ERICKSON: A Complicated Virus

Hands of a laboratory worker holding positive test tube for COVID-19 coronavirus.
The President purportedly withheld bad news about the coronavirus to avoid a panic and, in so doing, allegedly cost American lives. That is what the American media and the Democrats claim. Meanwhile, a reporter had all of this on tape and withheld this very newsworthy item, even as bodies were piling up in freezer trucks parked by overrun morgues, just so he could make a buck.
My outrage is exhausted over all angles of the virus story except this one: A self-aware and self-reflective media would be absolutely crucifying Bob Woodward for withholding these audio records as American bodies piled up, but like carrion-eating animals, they will continue picking at the corpse of virus coverage instead of ever turning on their own.
The American news media is less trusted and less popular than either the President of the United States or poop in a pool, and this is why: Bob Woodward could have released the tapes after concluding his interviews with the President. He chose instead to hold on to them for money.
These tell-all books are becoming a uniquely Washington phenomenon. John Bolton could have bolted from the White House when it became clear the President was turning a blind eye to genocide in China. But he held on until forced out because he considered himself valuable and important and wanted to cash in with a tell-all book.
James Comey now wants to be a hero champion of American women and sell books while refusing to acknowledge his own mishandling of his job. Andrew McCabe gets a CNN contract. Peter Strzok will be out next. But none of them, except Bob Woodward, has a body count, and Woodward’s is bordering on 200,000 just so he could sell a preelection book.
Again, if the media were self-reflective instead of self-absorbed, Woodward would be called to account. The Associated Press got Woodward on record about this, and Woodward boldly claims he had to wait to make sure it was all true. Coincidentally, that wait came to an end right before his book’s publication. I have no doubt a few fair reporters will seize on this issue, but they’ll be in the minority.
It is gross, and Woodward is going to get a pass in ways he should not. None of this excuses the President, but it is necessary to note.
As for the President, his supporters often like to say no one would have really done things differently. Or they raise the question openly about what could anyone else have really done. After all, it is a virus about which we knew little, and if the President had sparked a panic, we really would have seen major shortages.
The President could have privately briefed governors with the information about the virus being airborne and being way more deadly than the flu. The President could have been more assertive against his own side that has long-insisted the virus is no worse than the flu. The President directly contradicted that information in his conversations with Woodward as early as Feb. 7, two days after the impeachment trial concluded.
The President could have stopped being so dismissive of the virus and claiming it would just go away. Doing that gave a lot of people false hope and allowed them to be dismissive of the virus, even as the bodies piled up. Doing that emboldened the President’s own supporters to push out fringe conspiracies, dismiss the data and otherwise sow seeds of doubt about what the President and his team knew.
The President could have asserted himself as a leader with better guidelines and guidance for states to control both shutdowns and reopenings earlier on as the prevailing consensus within his administration took shape — again as reflected in his conversations with Woodward. The President could have avoided talking to Woodward.
A lot of people could have done a lot of things differently, and it probably would have changed very little. We are in a global pandemic caused by a microscopic virus, and the blame game has gotten boring.

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