October 21, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
We should question Chad Wolf’s loyalty
Same with anyone denying that we're all in this together.
All presidents rankle when the Washington press corps pays attention to things the president and his administration would rather it did not pay attention to. What sets Donald Trump apart, it goes without saying, is his churlish tendency to feel like a victim, as if reporters reporting the news is some kind of conspiracy against him.
On Tuesday, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf accused the Post’s Maria Sacchetti of shilling for Joe Biden. In covering news of a new Center for Countering Human Trafficking, Wolf said, she “chose to ignore the human trafficking survivors who came to DC to tell their stories. Instead, she wrote on COVID, because it fits her media narrative. Anything it takes to bury the good news DHS is doing.”
Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor turning into a dutiful gatekeeper of the public square, defended Sacchetti and in the process all members of the press corps. Tapper said: “COVID is not a ‘narrative.’ It’s literally the most tangible threat to the safety and security of the American people right now, more than 220,000 of whom have died.”
The Republicans will pretend mass death and mass poverty are outcomes in keeping with republican democracy.
Tapper’s intentions, if I’m reading this right, were modest. He was merely defending his peers in the profession from partisan hacks like Wolf, and he was correct in doing so. But I think Tapper’s intentions—anyway, our intentions—should be broader. If it’s true the covid is “the most tangible threat to the safety and security of the American people right now,” it should follow, given we all face the same threat, that it will take committed and collective action in the form of a government response to defeat it.
Conversely, anyone denying the reality of all of us being in this together, or anyone undermining the government’s response to the pandemic, should be seen, as is typical in times of war, as insufficiently committed to the cause of defeating a mortal enemy. Moreover, they might be—they should be—seen as disloyal, or perhaps even in league with the opposition. Put another way, Chad Wolf, in drawing attention away from “the most tangible threat” to our safety and security, betrayed the American people and created conditions for a moment when treason is an option for those ideologically driven to sabotage. Tapper defended a colleague. Good for him. What he should be doing, and we should all be doing, is seriously questioning Chad Wolf’s patriotism.
Here’s the tip jar! Put something nice in it!
Questioning someone’s patriotism is tacky, to say the least, but remember: Some white people in this country believe deep down that they reside in a nation-within-a-nation where “real Americans” are chosen by God to rule in God’s name. This confederacy of the mind and spirit exists. (It has existed since the founding.) Its devotees are prepared to go to the wall to keep and tighten their grip on a government they believe belongs to them. A massive government response to a virus affecting everyone is itself a declaration of war that must be faced with equal and opposite aggression. This is why a band of white domestic terrorists conspired recently to kidnap (and probably murder) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. That a similar plan to kidnap the mayor of Wichita, Kansas, was foiled is not a sign of copycatism. It’s a harbinger of things to come.
Violence is only the most obvious form of betrayal. Mitch McConnell has told White House negotiators to back off stimulus talks. The reason, according to a pundits corps bent on seeing good faith where there is none, is because some Republicans “simply don’t think government spending would help the economy” or they think they will be “vulnerable to attacks as insufficiently conservative.” (None of that applied when Senate Republicans OK’d $2.2 trillion in relief aid.) No, McConnell is sandbagging stimulus now, because he thinks Trump won’t be reelected. With the backing of plutocrats already pushing policymakers to privilege the economy over “the sanctity of life,” the Republicans are preparing to sabotage Biden the way they did Barack Obama a decade ago, and in the process produce “hundreds of thousands of excess deaths.”
The Republicans will pretend mass death and mass poverty are outcomes in keeping with republican democracy. That this is a transparent lie might be obvious if people like Jake Tapper allow it to be. My fear is they won’t. My fear is the press corps will balance Democratic loyalty with Republican disloyalty, thus making treason optional. Tapper understands the covid is “the most tangible threat to the safety and security of the American people.” Let’s hope he also understands the virus isn’t the only one.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.