several days of news coverage, it's still worth revisiting a side-by-side of what he told Woodward privately versus what he was saying publicly.
Jan. 30, Trump says publicly of coronavirus: “We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”
Feb. 2, Trump publicly: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China."
**Feb. 7, Trump privately to Woodward: "It's goes through air, Bob... it's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. ... This is deadly stuff."
Feb. 10, Trump publicly: “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine.” Also: "In April, supposedly it dies with the hotter weather, and that's a beautiful date to look forward to. ... We're in very good shape."
Feb. 24, Trump publicly: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Feb. 26, Trump publicly: “When you have 15 people — and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero — that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
Feb. 26, Trump publicly: "It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
Feb. 28, Trump publicly: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
March 10, Trump publicly: “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
**March 19, Trump to Woodward: "Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. ... Young people too — plenty of young people.”
Aug. 5, Trump publicly: "If you look at children, children are almost, and I would say almost definitely, but almost immune from this disease. ... they don't have a problem, they just don't have a problem."
It goes on. And on. And on. The public record is riddled with documentary evidence of Trump recklessly misleading the American public about how deadly the pandemic was known to be, ultimately would be, who could get it, and how well his administration was handling the response. In the Woodward interviews, Trump displayed a measure of realism—some actual grasp of the calamity to come. But publicly, Trump spewed so much magical thinking that we were left to wonder whether his mind had simply succumbed to a miasma of delusion. No we’ve heard the truth, delivered in Trump’s own words.
In the week prior to the Republican National Convention (RNC), a CNN/SSRS poll established the coronavirus as the defining issue of the election for most Americans, with nearly 7 in 10 respondents saying they were embarrassed by the U.S. response to the pandemic, 79% either very or somewhat angry about how things are going in the country right now, and 67% knowing someone diagnosed with the virus.
The RNC featured a week of coronavirus denialism that sought to erase the realities of the pandemic from voters' minds and celebrate Trump's economy—which in reality has posted the worst jobs numbers of any president dating back to World War II. As Trump resumed his regular campaigning, he followed up with an onslaught of fearmongering about Black Lives Matter protesters and "Democrat-run cities" intended to scare the bejesus out of white suburban women.
Post-convention polling, however, suggests the GOP's effort was a total flop. A Monmouth University Poll this week found just 37% think Trump has done a good job of handling the pandemic while 56% say he's done a bad job. 56% also said they weren't confident Trump is capable of putting the country back on the road to recovery while 53% expressed confidence in Joe Biden's ability to help the nation recover. Last week's Civiqs survey also found that 44% of respondents thought it would be at least six months-plus before life returns to normal with another 27% saying things will never go back to normal. In April, 55% expressed confidence the pandemic would be over by June.
Release of this week’s Monmouth poll got entirely crowded out by the Woodward bombshell because the stories hit within hours of each other on the same day. And let's face it, Trump's pandemic polling has always been dismal, so the survey really just reaffirmed that the fundamentals on the issue remain constant.
As for Trump's scare tactics, if anything, his persistent focus on violence appears to be reminding voters that he's the candidate who continually stokes anger and division. Given the choice between who would do the best job uniting the country, 64% chose Biden in last weekend's CBS battleground tracker. Another 59% said Biden was their pick to reduce violence in the country while just 39% chose Trump. (These trends generally held true in the NYT/Siena battleground polls of MI/WI Saturday morning. Though some of Trump’s ‘law and order’ messaging has broken through, it hasn’t given him an edge over Biden on the matter.)
Most voters aren't scared of Biden—or at least it doesn't register in the polls. But they are afraid of Trump and the pandemic, and most voters seem desperate to get back to some sense of normalcy, which they don't think Trump is capable of providing.
Given those dynamics, almost nothing could have been worse for Trump this week than tapes proving that he, in his own words, committed a "life-and-death betrayal" of the American people. Between that recording and his "losers" and "suckers" jab at U.S. service members, Trump has spent the last week and a half playing nothing but defense as we close in on Election Day.
Immediately after the Atlantic story about his disrespect for military service dropped last Thursday evening, Trump went into spin mode. "I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes," he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews after a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. "What animal would say such a thing?” he wondered.
The kind of animal that—even as corpses piled up—would repeatedly tell lethal lies in pursuit of his reelection to the very people he had sworn to protect and defend.