Column: Forget Trump, hold Biden and his administration accountable for their lies


"Joe Biden" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office are quickly approaching.

Noah Colbert, columnist

On Feb. 13, the Senate acquitted Donald J. Trump of impeachment for inciting the Capitol insurrection in a 57-43 vote. Though the house impeachment managers — particularly Reps. Raskin, Neguse, and Plaskett — presented a near airtight case, it was always a foregone conclusion that Republicans would not vote to convict. 

Trump was obviously guilty of the charge before him, despite the attempts of Republicans and his incompetent lawyers to obfuscate the issue and draw false equivalencies. However, it is time for the country to move past Trump, for a continued fixation on him will be detrimental to our future. The impulse for the media to continually report on Trump’s whereabouts and doings is strong, but doing so will allow the Biden administration to escape responsibility for its actions. 

For example, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki already received a great deal of praise for her cordial attitude toward the media. Though it is good to not have the combative press conferences of McEnany, Spicer and Sanders, or nearly year-long periods with no press briefings at all, the media is forgetting its duty. The relationship between the media and the president should not be a chummy one — it should be as adversarial as the executive branch requires it to be. The press secretary’s job is to be a spin doctor; she is a paid liar. Treating Psaki with kid gloves because she is perceived to be more committed to truth grants the Biden administration undeserved cover.

Her willingness to misrepresent issues can be seen in her answers revolving around Biden’s student debt relief plan. When asked what Biden will do on the issue, Psaki said that Biden remains committed to cancelling $10,000 of debt, and that he eagerly awaits Congress to send legislation to his desk. Psaki received no pushback for her unwillingness to address the fact that Biden does not need Congress to relieve this debt. As 95% of student loan debt is federally owned, Biden could eliminate as much as he wants through executive order. Him not having done so is an indictment on himself, not Congress, as he knows full well he will not receive enough votes in the Senate to achieve a filibuster-proof majority. Saying “send me legislation” is Biden’s way of wiping his hands of the issue without admitting it, and journalists should be among the first to call him out on it.

Even if one were to accept the ludicrous assertion that such action must be taken through Congress, Psaki is intentionally not acknowledging the fact that Biden’s plan for $10,000 of relief conflicts with what is being proposed by his congressional colleagues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are calling for $50,000 of debt forgiveness. Regardless of her intentions, Psaki acts as all press secretaries before her do, and the media’s unwillingness to call her out on it exemplifies a dangerous “return to normalcy” mentality. 

Furthermore, the media has done little to call out the Biden administration on its blatant backpedalling on the $2,000 stimulus checks. Biden clearly promised Americans $2,000 checks, yet he has whittled this down to $1,400, pretending that the calculus always included the $600 from the December stimulus package. Biden and the Democratic Party are engaging in ridiculous gaslighting. Biden called for $2,000 checks while campaigning in Georgia with Raphel Warnock and Jon Ossoff, well after the original $600 was distributed. 

Even if one wants to argue this is technically not lying, Biden displayed dishonest behavior that the media would have crucified Trump for. It has gone unchallenged that Biden wants to provide the American people with less money than Trump did — $1,200 in March, $600 in December. Biden has also waffled on other aspects of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. He was willing to cave on the $15 minimum wage despite having the authority to disregard the parliamentarian’s ruling against its inclusion in reconciliation. Biden also considered restricting who gets a stimulus check to the extent that 40 million people who received checks under Trump would not get them under his administration. It fell upon progressives in the House and Senate to call out Biden on his lies, with the media and centrist Democrats being nowhere to be found. No one questioned why Joe Biden is more committed to making sure Neera Tanden gets a cushy job than delivering the $15 minimum wage and student debt relief he campaigned on. Biden even considered lowering the stimulus checks, before saying this would amount to a “broken promise.” Yet few are willing to call Biden out on the fact that the checks being $1,400 is already a broken promise. 

Biden vowed to help the country heal, tackle the coronavirus and enact racial justice. It is the job of the media to hold him accountable on each of these things. Tackling COVID-19 means not being bound by the Larry Summers’ of the world who push austerity and deficit hawkery. Racial justice means taking real strides towards revamping the justice system, combatting medical racism through universal health care and closing the racial wealth gap. There should be no fawning over the performative “diversity” of Biden’s cabinet; tokenism in institutions that oppress Black people is not equality. 

And healing, achieving that much bandied-about “unity,” does not mean mollifying the extremists who run the Republican Party.  Instead, it means uniting behind common principles that make our country better, even if this unity means acknowledging the fact that most Republicans do not believe in those principles. Unity means acknowledging truth and not engaging in both siderism and false equivalencies. It means holding accountable the majority of Republicans who aided Trump not just out of political expediency, but because his agenda aligns perfectly with theirs. Despite what the Beltway media claims, bipartisanship is a means to an end, not an end itself. When Republicans come to Biden with bad faith offers, like their measly COVID-19 relief package that was only one-third the size of Biden’s already insufficient bill, the process of dealmaking should not be venerated. If governing involves reconciliation or abolishing the filibuster, so be it. Biden promised “No Malarkey.” He can’t be allowed to hide behind procedural excuses.

Trump is gone for now, but if Biden is not tightly scrutinized, it will be no surprise if Trumpism takes control of the government once again. 

Noah Colbert is a first-year combined mathematics and political science major. He can be reached at [email protected]