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U.S. President Donald Trump, who has ridiculed mask wearing at times, with members of the Louisiana National Guard, each of them masked, in Lake Charles, La., on Aug. 29, 2020.

AL DRAGO/The New York Times News Service

After four years of covering Donald Trump’s smears, slurs, alternative facts, ad hominem attacks, race baiting and billets-doux directed at dictators around the globe, it is amazing that his critics in the U.S. mainstream media keep falling into the same trap.

Each time the U.S. President makes, or is said to have made, a comment so egregious, so beyond the pale, as to confirm his utter unworthiness, the media herd repeats a cycle of outrage and reprobation that only reminds Mr. Trump’s supporters why they continue to stand by him in the first place.

It comes down to this: Within nearly every Trump lie, smear or attack on his rivals, however distasteful, there is a speck of truth that would otherwise dare not speak its name.

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According to a Sept. 3 report in The Atlantic, Mr. Trump referred to fallen U.S. soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” after backing out of a planned visit to a military cemetery last year while he was in France attending ceremonies to commemorate the end of the Second World War. No one doubted the report, which cited anonymous sources. What many of those expressing outrage failed to grasp, however, was just how hypocritical they sounded.

Questioning the motives of American military interventionism abroad has historically been the bailiwick of self-righteous media elites – including many past and current Atlantic writers – who decried the U.S. military-industrial complex for decades before Mr. Trump entered politics. They had long implied that the presidents and military leaders who dragged their country into pointless wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq played their own soldiers for, well, suckers.

Yet, the Democrats could not have chosen a presidential candidate more representative of the military-industrial complex than Joe Biden who, as a senator in 2002, voted to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. In responding to The Atlantic piece, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Biden of sending “our youth to fight in these crazy endless wars” and the country’s military leaders of “wanting to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

There is some truth to that statement, even if that is not a word often associated with Mr. Trump. Plenty of working-class American voters – many of whom are veterans or the parents of active military personnel – identify with Mr. Trump’s criticism. Thousands of low-income Americans join the military not out of patriotism, but to get a free education. They understand better than anyone that they are at risk of being sent into battle for all the wrong reasons.

That used to be a perfectly acceptable critique of U.S. military interventionism, until Mr. Trump embraced it. Yes, the President dishonours the memory of the fallen. But his supporters and many Americans who are still toying with supporting him are unlikely to hold it against him.

Not in the face of a Democratic Party that has thrown in its lot with radical-left activists who depict the United States as a racist state with no redeeming qualities. Honest folks recognize this as being as much a distortion of the truth as any of Mr. Trump’s tweets. They know their country is deeply flawed, with a history of racism that lives on in its darker corners. But they also know that great progress has been made, that few countries come close to theirs in providing equality of opportunity to its citizens, and that removing the barriers that remain is not as simple as defunding the police.

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan captured the essence of this Democratic drift, describing the “non-stop hum of grievance” at last month’s convention: “To show their ferocious sincerity in the struggle against America’s injustices, most of the speakers thought they had to beat the crap out of the country – over and over.”

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This week ended with journalist Bob Woodward’s apparently explosive revelation that Mr. Trump knew in early February that the novel coronavirus was more deadly than the seasonal flu, but admitted in March to have deliberately played down the danger of a pandemic to avoid creating a panic among the American public. Whether that was responsible or not, it would not be the first instance in history of a president making such a call.

There is plenty to criticize in Mr. Trump’s handling of COVID-19 crisis. But at the time of Mr. Trump’s Feb. 7 conversation with Mr. Woodward, there were literally only a handful of coronavirus cases in the United States and public-health experts almost everywhere were insisting that the risks of a pandemic were low.

It is too soon to know if Mr. Woodward’s book, which is to be released next week, will be the final nail in Mr. Trump’s political coffin. But if a litany of past Trump bombshells are anything to go by, there are strong reasons to doubt it.

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