It’s not often that a journalist gets a chance to potentially bring down a president. It’s even rarer for that same journalist to get a chance to bring down two presidents. But Bob Woodward may have gotten that rare opportunity. On Tuesday, the man who helped turn the hot lights on Watergate revealed that Donald Trump had made a startling admission during an interview for Woodward’s upcoming book, “Rage.” According to excerpts from taped interviews in February, Trump admitted knowing how deadly coronavirus was even as he was publicly downplaying its seriousness.
In a normal word, a president admitting that he made a willful and conscious decision to downplay a crisis of this magnitude would have resulted in a repeat of the fallout from the discovery of the Watergate “smoking gun” tape. While Richard Nixon was already on thin ice due to the reporting of Woodward and Carl Bernstein in The Washington Post, for a time there was still some chance that Nixon would be acquitted in the Senate.
However, the disclosure that Nixon had been intimately involved in covering up the break-in at the Watergate complex was more than some of the most rock-ribbed Republicans could tolerate. Within 48 hours of its release, it was apparent that Nixon faced certain impeachment in the House, and equally certain conviction in the Senate. Within 72 hours, Nixon had resigned.
Fast forward to the present. Incredibly, some Republicans are more upset that Trump talked to Woodward at all than with his staggering admission that he deliberately played down the coronavirus threat. Tucker Carlson even went as far as to blame Senator Lindsey Graham for convincing Trump to sit down with Woodward in the first place.
But believe it or not, that’s not the most morally bankrupt response we’ve seen from a Republican in the wake of Trump’s startling admission. That “honor” may go to Yvonne Dean-Bailey, who served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018. As she sees it, Woodward was taking a page from the playbook from one of the right’s longtime heroes, Project Veritas ringleader James O’Keefe.
Well, that’s interesting. As we already know, Woodward didn’t rook Trump into these interviews. Trump actually agreed to the meeting.
Moreover, it says a lot that Dean-Bailey thinks a guy who finds it acceptable to shame sexual assault victims is someone to be emulated. For those who don’t recall, O’Keefe’s most shameful stunt to date came in 2017, when he convinced one of his minions, Jaime Phillips, to help rook The Post into printing a bogus story claiming Roy Moore had impregnated her as a teenager. The intent was to make the women who accused Moore of sexually assaulting them look like liars, and make The Post look like a librul agitrop shop for believing them.
But the attempt backfired spectacularly when The Post did what any responsible news organization would do–check Phillips’ story. Among other things, reporters found Phillips had set up a GoFundMe campaign to finance her move to New York so she could join Project Veritas. Phillips backed out of the story when confronted with this information. It crumbled altogether when Phillips was spotted at Project Veritas headquarters.
O’Keefe and Project Veritas have been involved in a number of shameful, outrageous and outright criminal stunts over the years–such as entering then-Senator Mary Landrieu’s office under false pretenses, and numerous attempts to commit voter fraud. But this stunt should have erased any doubt that O’Keefe is a true muckraker. He was trying to fix the facts around a predetermined narrative–that the Amazon Post was out to take down a vocal conservative at any cost.
Contrast this with Woodward. The recordings were presented unedited, and Trump almost certainly knew what he was getting into when he agreed to the interviews. Indeed, Woodward held off on releasing the tapes until now in part because he wanted to make sure he’d really heard what he thought he’d heard. That’s understandable, given Trump’s tenuous relationship with the truth, as well as his willingness to sue over books that are far less explosive than “Rage” appears to be.
Simply put, Woodward was doing what made him one of the greatest reporters this country has ever produced. On the other hand, O’Keefe’s 2017 stunt confirmed what we already know–he is a far-right hack cosplaying a journalist.
The thought that Dean-Bailey could even think O’Keefe merits being mentioned in the same breath as Woodward stands as more evidence of the growing moral rot in the GOP. After all, it has been amply established for some time that O’Keefe is not and never will be fit to shine Woodward’s shoes.
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