If you put together a narcissistic and talkative president with a journalism legend in 18 short-cut conversations, you run into a monumental uproar like the one that this week has caused the advances of the new book by Bob Woodward. Rage (Rage), the second work on the Donald Trump Administration of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, recounts alarming episodes of the US government, this time in the midst of the worst economic and health debacle in 100 years. And with direct testimony from Trump. The main information bomb on its pages has to do with a pandemic that has killed more than 193,000 people in the United States. Not even the famous reporter has been spared from the storm of criticism.
Woodward’s book reveals that Trump knew the coronavirus was deadly and deliberately confused the public about its lethality for weeks and months. At the same time that the president said in press conferences things like “we have practically stopped it” (February 2), “one day it will disappear, like a miracle” (February 27) or “nothing is closed due to the flu” (9 March), showed real concern in his conversations with the journalist.
“You just breathe and it rubs off,” Trump told Woodward in a February 7 conversation. “And that is very complicated. It is very delicate. It is even more deadly than a severe flu. It’s deadly. ” In another, on March 19, he admitted that he downplayed the problem: “I always wanted to downplay it. I still like to downplay it because I don’t want to create panic. ” As early as January 28, according to the book, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien had warned the president that this was “the greatest national security threat” he would face in his presidency.
The president’s double speech – also known in a shocking way, from the president’s voice, as The Washington Post published recorded excerpts of the interviews – has caused a stupor less than two months before the elections. The Republican has defended himself trying to divert attention to the journalist: “Bob Woodward had my statements for months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he report them immediately in order to save lives? Didn’t I have an obligation? No, because he knew they were correct answers. Calm down, don’t panic! ”He wrote on his Twitter account.
The renowned journalist has received criticism from the sector for waiting for the publication of his book to reveal the president’s double talk
The 77-year-old author, raised to the Olympus of the trade from a young age for uncovering the caso Watergate along with Carl Bernstein, he has received the same criticism from other areas. Jeff Jarvis, media consultant and professor of Journalism at the City University of New York, was very harsh in a message on the same social network: “Bob Woodward has violated the first duty of journalism: to serve the public. In his silence he is an accessory to the Trump murders. You should give up your Pulitzers. He is no longer a journalist. Journalism is a service to the public, not a book or newspaper factory ”. David Boardman, Dean of Journalism at Temple University and former Director of Seattle Times, said, for his part: “This issue has come up frequently lately, as journalists keep important information for their books. In today’s life and death situation, is this traditional practice still ethical?
Woodward responded in remarks to Margaret Sullivan, the Media analyst for The Washington Post, that his mission with the book was to provide a broader context than that of the current news and, above all, that reporting at that time what the president was saying entailed two problems. First, that it took him months to know where the information he was giving him came from (the high-level intelligence meeting) and, second, that with Trump it was difficult for him to know if what he was saying was true.
By February, recalls the journalist, Dr. Anthony Fauci himself, a leading expert at the White House, also told the public that he did not need to change his habits.
He also did not publish those conservations later, in the spring, for example, because he wanted to offer a more complete photograph, as he alleges, and the red line, in any case, was the presidential elections of November 3, because people should draw their conclusions before to vote. “I knew I could write the second draft of the story,” he said in the Post, paraphrasing former editor Phil Graham, who called journalism “the first draft of history.”
The other big underlying question is why Trump agreed to speak to Woodward so much. “I did it out of curiosity, he says
The controversy also arose with the recent memoirs of John Bolton, former national security adviser, and with a book by a reporter from The New York Times, Michael Schmit, following investigations of the Russian plot.
Director of The New Yorker, David Remnick, emphasizes that “the executive position with the function of saving lives was and is Donald Trump, not Bob Woodward”. Margaret Sullivan, for her part, points out that it is not clear what difference it would have made to publish it months ago, since those statements could well have been denied and forgotten in the maelstrom of news and scandals that characterize the Trump era. “Even so,” she concludes, “the slightest possibility that these revelations could have saved lives is a powerful argument against this wait.”
Those recordings will be prime ammunition for Democrats on the campaign trail. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has accused Trump of “betraying the American people in a matter of life and death.”
The book Rage, which goes on sale Tuesday, reveals other tricky aspects, such as Trump’s degrading comments towards his generals or how one of them, former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, considered him “dangerous” for the United States.
The other major underlying question posed by this episode is how the president lent himself to speak so much with a journalist famous for going into the government kitchen and making microscopic descriptions. The answer lies in Trump’s volcanic personality, his love-hate for the press, his addiction to spotlights, the vanity of speaking with someone as respected as Woodward. This is what Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had done. The tycoon not only answered the veteran reporter’s questions, but also provided him with a direct telephone number so that the author could leave messages so that he could call him back. On at least one occasion he did it at night, when there were probably no advisers around.
“Bob Woodward is someone I respect, having heard his name for many years, I don’t know much about his work,” he said Thursday at the White House, “I did it out of curiosity… I wonder if someone like that can write well. I don’t think I can, but we’ll see what happens ”. This is how this “second draft of the story” that Woodward was looking for came about.
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