In the 1970s, investigative journalist Bob Woodward relied on extreme cloak and dagger tactics to uncover evidence that implicated then-President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal. So deep and extensive was President Nixon’s cover-up that Woodward and his colleagues could only obtain this information through an anonymous source who was later revealed to be the deputy director of the FBI. This year, all Bob Woodward needed was an interview, freely granted, to discover that President Donald Trump knowingly withheld lifesaving information about COVID-19 from the American public.
President Trump knowingly agreed to on-the-record interviews with a journalist who has been fiercely critical of the past seven presidents. In some cases, the President called Woodward’s personal phone, delivering the journalist damning information that, in a different era, would have been exchanged with subterfuge and through backchannels. Revealing politically harmful information while knowing that he was being recorded is a startling indictment on President Trump’s judgement.
With regard to withheld advice, had Trump heeded the advice of his staff — who informed the President that COVID-19 would be the greatest national security risk of his presidency — he could have taken steps to contain the pandemic back in March. The two main explanations for this extreme mismanagement could be that he’s a master tactician who purposely engineered a crisis to rile up his base, or that he doesn’t know how to be president. The simplest — and the likeliest — answer is that the pandemic has revealed the full extent of President Trump’s extreme incompetence.
President Trump’s incoherent pandemic plan clearly points to this. During the crisis, Trump has not issued meaningful national directives on school reopening and there is still no national mask mandate. The only thing that the President and the rest of the GOP leadership have done is pass tax cuts for the rich and fill courts with conservative nominees. Not enough attention has been called to his lack of leadership. He knew about the deadliness of this virus, but prioritized his fear of hurting the economy over employing a proper response.
President Trump’s COVID response tracks with his crisis management record. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a disaster that ravaged Puerto Rico, he continually minimized the death count, similar to his public refusal to accept alarming statistics like the per capita U.S. COVID casualty count. The aid that he offered was unsatisfactory, leaving significant portions of the island without electricity and running water for weeks. It’s no surprise that President Trump has let the situation deteriorate to its current state.
American news outlets must reframe the way that they are covering this election. There is no ideological debate to be had at this point, given the President’s gross failings of the most basic tasks. The November election is quite literally a decision between life and death for many people who are at risk for the virus, and reputable news sources need to act like it. The Scientific American is leading the way on this front, ending their 175-year long tradition of not endorsing candidates to repudiate the policies of President Trump. Newspapers should make endorsements and cover this race like the existential crisis that it is.
The American public has a right to know when their health is at risk, just like they have the right to know that the President does not have a clue when it comes to running a country. President Trump doesn’t act like a president because he doesn’t know how.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
Email Kevin Kurian at [email protected]