Nothing New under the Sun

Journalist Bob Woodward arrives at Trump Tower, N.Y., 2017. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On the menu today: Trump’s statements to Bob Woodward aren’t all that different from what he’s said at his rallies and in other public events, a couple of ways that the rest of America’s leadership class isn’t providing the sharp contrast to Trump that they think they do, and a quick preview of what is likely to be one of the strangest seasons in NFL history.

You Know Trump Already Said All This Stuff Publicly, Right?

Bob Woodward’s latest book shows us a president away from the television cameras — but on the record, with Woodward’s tape recorder running — who says “I wanted to always play [the coronavirus] down,” who complains that he’s done a lot for the black community and that he’s not feeling any love from them, who refers to his predecessor as  “Barack Hussein,” and boasts that Kim Jong-un did not like his predecessor, and who boasted to Woodward, “I have built a nucle- a weapon, I have built a weapons system, a weapons system, that nobody’s ever had in this country before . . . We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before.”

In other words, Woodward reveals . . . a President Trump who isn’t that different from who we see on camera every day. For each of these comments to Woodward, the president has said something remarkably similar in public, most of which were quickly forgotten in our hypersonic news cycle.

Then in May, at a White House event marking the establishment of the U.S. Space Force branch of the military, Trump elaborated a bit:

THE PRESIDENT: We’re building, right now, incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We have no choice. We have to do it — with the adversaries we have out there. We have a — I call it the “super-duper missile.” And I heard the other night, 17 times faster than what they have right now.

SECRETARY ESPER: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: And you take the fastest missile we have right now — you’ve heard Russia has five times, and China is working on five or six times. We have one 17 times. And it’s just gotten the go-ahead. Seventeen times faster, if you can believe that, General. That’s something, right? Seventeen times faster than what we have right now. Fastest in the world by a factor of almost three.

If you like the president, nothing Trump said to Woodward is likely to shake your faith in him. If you don’t like the president, it’s just one more outrage to toss upon the pile.

Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer ask, is there anything left to learn about Trump? As the above list shows, what is left to learn depends in part upon how much you remember about what Trump has said and done so far. They write, “the totality of his job isn’t watching television, tweeting and issuing executive orders. It’s governing — even with legislators he doesn’t like, and with a media he considers hostile.” In Trump’s perspective, watching television, tweeting, and issuing executive orders is governing. And his supporters find this sufficient as well. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be his supporters.

In the Wall Street Journal today, Walter Olson writes that he remains resolutely opposed to Trump, despite some significant policy agreements with the president, because, “no modern president has shown so little care for or grasp of how government works — for instance, what powers the president does and doesn’t have. None have found it as hard to put the nation’s well-being above his own, on matters as basic as setting aside the interests of his family business.”

(Public Service Announcement: Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, founder of Overlawyered.com and the man Washington Post calls the “intellectual guru of tort reform.” Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, formerly of the Manhattan Institute and American Enterprise Institute. I suspect if I had a dime for every time each Olson/Olsen was confused for the other, I would have a small fortune.)

A lot of Democrats simply can’t imagine how anyone could possibly accept a leader who they see as so self-evidently selfish, narcissistic, callous, and who refuses to learn from any mistakes.

I suspect many of these people are blind to other failures of leadership in society. For example, the World Health Organization has one job and completely fumbled it late last year and early this year. Yet we haven’t seen the entire U.S. medical community showing up at WHO headquarters with torches and pitchforks (while masked and socially distanced, of course).

The Chinese government’s extraordinarily consequential dishonesty about the virus appears to have triggered zero rethinking of economic ties or interaction with China in corporate America — or at least the biggest companies. We can’t even get Disney to not film in the province where the Uyghur concentration camps are being run.

And the vast majority of the medical, political, social, business, and media class elites appear to have just decided that it’s coincidental that a novel coronavirus that originated in bats just happened to appear in a city where not one, but two labs were researching novel coronaviruses in bats, where U.S. officials had expressed doubts about the safety and training, in a country where lab accidents released the first version of SARS twice. If you doubt that it is a coincidence, you are labeled an outlandish conspiracy theorist.

When a largely left-leaning American elite have so adamantly insisted that the WHO is a good organization that can be trusted to do its job well, that trade with China is good for all of us, and that our ongoing global calamity was a random bit of bad luck that couldn’t have been prevented, who is surprised that many millions of Americans conclude, “to heck with all of you, I’m going to vote for the guy you hate?”

ADDENDUM: The National Football League returns tonight. We’ve gotten our first taste of audience-free college football in the past week or so. It’s going to be an odd adjustment; does Arrowhead Stadium give the Kansas City Chiefs the usual home field advantage when the stadium is limited to 25 percent capacity?

Who knows what to expect this year? I can’t stand the usual preseason games that were canceled this year, but those meaningless games in August usually gave us a glimpse of the hot rookies, the big names who changed teams in free agency, and who’s bouncing back from a big injury last year. This year, we go into week one blind, unless you feel like you can discern tangible momentum from footage of training camp practices.

I’ll spare you any predictions about my Jets; just know I will get through the year with lots of food and beer, and an Adam Gase voodoo doll. I figure the New Orleans Saints are hell-bent on one last run with Drew Brees as quarterback and making it to the Super Bowl . . . but the Chiefs will be too much for them.

Elsewhere in the AFC, I figure Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens will bounce back from what had to be a brutally disappointing playoff loss. I think the Titans overachieved last year, the Patriots haven’t lost that much swapping out Cam Newton for Tom Brady, and in the seven-team conference playoff format, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and Houston Texans are in the playoffs again.

In the NFC, I think a lot of the excitement will be in the West, but because none of the teams are all that bad — even the Arizona Cardinals seem poised for a step — you could see 9-7 winning the division and 7-9 getting last place. Figure the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams all make the playoffs, joining the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings.

I know, I know, you’re not watching, you’re so outraged by what Colin Kaepernick said or did, or you’re outraged that no team has signed Kaepernick yet, the players are too activist for you or not activist enough, et cetera, et cetera. I get being turned off by more politically outspoken players, but you know what’s about as annoying as hearing from politically outspoken players? Hearing other people complain about politically outspoken players during the game.