It figures that Bob Woodward, the man who helped to take down Richard Nixon 45 years ago, would follow up with a big book about Nixon's natural heir to the presidency, Donald Trump. Just as Nixon was undone by tape recordings he foolishly made to document his own corruption, so too Trump foolishly allowed himself to be recorded by Woodward. That's what sets Woodward's book "Rage" apart from all the other Trump books that have come before: We can hear the quotes in Trump's own voice, so he can't get away with calling it fake news.
It's obvious that Trump has never, from the beginning, cared in the slightest about the pain and suffering caused by this deadly virus. I'm reminded of that anecdote about an early April task force meeting in which Trump wanted to open up the economy immediately and just let the pandemic "wash over the country." He was told that would result in many, many deaths. Yet, according to the Washington Post, he raised that idea repeatedly — and essentially, that's the plan he ultimately implemented by default. (Indeed, Trump has now elevated Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist he saw on Fox News who believes in herd immunity — but has no particular expertise in epidemics or infectious disease — to a high-status advisory position in the White House.) .
We can say now that when it comes to the pandemic at least, malevolence was the driving force behind Trump's decisions.
But I think the other revelations reported in this book so far can better be attributed to ignorance. For instance, in the very first conversation they had, he told Woodward all about his new secret nuclear program that he claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping knew nothing about — but would be very impressed if they did. Woodward confirmed this with other sources, but was told that people in the national security realm were a bit shocked that Trump had told a journalist about it.
That's just dumb. So is all the ridiculous folderol over North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whom Trump believed could be cajoled into giving up his nuclear weapons by snuggling up to him. Woodward asked people in the CIA about Kim's "beautiful letters" to Trump and was told that while intelligence officials didn't know who had actually written them, they were "masterpieces."
The analysts marveled at the skill someone brought to finding the exact mixture of flattery while appealing to Trump's sense of grandiosity and being center stage in history.
It's pretty obvious who was being played in that relationship.
So, malevolence or ignorance? When it comes to politics and domestic policy, the evidence strongly suggests that malevolence governs Donald Trump — but that ignorance rules when it comes to national security.