Biden’s new order regarding federal messaging sounds a little… Trumpish

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Given the blizzard of executive orders and proclamations coming out of the Biden administration since day one, it’s easy for some of them to slip under the radar. One popped up in my news feed this morning that I hadn’t seen previously. This one isn’t technically an executive order, though. It’s being framed as a “reminder” to the heads of all of the agencies in the federal government. They’re being told that before anyone puts out information on any new policy or legislative proposal or even a press release, they need to clear it with the White House Office of Management and Budget. The acting OMB director will presumably make sure that it’s approved by Biden’s staff and that nobody is “going rogue” with their own crazy ideas. (Government Executive)

The Biden administration is reminding agencies that they should coordinate all policy rollouts and certain communications with the White House to ensure the president’s agenda is properly reflected.

Agency officials must clear all legislative proposals, testimony and letters with the White House, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Robert Fairweather said in a memorandum issued this week. Any press releases related to the budget should also go through the White House, said Fairweather, who requested adequate advance notice to review and sign off on all relevant documents.

“OMB runs a clearance process on these items, which requires sufficient time to review and coordinate with all relevant agencies, and offices in the Executive Office of the President,” Fairweather wrote.

In other words, before any agency sends out any of these types of communications, they need the seal of approval from OMB. They’re also quite explicit about why this requirement exists. All departments will comply “to ensure the president’s agenda is properly reflected.”

Say, doesn’t that sound a bit dictatorial? Is there no debate allowed or room for differing approaches to solving the challenges these departments encounter? Apparently not. The memo goes on to state that all communications will be structured in a way that ensures that the administration “speaks with one voice” on legislative issues.

All of this would be fair enough if we were seeing a case of the media treating everyone the same, but that’s not the case here. Eric Katz, the Government Executive correspondent who penned this report, describes the memo from the Biden administration as being “fairly routine.” He then goes on to compare it to an almost identical memo issued by Mick Mulvaney on behalf of the Trump administration in 2018 by saying that Biden’s order takes “a less aggressive approach” than Trump’s.

That’s certainly an interesting interpretation. Back in 2018 when the memo in question came out, a different correspondent for the same publication covered it and described what Mulvaney was doing in almost the same words. He reported that the memo required all agencies to go through the same clearance process with OMB to ensure that “agency actions are consistent with the president’s policies and programs.”

I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds the same to me as saying that the president’s agenda needs to be properly reflected in the communications and that the administration “speaks with one voice.” How are these two memos any different?

In the end, I will agree that Biden’s order is fairly routine and so was Trump’s. You don’t want one of your appointees suddenly bolting off the ranch and pushing some position that directly contradicts the boss or paints him in a bad light. But when Trump did this, it was described variously as a “loyalty test” or “squelching dissent.” When Biden does the exact same thing, it’s a “fairly routine” exercise to ensure the administration’s efforts “properly reflect the president’s agenda.”

This all gets so tiresome after a while, but it’s important to keep our eyes on the shifting media narrative. The entire language of the MSM evolved overnight on January 20th and that evolution continues to this day.





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