News & Politics

Wall Street Journal Offers Pitiful Defense of Rampant Right-Wing Corruption by Trying to Blame Democrats

This is an extreme version of whataboutism.

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

The indictment of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) on insider trading charges is only the latest in an endless flow of corruption scandals emerging from the Republican Party. But the Wall Street Journal decided to place the blame on a curious place in a new editorial: hypocritical Democrats.

In one of the most pitiful and obvious displays of whataboutism, the Journal took the opportunity of Collins' indictment to write about the corruption allegations against New Jersey Democrat Bob Menedez. Democrats can't credibly run against the endemic corruption of GOP governance because, the Journal writes, they still support Menedez.

"Democrats and their media echoes aren’t really worried about corruption," it says. "Their pose is a tactic to regain power. Meet the new swamp creatures, same as the old."

Menendez has been accused of serious corruption, but unfortunately for the editorial board's argument, his trial did not lead to any charges. The charges that he received gifts from a friend in exchange for favorable government treatment were unsuccessful, it seems, because the Supreme Court has raised the bar extremely high in order to prove corruption.

Nevertheless, many Democrats have called out Menendez, and many wished his primary challenger could have replaced him. The Journal argues that, with Menendez on the ballot, Democrats should endorse his Republican challenger Bob Hugin.

Hugin is a former biotechnology CEO — and industry that would surely love to have more influence in Congress. But beyond the potential for his own corruption, anti-corruption advocates have a definitive reason to still support Menendez: a Democratic majority in the Senate is the best possible check on the widespread corruption fo the Trump administration. 

The allegations against Menendez are troubling and should be taken seriously. But they are, it seems, largely about unscrupulous favors to a friend.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, is making corruption a central facet of governance. And congressional Republicans across the board are committed to defending Trump's right to be as corrupt as possible.

This corruption ranges from the petty and personal — think of disgraced former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's abusive use of government funds for private jets — to the deeply consequential. Ex-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, was accused of accepting favors from an industry leader with business before his agency, meaning his personal corruption could have a devastating impact on the American people his agency is meant to protect.

Of course, the biggest and most obvious culprit of GOP corruption is Trump himself. From the allegations of Russian collusion to his complex overseas business ties, to his continued ownership of the Trump organization, to his family's myriad of corporate interests, there's no end the amount of corruption that could be ongoing under his watch. And this complete disregard for normal ethical behavior at the top of the administration is clearly flowing down to the other layers of government, of which Price and Pruitt's scandals are only the tip of the iceberg.

But the Wall Street Journal doesn't even mention Trump once — even as it uses his phrase the "swamp" — in its claims about Democrat's "double standard" for corruption. The piece reads less like a thoughtful analysis of the importance of public officials' integrity than a press release for the Republican National Committee.

While the Democratic Party has plenty to address when it comes to public corruption, there is simply no comparison at this point between the ethical scruples of the two parties. 

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.