October 22, 2020

A Biden Administrative Agenda

Presidential campaigns usually emphasize policy positions intended to appeal to one constituency or another. The 2020 presidential campaign is very different.

Donald Trump hardly talks about policy positions at all. The Republican Party didn’t even bother to produce a 2020 platform. The understanding is that a Trump victory will deliver a continuation of what we have seen for nearly four years. Without concern for re-election, we can reasonably expect that Trump will continue to ignore existing norms.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, has articulated positions on many issues, though he does spend a lot of time decrying the dumpster fire that is the Trump administration. The Biden campaign implies that, whatever its policy positions, a Biden administration will return our national government to “normal.”

I suspect that many voters indeed yearn for “normal,” perhaps even for something a little better than what has passed for normal heretofore. The Biden-Harris campaign should, I think, be forthcoming about what a new Democratic administration would look like. Although a campaign can articulate a long list of policy objectives, achieving those objectives ultimately depends on the coƶperation of the Congress. Those policy goals may be met or not or, perhaps achieved imperfectly.

On the other hand, Joe Biden can promise how a Biden White House will operate administratively, and such promises are not dependent on others. I will suggest what such a promise might look like. I think that making it public now would be a positive move by the Democratic campaign. If not used by the campaign, it can be used to guide the new administration as it comes together.

Here, then, are administrative policies I believe the Biden White House should implement. The items on my list are in no special order, and I don’t claim that my list is exhaustive. I invite additional suggestions.

The list:
  1. Twitter will be used neither by the president nor the vice president. The White House will only use Twitter to call attention to material and announcements otherwise released in a conventional manner.
  2. The president will hold monthly news conferences and will encourage government departments to hold regular news conferences as may be appropriate.
  3. Except possibly in extreme circumstances, the president will not lie to the American people. (Exceptions to this policy are most likely in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives. Exceptions should be rare or nonexistent.)
  4. The president and vice president will offer to meet regularly with the congressional leadership. (This should result in regular meetings if the Democrats control both houses of Congress.)
  5. Anti-nepotism rules will be enforced throughout the government and will be applied to the White House as well.
  6. Cabinet secretaries and administrators will be selected for their technical and managerial expertise. They will be expected to resolve any conflicts of interest before assuming their duties.
  7. Judicial candidates will be selected for their legal accomplishments and liberal views. None will have any connection to the Federalist Society. Originalist or literalist views will be disqualifying.
  8. Ambassadors will be selected for their relevant skills. Contributions to the president’s campaign are not relevant.
  9. The president and vice president will each put any assets that could be affected by government actions into a blind trust while in office.
  10. The vice president shall work closely with the president and will be responsible for any special tasks determined by the president.
  11. No lobbyists will be appointed to administrative positions.
  12. Appointees must agree to not lobby the government for a period of two years after they leave government service.
  13. It is the intention of the administration to fully fund and staff all governmental organizations consistent with funding from the Congress. In particular, every attempt will be made to fill diplomatic, scientific, and technical positions left vacant at the end of the Trump administration.
  14. Relevant governmental units will be instructed to restore information related to climate change that was removed from the Web by the Trump administration.
  15. All governmental units will be encouraged to be transparent by publishing as much useful data as possible on their Web sites.
  16. All governmental units will be expected to respond in a timely manner to any reasonable Freedom of Information request.
  17. An absolute separation will be established between the White House and the Department of Justice. The White House will have no influence over the impartial administration of justice.
  18. The administration will obey existing laws limiting the tenure of temporary appointees to positions requiring Senate approval. Temporary appointments should be for as short a period as possible.
  19. The president will consider all cases of the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from international organizations and agreements. Most of these withdrawals should be reversed. Included in the cases to be reconsidered are, among others, the following: the World Health Organization, the Paris climate agreement, the U.N.Human Rights Council, the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, etc,
  20. The president will review all executive orders from President Trump and rescind or modify them as seems appropriate for the good of the country.
Updated: 10/27/2020

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