Political Editors / November 12, 2021

In Brief: Biden Torches Norms He Promised to Restore

He takes illegal actions in hopes that by the time the courts rule, his goals will have been achieved.

At least President Mean Tweets is out of office, right? Joe Biden was supposed to be the moderate, the guy who wasn’t as radical as Bernie Sanders and had been around Washington long enough (no, really, long enough) to restore order after the chaos of Donald Trump. Well, that was the myth, anyway. Political analyst Charles C.W. Cooke notices a pattern of abuse of power that should disabuse anyone of such notions.

Asked Monday afternoon what the federal government intends to do while the president’s long-delayed vaccine mandate is being litigated in the courts, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained that the administration intended to carry on as if nothing had happened. “People should not wait,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”

So much for a return to those much-vaunted “norms.”

Apologists for Biden’s approach will choose to parse Jean-Pierre’s statement literally. “There’s nothing illegal here,” they will say. “The order has been stayed, and the administration is simply issuing an encouragement in the meantime.” And this is true, insofar as it goes. But there is a clear tactic on display here nevertheless — and its deployment has become something of a habit of this president’s. First, the White House announces that it either cannot, or will not, take a particular action: federal vaccine mandates, Jen Psaki said back in July, are “not the role of the federal government,” but “the role that institutions, private-sector entities, and others may take.” Next, someone close to the president suggests that, actually, there might be a loophole somewhere to exploit, and contends that, irrespective of the legal merits, a mere announcement might move the needle in the administration’s favor. And, finally, the president comes out blazing, in the clear hope that by the time his edicts are struck down they will have changed the facts on the ground. In a formal sense, what Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday is legally acceptable. But it is not normal, and it is not admirable, either. If they are to mean anything, “norms” must preclude the executive branch from using tenuous regulations as a cudgel with which to intimidate the American citizenry.

Doing unconstitutional things while expecting that courts might undo the damage is not exactly “moderate,” but it’s how Biden rolls repeatedly. Directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to grossly exceed its authority with his vaccination mandate is among the worst examples.

While running for president last year, Joe Biden was keen to cast himself as the savior of the American order. “I am not running for office to be King of America,” Biden promised. “I respect the Constitution. I’ve read the Constitution. I’ve sworn an oath to it many times.” These are nice words, but the proof is in the pudding, and thus far at least, Biden has bent the rules whenever he possibly could. …

OSHA has no authority to issue COVID-19 regulations to private businesses, let alone on an expedited basis? Fine, but, with any luck, the businesses in question will have already done what it wishes them to do by the time a judge says as much.

Typically, Americans who have been aggrieved by their government are instructed “to take them to court.” And, indeed, they should. But there is a more effective, and more honorable, way for the people to retain the system of government they’ve inherited, and that is to demand leaders who won’t break the rules in the first instance. If push comes to shove, I daresay that President Biden will abide by the judicial branch’s decisions. But, by taking action he knows full well is illegal, and forcing others to strike it down in turn, he is violating his oath to “faithfully execute” the law. “I respect the Constitution,” insists Biden when asked. As ever, though, actions are worth more than mere words.

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