the blame game

White House, Allies Attempt Defense in Woodward Debacle

If only Trump hadn’t listened to him, everything would be fine. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s damning revelations from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book — most notable, that President Trump deliberately misled the American public about COVID-19’s severity — the Trump administration and its allies struggled to mount a defense. At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany maintained that the president has never downplayed the virus (never mind that he admitted to doing so on tape).

Others in right-wing media argued that even though Trump had downplayed the virus, this was consistent with his public-facing posture that Americans shouldn’t panic — ignoring the fact that the president’s supposed reasoning for not panicking was that he thought the virus’s danger was overrated (when, we now know, he was making the opposite case in private).

Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, found a scapegoat. On his show Wednesday night, the Fox News host pinned the blame for the entire Woodward episode squarely on South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.

Posing the question of why Trump would sit down for interviews that would very likely cast him in an unfavorable light, Carlson said he had “the answer to that mystery” from “a source who knows.” Carlson went on to say that Graham had convinced Trump to talk to Woodward and that his sabotage is of a piece with his opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration, foreign entanglements, and “law and order at home.”

But Carlson’s attempt to cast Graham as a scheming Svengali strains credulity, considering the president’s well-documented tendency to cast aside any advice he doesn’t like. (It also ignores the fact that Trump had cooperated on a previous Woodward book, as well as his knack for self-immolating in front of conservative-leaning journalists.) And Carlson’s portrayal of Graham as insufficiently loyal to the president is just slightly at odds with the senator’s slavish devotion to the man he sees as his political meal ticket.

The president, as usual, mounted his own defense. On Thurday morning, in the midst of a tweet binge during which he assured Americans that Kim Jong-un is in good health, he twisted an argument proffered by some journalists — that Woodward had a responsibility to alert the public to Trump’s deception — by offering that same argument as proof that Trump didn’t really do anything wrong.

Cleanup complete — now on to the next scandal.

White House, Allies Attempt Defense in Woodward Debacle