I know national secrets. You can too! Bob Woodward’s Rage contains them because Trump is willing to talk about anything that aggrandizes himself. The real takeaway, and in many ways the point of Woodward’s book, is that Trump knew about and decided to downplay Covid-19. And not because he didn’t think it was serious, but because he didn’t want to hurt his chances of reelection. Although Woodward had no way of knowing in the middle of the summer, when the book went into production, that 45 would be infecting his senior staff mere months later, he would likely have been able to predict the results. With the best medical attention in the world, Trump would recover and immediately downplay the virus that has now killed over 210,000 Americans. Why? He wants to win the election.
Many of us knew in November 2016 that this wasn’t just another Republican nominee with questionable intellect. We knew that Trump had a long, long track record of caring for nobody but himself and that isn’t the kind of person who can lead a nation. He had seventeen interviews with Woodward as he was writing Rage, and, as we might guess before opening the book, those interviews indicate that being president, for some, is all about bragging rights. Knowing how serious the coronavirus is, he decided to ignore it for political expediency. Now we see his own party’s leaders daily falling into the epidemiological pattern of the science they disbelieve. Early on wearing masks was politicized and now we’re being told a deadly disease is a walk in the park (if you’ve got the best healthcare in the world).
I’m reluctant to write about politics. I find it boring and intellectually stultifying. But even under George W. Bush I believed that the president had what he believed to be the best interest of America at heart. All that has changed in the last four years. The Republican Party has sold its soul to the cult of Trump and those of us who’d rather just watch horror movies and write books and stories have had to become political activists simply to try to save democracy from the slide into a fascist narcissism that is intended to prop up one man’s ego. Woodward’s book is more than a series of interviews with a dangerous man, it is a condemnation of political leaders who’ve failed their country repeatedly, without recrimination. Of course, it is only intended for those who read, or maybe I’m just angry.