Last week, shortly before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did an abrupt reversal and ordered masks be worn across much of Texas, an extraordinary op-ed column appeared in The Washington Post. Part of what made it extraordinary was the person who wrote it.
Karen Hughes was a longtime advisor for President George W. Bush, and a former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Bush administration. She is also a former executive director of the Texas Republican Party.
In the op-ed, Hughes, who now lives in Austin, appeared to chastise members of her own party for the politics of mask-wearing. She compared not wearing a mask to yelling “fire” in a packed theater, or brandishing a loaded gun in a crowd.
She also wrote: “While wearing a mask is not a political issue, it is a moral one. The choice and stakes are clear: the minor inconvenience of donning a mask vs. potentially threatening other people’s lives. The options are not equal on any scale of duty, honor, citizenship, or service to God and others. Amid a deadly viral pandemic, wearing a mask is the only responsible course of action.”
Hughes told Texas Standard host David Brown on Monday that she wrote the Post piece because members of her party had been silent on what she characterized as an issue of personal responsibility.
“As a Republican and a conservative, I feel strongly that personal responsibility is a conservative value,” Hughes said.
Hughes pointed out that not wearing a mask puts those nearby at risk, especially because it’s possible to be infected with the coronavirus without displaying symptoms.
President Donald Trump’s refusal to wear a mask strikes Hughes as “almost unimaginable.” She said it sends a bad signal to the nation and to his political supporters.
“[Trump not wearing a mask] gave cover to a lot of people to say ‘We don’t have to do that either,'” Hughes said.
For Hughes, wearing a mask is a duty people have to protect others, including grocery store workers, older people and those who are especially vulnerable to the virus.
“It’s a relatively minor inconvenience compared to the prospect that you are potentially putting other lives at risk,” she said.
Abbott’s recent order requiring adults to wear masks in public in most circumstances is a positive step, Hughes said. But she didn’t address why Abbott waited so long to issue mask requirements.
“Faced with such an alarming increase in the number of cases, it was absolutely the right thing for Gov. Abbott to do,” she said. “I feel like what we were doing was clearly not working.”
Wearing a mask, Hughes said, is also a reminder that other precautions are also needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, including hand-washing
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.