It’s a strong attack but it makes me laugh to think that he’s going to bring this up at the first debate three weeks from now and the nearly universal reaction will either be “What’s he talking about?” or “Ohhhh, right. Remember that Woodward scoop? I’d forgotten about that.”
The ubiquity of media and the relentless pace of the news cycle in the Trump era have aligned to give the electorate the attention span of a goldfish on top of the fact that most of us were already lobotomized by hyperpartisanship. It’ll be surreal watching 77-year-old mushbrain Joe Biden run through the specifics of the Woodward tapes with Trump on TV later this month while the rest of us struggle to recall anything about it.
I wonder if the Woodward stuff is the news that Trump finds most bothersome today or if it’s this:
The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee raked in $210 million in August, an impressive haul that marks their biggest month to date – though still short of the record-smashing amount Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Democrats brought in during the same time period.
The Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee announced last week that they had brought in an unprecedented $364.5 million in August…
Meanwhile, a senior Trump campaign official noted that Trump was out-raised in 2016 by then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who brought in $1.2 billion to his $646 million (including some of Trump’s own money).
Biden had two things going for him last month that Trump didn’t. One was the long-awaited VP announcement, which triggered a wave of donations, and the other is the fact that Trump’s been fundraising for the general election far longer than Biden has. Some Trump donors doubtless feel tapped out whereas Democrats haven’t yet been fully squeezed. Even so, Trump is a numbers guy and he won’t like the optics of these numbers. (Remember that poor attendance at his rally in Tulsa in June appears to have sealed Brad Parscale’s fate as campaign manager.) And he no longer enjoys the financial advantage over Biden that he once did. He’s spent enough money on the race already to fill an aircraft carrier and he’s still six or seven points behind nationally.
As I write this, news is breaking that Trump will appear on Fox News tonight to try to “Hannitize” his comments to Woodward. His strongest defense right now is to point to Fauci, who told Fox News earlier this afternoon that he doesn’t recall Trump distorting anything about the virus for public consumption. Two problems with that, though. First, Woodward attributes some awfully harsh comments to him in his book:
Fauci at one point tells others that the president “is on a separate channel” and unfocused in meetings, with “rudderless” leadership, according to Woodward. “His attention span is like a minus number,” Fauci said, according to Woodward. “His sole purpose is to get reelected.”
In one Oval Office meeting recounted by Woodward, after Trump had made false statements in a news briefing, Fauci said in front of him: “We can’t let the president be out there being vulnerable, saying something that’s going to come back and bite him.” Pence, Kushner, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller tensed up at once, Woodward writes, surprised Fauci would talk in front of Trump that way.
If Trump wasn’t distorting anything, what “false statements” was Fauci worried about?
Second, Fauci clearly doesn’t want to be fired in the middle of the public-health crisis of a lifetime, after decades of service as his agency enters the home stretch of a heroic effort to produce a vaccine. Remember that he’s been “sidelined” before by the White House after his prognosis about the pandemic didn’t match up with the rosier view being pushed by the White House, to the point where Trump’s cronies started circulating lists of things he’d gotten wrong about the virus to the media. He’s politely scolded reporters during interviews when they prod him with questions about tension between him and Trump, reminding them that that doesn’t make his work easier. There’s a story out literally this afternoon about a superior at HHS sending emails to Fauci “instructing press officers and others at the National Institutes of Health about what Fauci should say during media interviews.” If the quotes attributed to him and to Trump in Woodward’s book are accurate, why would he confirm them publicly knowing what the consequences would be?
You don’t need to take a cynical view of Fauci’s motives about that either. (“He just wants to keep his job and his role as celebrity doctor!”) He may be calculating, correctly, that no single expert will have more influence over the public’s perceptions of the eventual vaccine than he will. Kamala Harris, in telling CNN that she wouldn’t trust the safety of a vaccine on Trump’s say-so, said that she *would* trust Fauci. I suspect that a lot of executive-branch subordinates swallow their antipathy to Trump and justify remaining in their jobs with the belief that they can do more good inside the administration than as critics from the outside, and that’s truer of Fauci than anyone else. He might reason that it’s worth providing Trump with whatever political cover he needs right now so that he can continue with his work on the vaccine and be in a position come January or February to reassure Americans that it’s safe and effective. Who knows how many millions of people might need that assurance to convince them to get the shot?
Or maybe he’s telling the truth and Trump never distorted anything about the virus. In that case, Trump himself will have to explain tonight why he’s on tape discussing an unusually deadly pathogen, much more dangerous than the flu, on February 7.
Joe Biden accused President Trump of "a life-and-death betrayal of the American people" hours after journalist Bob Woodward revealed ahead of the publication of his new book, "Rage," that Trump had concealed the true threat posed by coronavirus. https://t.co/UiDbqMI5bW pic.twitter.com/tpI6YCBeps
— CNN (@CNN) September 9, 2020