Raging revelations - GulfToday

Raging revelations

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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During one of the interviews with Bob Woodward, Trump said Covid-19 is “easily transmissible” and “deadly stuff” while he was telling the public that it was an inconsequential flu which would soon disappear.

Bob Woodward’s half century in journalism has been bracketed by dramatic investigations into wrong doing by two US presidents seeking re-election. The first probe produced a series of articles in the Washington Post and the Pulitzer Prize book, “All the President’s Men,” on the June 17, 1972, burglary of the Democratic Party’s national headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC.

That morning two young reporters Woodward, 29, and Carl Berstein, 28, were assigned to cover this break in and identify the five burglars who were apprehended, one of whom was an ex-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative who performed security work for the Republican Party. Woodward and Bernstein connected the men to the attorney general and a rich “slush fund” that enabled the Committee to Re-elect the President, then Richard Nixon, to carry out “dirty tricks” during the campaign. The book, an extension of their Post articles, was released two months before Nixon resigned in August 1974 to avoid impeachment.

In 1975, the book was made into an award-winning film starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. The two reporters published a second book, “The Final Days,” describing Nixon’s last months in office. Bernstein left the Post in 1997 to conduct investigative reporting for other outlets, writing books, and, lately, working as a commentator for CNN.

Having stuck with the Washington Post as both a reporter and an editor, Woodward, now a veteran journalist of 75, has written a book entitled, “Rage,” about Donald Trump, based on interviews with “The Donald” and members of his administration who have gone on record with comments about his handling of US affairs. The book was released this week with great fanfare ahead of this year’s presidential and Congressional elections.

Trump’s 18 interviews began last December and were recorded by Woodward who has released some of the recordings to CNN so there can be no question of denial by a man prone to denying what he has said if his words have been politically inept or compromising — which is as often as not. These recordings are the equivalent of the secret tapes made by Nixon which were used as evidence against him.

There are several striking Trump recordings which have been widely quoted in the media. During a Feb.7 interview, Trump said Covid-19 is “easily transmissible” and “deadly stuff” while he was telling the public that it was an inconsequential flu which would soon disappear. If Trump had told the truth and mounted a serious campaign involving masking, testing, and social distancing at that time, thousands of US lives could have been spared. He has not yet done this.

Trump later told Woodward he had “played [covid] down” because he did not want to cause a panic. This is a poor excuse for doing too little. He has foisted responsibility for dealing with the virus on state authorities and put pressure on scientists to lie about the long-term and mortal threats posed by the virus.

Trump revealed he did not empathise with Black citizens who suffer discrimination, abuse, and fatal targeting by police. “No, I don’t feel that at all.” Trump said he does not believe there is such a thing as “white privilege” in the US.

Former Defence Secretary General Jim Mattis told the former director of national intelligence, who passed it on to Woodward that Trump is “dangerous” and “unfit” for the presidency. This has, of course, been clear from the time he launched his first campaign in 2016.

It is amazing that Trump was prepared to speak frankly and openly with Woodward during an election campaign dominated by the pandemic, “Black Lives Matter” protests over police killings of unarmed Blacks, and the downward slide of the economy. In 2018, Woodward published, “Fear,” a book like several others based largely on anonymous sources, attacking Trump and his administration. This debunking book, apparently, prompted Trump to speak to Woodward with the aim of boosting a different image of himself. Instead, Trump has shown himself to be as self-seeking, inept and callous as previously portrayed by Woodward and others.

Trump’s readiness to talk to Woodward despite his earlier book was explained by White House officials as respect for the journalist as an “institution” and, ironically, the exposure of Nixon. Trump’s desire to be constantly in the public eye has encouraged him to speak freely. He knows full well that his words and actions will not change his ability to garner votes from his deaf, dumb and blind supporters. Nixon had to face the consequences of Watergate which killed and maimed no one. Trump is unlikely to face blame for his criminal mishandling of Covid-19, lack of empathy for Blacks, and for failing to do his job.

The US was a very different place in the early 1970s when Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate affair. Scandal involving the president meant something. Nixon resigned rather than suffer impeachment which Congress supported. Trump weathered impeachment in the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives because he knew the Republican-majority Senate would not vote in favour of turning him out of office.

Since the seventies White House scandals have proliferated and influence peddling and corruption have soared in Washington, which is seen by the public as a “swamp.” The US has become deeply divided between the “1 per cent” wealthiest and the rest. Salaries for lower paid employees have stagnated while company bosses take millions of dollars in annual bonuses. The middle class has faltered and the poor grown poorer.

The Republican Party has been captured by the right while the orientation of the Democratic Party remains centrist but it is influenced by liberals and progressives. These differences have arisen due to the tribalisation of US society between Whites who fear losing dominance and Blacks, Browns and Whites who seek a more equal society. Public services, education, and health care have deteriorated, widening the gulf between rich, who can afford to pay for private alternatives, and the rest who cannot.

As a result of polarisation and deterioration in morals and values, no one is surprised by Trump’s lies, evasions, and other bad behaviour and he can triumphantly boast that his supporters will back him no matter what he does. And, he is right. This means that the coming election will decide whether the US will continue to go downhill on the domestic scene and become increasingly isolated internationally under Trump. Or, whether his rival Joe Biden can win and at least stem the slide at home and revive old alliances abroad and return to international agreements.

 

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