The arrival on Friday of the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — 3,000 Americans were brutally murdered, leaving countless more bereft and causing major changes in the country’s social fabric, foreign policy and government structure — helps put the U.S. pandemic fatalities in proper context. More than 66 9/11s would be needed to reach the near-term projected coronavirus death toll. Trump’s reckless disregard for human life and abdication of his oath of office have caused incalculable anguish. The damage to the U.S. economy and educational system will take years to repair.
Without Woodward’s work to engage Trump in a series of 18 conversations, during which the narcissist in the Oval Office unwittingly sabotaged his own reelection campaign, it is not clear we would understand the magnitude of Trump’s offense and the moral culpability of the president and his enablers. At least one poll suggests it has had an impact. The Yahoo News/YouGov poll taken Sept. 9 to 11 puts former vice president Joe Biden up 10 points nationally, a four-point bump since the poll taken right after the Republican presidential convention.
The report on the latest survey said, “Asked if their opinion of Trump’s coronavirus response has changed because of Woodward’s big scoop … nearly a quarter of Americans (23 percent) say yes. Even 15 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 say the Woodward news has changed their mind about the president’s handling of the pandemic.” Moreover, “15 percent of Americans say the Woodward quotes have made them less likely to vote to reelect the president in November — and a third of these were 2016 Trump supporters.” Woodward’s work may pry away more Trump voters than any other event in the past four years.
The Woodward story was so enormous that it practically displaced another report, this from the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, revealing Trump’s insults (“suckers,” “losers,” “babies”) directed at the military. A single episode — Trump’s desire not to include wounded veterans in a military parade — was enough to turn one’s stomach. The silence from former military leaders who have served the president was deafening. The Atlantic article would have been a presidency-ending story in any other administration; in Trump’s presidency, it was only the second-biggest story in less than a week. Nevertheless, Goldberg’s report also seems to have had a profound impact: “Asked which candidate shows more respect for the military, 50 percent of registered voters name Biden, compared to 39 percent for Trump. By the same margin, voters say Biden would do a better job leading the military than the current commander in chief.”
We will see whether one or both of these reports actually slices off a share of Trump’s Republican base. Right now, Trump’s accumulated scandals, as well as the dogged work of groups such as Republican Voters Against Trump and the Lincoln Project, seem to be eroding Republicans’ support for Trump. “Only 1 percent of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 supporters say they will vote for the president in November,” the Yahoo News/YouGov poll report said. “At the same time, 8 percent of Trump’s 2016 supporters say they will vote for Biden.”
The country owes a debt to the excellence of Woodward’s and Goldberg’s journalism. They arguably did more to reveal his mendacity and unfitness — and make it difficult for Republicans to ignore them — than the media’s accumulated reporting over four years. For that we can say, well done, gentlemen.