“This is deadly stuff.”
Donald J. Trump on 7 February 2020 to journalist Bob Woodward
In the course of writing his book Rage, Bob Woodward talked directly with the president eighteen times and recorded those conversations with Mr. Trump’s permission and knowledge. The tapes and available excerpts from the book clearly show that Mr. Trump knew from the beginning that the coronavirus was deadly and yet he continually took no action and played down the threat through much of January, February and March. In important ways he still ignores the severity of the crisis.
Mr. Trump clearly is not responsible for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his belated and inconsistent response cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives.
The timeline of Mr. Trump’s private statements to Mr. Woodward, matched up with his public statements about the state of the pandemic, demonstrates his callous disregard for American lives and his deliberate deception to prevent coherent actions in the early days of the crisis.
For example, Mr. Trump was briefed by his National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that “this will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” His Deputy added that this was going to be at least as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide.
The briefing was given to him on 28 January 2020. On 7 February he told Mr. Woodward,
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.”
Meanwhile on 26 February he compared the coronavirus to the flu and talked about how much worse the flu was in our country. He downplayed the threat and again compared it favorably to the flu on 9 March.
On 19 March he told Mr. Woodward,
“Now it’s turning out it’s just not old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It’s not just old — it’s plenty of young people.”
On 24 March, 6 May and 5 August he downplayed the threat to young people and focused primarily on the threat to senior citizens. In fact, during an interview in August he said,
“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease. They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”
There is more, but you get the idea. I suppose it should not be surprising that a president that lied over 20,000 times while in office continually lies about the pandemic. But the brazen, uncaring, callous way he treated our society is breathtaking. In the excerpts of the tapes that I have heard, I am struck most of all by the nonchalance and indifference in his voice. He truly does not care.
His avowed reason for lying to all of us (he calls it “downplaying” the impact) is that he did not want the public to “panic.” That would be hilarious if the results were not so horrifying. This from a president that creates fear and campaigns on panic be it “MS-13 caravans” flooding the border, or “destroying the suburbs” or a hundred other things he has injected into our lives.
The only panic he was trying to prevent was a panic in the markets on Wall Street. He tied his reelection to the economy and he was afraid that if he told the truth, if they took the required precautions early, that there would be an economic impact. He thought he could ride it out and therefore took no action.
Put this in perspective. According to a Columbia University study, if social distancing efforts had been put in place even just one week earlier (8 March instead of 15 March) 36,000 lives in the U.S. would have been saved and there would have been 700,000 fewer infections.
That is still a month after Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward that “this is deadly stuff.”
Remember, since he was briefed in January about how the coronavirus spreads, Mr. Trump conducted campaign rallies, belittled people that wore masks, pushed for restaurants and bars to open, recommended injecting bleach into bodies, pushed hydroxychloroquine and generally brushed off all of the known precautions to stop its spread.
Based on his words and actions in pushing to reopen the economy, millions of Americans forswore masks and social distancing, gathered in bars, partied hearty, and otherwise facilitated the spread of the disease and the consequences we still feel over seven months after Mr. Trump knew the dangers inherent in this new disease.
Every American, Trump supporter or not, should be outraged. It is not hyperbole to say that his actions and inactions, with full knowledge of the threat, resulted in the loss of life.
Just as bad, his staff and advisers had the same information and said nothing. Shame on them all. They are just as guilty.
Mr. Trump failed in his primary duty as president. The president first and foremost must put the health, safety and security of all of us above all else. He still refuses to do so. His enablers continue to lie for him, cover up for him, and allow him to put himself above all. He insults us by saying he was just trying to be a “cheerleader” for our country. His enablers say he was just doing what any good leader does by projecting a calm demeanor. They even dare to compare him to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hogwash.
Their words and actions are despicable. Tell that to the families and friends of the nearly 200,000 dead Americans.
He lied and people died.