On hearing that President Trump sat for 18 interviews with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, my first reaction was “what the …” Why Mr. Woodward?
There can only be two reasons. The first must have been that the president thought he could persuade the man to like him. The evidence that Mr. Woodward, along with his Watergate partner Carl Bernstein, ever “liked” a Republican president is thin to nonexistent.
The other explanation is Mr. Trump views Mr. Woodward as a celebrity journalist and the president enjoys the company of famous people. The president now claims Mr. Woodward conducted a “political hit job” on him. Why would he have expected anything else?
As to the content of the interviews, Mr. Woodward got almost nothing. The president said the reason he initially played down the threat of COVID-19 was to avoid causing panic. In hindsight he might have made a nationally televised address, warning of the possibility of a pandemic and advising people to prepare with hygienic behavior. He might have likened it to a coming hurricane. It is uncertain how bad a hurricane will be, but precautions are warranted.
Predictably, Democrats, led by presidential candidate Joe Biden, are trying to turn the interviews and Mr. Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Rage,” to their advantage. The problem for them is that they said little or nothing about the coronavirus early on and many took positions opposite the president’s. They now claim they were ahead of the pandemic curve.
Those with short memories should be reminded that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people on March 11 to eat out and visit movie theaters, just weeks before the city became ground zero for the virus.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Chinatown on Feb. 24, where she urged people to patronize shops and restaurants, in spite of growing fears about the virus.
Mr. Biden opposed the president’s order shutting off travel to China. He has also claimed to have “sounded the alarm” about the virus in January, which various fact-checkers have noted is not true.
One of Mr. Biden’s health advisers, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, said on Jan. 30: “Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical. We are having a little too much histrionics on this. … And people should remember not to panic. … And the best thing we have is the seasonality. It’s going to go down as spring comes up.”
As the Trump-Pence campaign has noted, Mr. Biden held “dozens and dozens of events in January and February” and never mentioned social distancing, personal protection equipment, ventilators, the need for temporary hospitals or travel restrictions.
It’s one thing to re-write history, it’s quite another to make it up.
Dr. Anthony Fauci denied allegations by some Democrats that the president distorted his warnings. It was Dr. Fauci who initially played down the seriousness of the virus because, as he later explained, he wanted frontline medical workers to acquire protective gear ahead of the general public.
I eagerly await the presidential debates and hope Chris Wallace, the host of the first one on Sept. 29 (if it happens), will hold Mr. Biden accountable for his numerous misstatements, factual errors and memory lapses. Yes, Mr. Trump should also be asked about his own misstatements, factual errors and memory lapses.
The virus should never have been politicized. As many have noted, it does not discriminate between political parties or candidates. Now that it has become political, like everything else, it is fair to ask those who wish to maintain, or obtain power, why the public should trust either candidate to deal with it going forward.
I’m going with the current “horse” and not the damaged mare; with the president and not Joe Biden, or Bob Woodward.
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).