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SELLERS: Trump’s Main Mistake Was Trusting Watergate Swamp-Creature Woodward

'Follow the money...'

In June, the truth about the coronavirus finally became clear—or at least the mainstream-media’s narrative about it.

After three months of vigorous debate over lofty scientific concepts like herd immunity and mortality rates; concerns about the constitutional limits of authority; and whether financial ruin from mass lockdowns would exacerbate the existing crisis, all of the Right’s exhortations not to succumb to mob-driven fearmongering suddenly became moot.

For a few fleeting weeks, following the death of George Floyd, the press decided that the pandemic wasn’t newsworthy.

Instead, they shifted to cheering on race riots and mass gatherings of protesters—including the COVID-vulnerable demographic of low-income minorities.

No alarm bells sounded during Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept most of the country’s urban centers.

Until then, it had been widely reported that the virus itself was racist, targeting susceptible individuals based on the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

Afterward, the leftist spin machine churned out a profound new corollary (albeit equally unscientific): that racism was, itself, a virus.

The Second Wave

It took President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa to snap the media back into carping on the skyrocketing number of confirmed COVID cases and the inevitable toll the virus would take on the November election.

Of course, it was too late to return the riot genie to its bottle. Much hemming and hawing ensued (beneath now-mandatory face coverings) about why COVID suddenly mattered again.

Throughout the blatant gaslighting, Trump remained committed to informing the public about his management of the virus and, in the process, taking his share of lumps—some justified, but most unjustified.

As the president told celebrity journalist Bob Woodward on Aug. 14, in the last of 19 interviews for Woodward’s newly published book, “Nothing more could have been done.”

Trump’s defense of his COVID response during the Woodward interviews seems inherently truthful.

At times, in the snippets that have been replayed on nightly talk-shows, he offers surprisingly candid glimpses of fear and frustration—concerns that the comforter-in-chief steadfastly refused to concede in his public messaging.

Yet, Trump’s cooperation with Woodward, including several calls the president initiated, shatters the perception that he spent his waking hours steeped in pseudoscience, hoaxes and conspiracy theories.

On the contrary, he seemed obsessed to a fault with offering full disclosure to the man whose reporting forced Richard Nixon to resign—somebody who not only would challenge him on facts but who was guaranteed to weaponize his words against him.

Deep Throat and the Deep State

In essence, Woodward is the epitome of deep-state resistance.

His Watergate success, glamorized on film by Robert Redford, hinged not on his own shoe-leather gumption but on his being fed scraps by an anonymous whistleblower.

That person happened to be Mark Felt, the associate director of the FBI, whose position was equivalent to that of disgraced former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

The mythos behind “Deep Throat”—whose identity Woodward and his coattail-riding, partisan-hack of a partner, Carl Bernstein, kept secret until Felt’s 2008 death—has taken on a new pall in light of seditious FBI hoaxes engineered by McCabe and others during the 2016 election.

Likewise, when the curtain is pulled back on Woodward, the legendary Washington Post journalist is revealed to be a stuttering hypocrite, preoccupied not with the public’s best interest but with finding a sensationalist angle to peddle his latest election-season pap.

Like many in the news industry, I was taught to lionize Woodward—and even passed on that lesson to journalism students of my own.

I have an autographed copy of All the President’s Men on my bookshelf, and I have respected Woodward’s overtures toward even-handedness, such as gently criticizing the Obama administration when doing so was hardly in vogue.

Yet, when pressed to defend his rationale for failing to go public in February with information he now claims could have saved lives—the true nature of the coronavirus as revealed to him by the president—Woodward gave himself a free pass.

By time he understood the implications of what Trump was telling him, he claimed, it was already too late to have an impact.

“If you look at what was known in February, the virus was not on anyone’s mind—no one was suggesting changing behavior,” he told the Today show.

“Then, when it exploded in March, as you know, there were 30,000 new cases a day,” he continued. “Publishing something at that point would not have been telling people anything that they didn’t know. They knew, very clearly, that it was dangerous.”

And yet, in mid-September, that Feb. 7 conversation—initiated by Trump—has suddenly become one of historical importance to Woodward.

In the words of Deep Throat, one need only “follow the money” to understand why.

Hindsight is 2020

Looking back, “it is one of those shocks for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives,” Woodward told Today host Savannah Guthrie.

“Historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years,” he sniped.

Trump, for his part, has echoed Woodward’s own excuses about the limited knowledge he possessed early on.

He has excoriated the Chinese government for covering up what it knew and for misleading the US and other global decision-makers into a false, cautiously optimistic sense of complacency.

In the opening scene of his book, Woodward dramatically zeroes in a Jan. 28 meeting where Trump’s national security team—duty-bound to present the worst-case scenarios— reportedly warned him of the coming pandemic.

But Woodward then fails to give the president full credit for the decisive actions he took in response.

In addition to mobilizing the Coronavirus Task Force and restricting flights from China, Trump also tried to warn one of the country’s most revered journalists, on the record, about the specific threat of the virus.

But to no avail. At the time, all talk was of Trump’s highly partisan impeachment hearings and Joe Biden‘s foundering fortunes in the early primary races.

Meanwhile, throughout February, and into March, Trump pressed for calm amid the growing alarmism, reassuring the public that his administration was doing all it could.

There is no reason to believe his intentions were nefarious in wanting to minimize the harm inflicted upon the country by avoiding a mass panic—not to mention the ensuing collapse one of the most robust economic booms in modern history.

But according to the journalist whose negligence contributed to the information lag, Trump should have been ginning up panic during his January State of the Union address.

If only the president had warned Americans then, perhaps House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might have linked arms in solidarity rather than ripping up his speech.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Whatever armchair-quarterbacking, left-wing historians may write about the early days of the COVID response, Trump’s cooperation with Woodward may prove one of his biggest mistakes.

Rather than let clandestine leakers define his legacy (as happened in Woodward’s first anti-Trump screed), Trump seems naively to have trusted that by freely offering his own thoughts he would be able to shed light upon the fog of war that he has encountered in crisis upon crisis.

His confidence in his own rectitude and his commitment to honest, open government seem self-evident from his vantage point—one in which he still regards himself as a swamp-draining outsider facing down the antagonizing forces of Capitol Hill corruption.

But from where Woodward has long held court, deep within the bowels of the Beltway, Trump is the enemy at the gate—and he will defend his ivory tower with every weapon at his disposal.

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