One of the many lessons America should have learned from Donald Trump’s catastrophic presidency is that the nation’s political standards are no longer sufficient to secure a basis for ethical behavior in Washington. Time and time again, Trump has trampled on those standards, shamelessly using his office to enrich his businesses, pamper his friends, and punish his enemies.
President Joe Biden has restored adherence to these standards by simply behaving like a normal president. And he used executive orders to bolster ethical standards across his administration. The fact that Biden’s critics are picking up on a silly non-scandal over his son Hunter Biden’s art sales dramatizes how much the ethical situation has improved.
But all this will only last as long as this presidency. Biden vowed during the campaign to pass a broad ethics program through Congress. Six months later, he still hasn’t sued him. He should, while the urgency of the matter is still fresh.
Trump ran his administration like he ran his businesses – looking for any angle for himself or his friends, regardless of his ethics. He refused to part ways with his companies in any meaningful way, ensuring that lobbyists, foreign governments and others would spend their travel budgets at his hotels and resorts to come to terms with the leader of the free world. The military suddenly decided that posting personnel to Trump’s properties overseas made sense, even if it made no sense logistically or financially. He stacked his administration with industry shills that, as one might expect, gutted environmental and energy standards. He used his Justice Department as a personal law firm, protecting his pals and harassing his enemies.
So it made sense for Biden to prioritize ethics reform during his presidential campaign. His 25-point ethics plan included promises to ban foreign governments from hiring lobbyists to influence the US government, crack down on the influence of members of Congress’ personal financial assets, and – most importantly, given the aggressive attacks. Trump against government whistleblowers – to create a new whistleblower. protections.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for presidential candidates to forget their promises once in office. (Remember how Trump was going to be “president of infrastructure”?) But Biden’s failure to keep his ethical promises is baffling. The reforms he calls for do not come at a significant cost. They are not partisan; there’s no reason to believe the ethics proposals couldn’t get at least the 10 Republican Senate votes they would need to avoid obstruction. Yet these proposals languish in a larger and more controversial electoral reform package that currently seems unlikely to pass.
Trump’s atrocious ethics underscored the need for real safeguards to replace the standards the nation thought it could always count on. The fact that Trump is no longer there does not change that need. Biden should put this problem on the back burner now.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial
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