The Biden White House Is Following an Ugly Trump Precedent
- June 30, 2023
One of the few fresh governing concepts to emerge from the Trump White House was the realization that many rules are really just suggestions. If you don’t follow them, you might get tut-tutted, and a court might eventually force your hand, but a lot of the time you just get away with it. This is a powerful and dangerous insight, and unfortunately the Biden White House has not completely shunned it.
A perfect example of this dynamic involves the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from being involved in electoral politics in certain circumstances. Usually, a federal employee who violates the law can be punished by the Office of Special Counsel, an agency whose job it is to enforce this particular law. But when it is White House officials who break the law, OSC’s only recourse is to recommend a consequence to the president. The Trump administration blithely flouted the law, refusing to follow OSC’s rulings. Now the Biden administration seems to be doing the same, reacting to one OSC opinion (a very silly one, but still) by simply refusing to heed it.
Now Joe Biden’s press operation seems to be taking the same tack. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has often used MAGA as a pejorative term, and Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog group run by a Trump-administration appointee, complained to OSC last year, writing that her comments “appear to be political in nature, seeking the defeat of her political opponents in the Republican party.”