There’s no need for the tell-all books. Trump tells us every day.
Bob Woodward in 2012.
Photo: jim watson/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The books professing dark revelations about President Trump appear to be lined up from here to Election Day, like aircraft heading into LaGuardia. This week it’s Bob Woodward’s turn, with the big news reportedly being that Mr. Trump told him in a taped conversation on Feb. 7 that he had played down the coronavirus despite knowing it was “deadly stuff.”
This is not news. We know Mr. Trump played down the virus threat at the time because he said so publicly many times. We wrote an editorial about it on March 12, “The Virus and Leadership,” warning Mr. Trump that voters would judge his Presidency largely on how he handled the virus. Q.E.D.
Mr. Trump now says he was trying to keep people from panicking. And given his preoccupation with marketing, we believe him. We also know the President understood the virus was deadly, even if the risks weren’t fully clear, because he barred arrivals from China on Jan. 31 and Europe on March 11.
His Administration’s Covid-19 record has also been better than he makes it sound—in mobilizing private-public efforts for testing, PPE and vaccines, and preventing a financial meltdown in March. His main failing has been inconstant rhetorical leadership. He has undersold the virus risks and oversold his own achievements when what the public has wanted all along is the candid reality. This is no small failing in a crisis.
But we know all this because it is on the public record. This may be the most transparent Presidency in history, for better or worse. His faults and mistakes are on constant display, whether in his own voice or leaks to a press that wants him gone.
Democrats are now citing the Woodward non-reveal as proof that Mr. Trump is responsible for 190,000 deaths, which is contemptible even by today’s political standards. Covid-19 would have challenged any Presidency, as it has Democratic governors. Mr. Trump has made mistakes, as we have often pointed out. But he also saved lives and livelihoods by urging an earlier end to the lockdowns that have done horrific economic and public-health harm.
By the way, in February prominent Democrats sounded like Mr. Trump. Nancy Pelosi on Feb. 24: “it’s very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come. . . . We want people to be concerned and vigilant. However, we don’t want them to be afraid. . . . So, again, this fear is—I think—unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 30: “We have been here before, and I want to remind New Yorkers that it is much more likely that they will be exposed to the influenza virus than to the coronavirus.” There are more.
The media campaign to hold Mr. Trump solely responsible for the harm from Covid-19 is rank political opportunism. Voters should ignore the campaign and judge the whole record.