Coronavirus Commentary: ‘We’re Living in an Age of Xenophobia’


Presidential biographer Jon Meachem and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations joined Morning Joe last Thursday to discuss the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus.

Joe Scarborough lamented the president’s appointment of Mike Pence as leader of the administration’s coronavirus task force; Pence, he said, has no particularly competency in “science,” and will serve as little more than a Trump sycophant.

The panel’s response was instructive (emphasis is mine):

MEACHAM: Yeah. The push and pull in our history has been between political appointees and a more professionalized civil service. [This] has come out of a progressive instinct that you actually want government to be an instrument, a competent instrument. And, it seems to me, that my greatest anxiety, aside from the impact of the virus itself, is we’re living in an age of xenophobia. And it is not impossible to imagine a scenario where blame is cast.

HAASS: That’s right.

MEACHAM: On some country or group of people, if this becomes worse.

HAASS: It’s happening in Asia.

Meachem’s remarks reveal a rather low opinion of the American people — does Meacham suspect that Americans will randomly start assaulting Asian immigrants en masse in response to the coronavirus? — but his insinuation raises a more fundamental question: Is it “xenophobic” to restrict migration to and from a particular region of the world if said region is the center of a deadly, highly contagious virus?

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The correct answer should be obvious, but “it is not impossible to imagine a scenario” where Jon Meachem answers incorrectly.

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