One of the causes of stress and consternation during the last four years was that many Americans were closely watching their government at work for the first time. As they witnessed the day-to-day they relied on the media to inform them of what was normal and what was outrageous.
The voices at the national media outlets found President Donald Trump to be ideologically and behaviorally repugnant and never fully recovered from his upset win over Hillary Clinton, so most of the events in and around the administration were covered as being outrageous, beyond the pale and horrific.
The media was in crisis mode and they intended to make sure the American public shared in their discomfort.
Day after day the administration was said to be breaking norms, disgracing the office and tearing at the fabric of our democracy.
Trump’s dismissal of masks was seen as reckless and harmful, his gratuitous photo ops were presented as vile marketing opportunities and his press secretary’s lack of straightforwardness and cunning doublespeak defiled the building and harmed the very concept of truth.
Joe Biden has been president for less than a week. Shortly after being sworn in he signed a pile of executive orders, including a mandate that a mask must be worn while on federal property.
The order read that, “individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.”
In fact, the president even shot out a note from his new Twitter account.
“Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue,” the tweet read. “It’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives. That’s why I signed an executive order today issuing a mask mandate on federal property. It’s time to mask up, America.”
Unfortunately, just hours after signing the mask mandate Biden was seen posing for photos, unmasked, at the Lincoln Memorial alongside his unmasked family. The Lincoln Memorial is federal property.
The next day, new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked why the president thought it was acceptable and responsible to go maskless on federal property just hours after having signed a mask mandate prohibiting such behavior.
“He was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country. And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives.
“We take a number of COVID precautions, as you know here, in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.”
Asked by the reporter if Biden was setting a bad example, Psaki answered: “I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID; the requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public. Yesterday was a historic moment in our history … I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.”
In other words, she said nothing.
We had a glaring example of the president dismissing his own mask mandate in the midst of the pandemic, engaging in a gratuitous photo op and a press secretary dodging, obfuscating and being anything but forthright with a reporter.
Because most media outfits cover Biden like they cover the home team, we’ve been spared apocalyptic headlines and hysterical newscasts, hyperbolic web stories and panicked social media posts.
That is a good thing. Yes, Biden engaged in irresponsible, hypocritical behavior and his press secretary avoided accountability by drowning a reporter with empty words but it is not the end of the world. It wasn’t with the 45th president and it’s not now with the 46th.