Hours after President Donald Trump publicly urged China and Ukraine to investigate a political rival, legendary journalist Bob Woodward wanted to talk to Whitworth students about coffee.
One of the reporters credited with unveiling the Watergate scandal told a packed room of about 200 students and faculty his career almost ended with a mistake made in his early days at the Washington Post.
Woodward was reporting that a prestigious hotel’s cafe had failed a health inspection, but an editor told him to get his “fat rear off the chair” and actually go to the coffee shop.
When he got to the hotel, he recalled, he asked, “Where’s the coffee shop?” And the answer was, “We don’t have one.”
The 76-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner quickly pivoted from that nearly libelous report to the current occupant of the White House and to his belief that Trump’s actions have not risen to the level of those that drove President Richard Nixon from office.
But, Woodward said, Trump is inching closer.
“It gets more serious each day,” Woodward said, referencing Trump urging other countries to investigate the activities of Joe Biden’s son on Thursday morning.
“Impeachment, which of course is the charge from the House of Representatives, is almost certainly going to happen to Trump,” Woodward predicted. “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”
I was based in Washington and reported from Capitol Hill during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which was the last time the country entered waters like these. It was ugly, and Democrats and Republicans traded vicious words.
But Clinton never publicly accused his detractors of treason or floated the idea that one of them be arrested on those grounds, as Donald Trump just did with Adam Schiff.
Clinton and his defenders raised the specter of a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” to use Hillary Clinton’s infamous phrase, thus asserting that he was being persecuted for his politics, not punished for his misdeeds.
But they didn’t insist, as Trump and his defenders routinely do, that a vital part of the federal government was an evil cabal intent on undermining our democratic processes, which is Trump’s self-serving characterization of the intelligence community. Their central strategy wasn’t to ignite a full-blown crisis of confidence in the institutions of government. They weren’t serving dire notice, as Trump essentially is, that if the president goes down, he’s taking everyone and everything else with him.
The Clintons possessed and projected a moral arrogance that was laughably oxymoronic under the circumstances. And they and other prominent Democrats junked the party’s supposed concern for women’s empowerment to savage Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and others who came forward with claims about the president’s extramarital sexual activity, including serious accusations of sexual violence.