Opinion: The outrage of the Trump tapes

Opinion: The outrage of the Trump tapes

S.E. Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.” The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)Just two days ago, the Trump campaign blasted an Atlantic story detailing the denigrating language the President allegedly used about fallen American troops for its author’s use of anonymous sources.

“I think it’s pretty clear here that journalism was abandoned,” Trump 2020 communications director Erin Perrine said on Fox News, “that journalistic integrity has to be in question here when you have four off-the-record, anonymous sources who are trying to hide their identities instead of standing up to level such disgusting accusations against the President of the United States.”
Well, there’s a new bombshell story out — about other shocking and consequential remarks from this President — but there are no “anonymous sources” bogeymen for the President or his campaign to blame. The damning words are recorded, not secondhand, and you can hear them coming from Trump’s own mouth.
In excerpts from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming new book, “Rage,” the famed Washington Post reporter (and associate editor) reveals taped conversations he had with the President himself, on the record, about the seriousness of the coronavirus threat back in February and March. They are, in a hyphenate, jaw-dropping.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” the President tells Woodward on Feb 7. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
That admission directly contradicts what he was saying publicly at the time and for weeks after, which is that Covid-19 was no worse than a seasonal flu, that it would soon miraculously disappear, and that masks weren’t a necessary precaution.
He also told Woodward in March that he purposely misled the public on the severity of the virus, saying, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
It’s hard, if not impossible, to wrap your mind around this callous and self-serving calculation, wherein the President admits to a journalist — one with deep credentials, and who has already written a best-selling, behind-the-scenes look at Trump’s White House — that he’s actively lying to the American people about a deadly pandemic that will eventually kill, as of this writing, more than 190,000 Americans and counting.
But it takes a special kind of (in the words of Trump’s own niece — a psychologist) “sociopath” to decide to put protecting his own re-election prospects over the health of thousands and thousands of people — and then essentially brag to a journalist in real time that he’s doing it.
To put that in perspective, according to just one analysis — from researchers at Columbia University — the US could have prevented roughly 36,000 Covid deaths and 700,000 infections if social distancing measures had been put in place one week earlier than March 15, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first issued guidance advising against gatherings of 50 people or more.
Other expert analysis suggests that between 70% and 99% of US deaths could have been prevented if those measures had been put in place two weeks earlier.
Instead, Trump spent February downplaying the threat, tweeting that “the Coronavirus is very much under control,” that “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is complaining” about insufficient funding to combat Covid, and telling a South Carolina rally crowd on Feb. 28 that the pandemic was the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
In March he would push an untested and unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine, to cure Covid, saying, “What have you got to lose?”
In April, he’d float the idea of injecting disinfectant (“sounds interesting”), and promise once again, “it will go away.”
In May he mocked Vice President Joe Biden for wearing a mask.
The sheer stupidity and incompetence is mind-numbing. But when coupled with what we now know, from Trump’s own mouth to Bob Woodward’s recorder, which is that all of this misdirection and obfuscation was intentional, it’s simply too much to bear.
I only wish Woodward had shared this revelation six months ago. It’s that bad — and as a well-respected journalist, he should have known better than to save it for a book.
But Trump is to blame here. The failure is his.
As former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted, “Donald Trump reveals what an absolute abomination he is. If he had a conscience or a soul, he would resign. Tragically for us, he has neither.”
I think that says it all.


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