Issues & Insights

Why Biden’s Repeated Mask Mandate Flip Flops Matter

Joe Biden violates his own mask mandate. (C-SPAN)

I&I Editorial

Over the course of five weeks, Joe Biden has stated five different positions on a national mask-wearing mandate. This is the guy who says he long ago worked out a comprehensive plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and who keeps promising steady leadership if elected president.

For those who haven’t been able to keep up with Biden’s shifting position on masks, here’s a timeline.

1. I’ll Institute a National Mandate

As early as June, Biden said he would, if president, require wearing masks in public. He repeated that promise many times, including in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention just over a month ago.

June 26: In an interview with CBS News: Reporter: “Couldn’t you use your federal leverage to mandate that though?” Biden: “Yes.” Reporter: “And would you?” Biden: “Yes I would from an executive standpoint … I would do everything possible to make it, make it required that people had to wear masks in public.”

August 13: Speech in Wilmington, Delaware: “Let’s just institute a mass mandate nationwide starting immediately. And we will save — the estimates are that we will save 40,000 lives in the next three months once that is done.”

August 21 : Acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention: “If I’m president, on day one, we’ll implement the national strategy I’ve been laying out since March. We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask. … I will do what we should have done from the very beginning.”

2. I Won’t Issue A Mandate, But Set National Standards Instead

However, just 17 days after Biden’s acceptance speech, he did a complete 180, saying he would not issue such an order because the Constitution didn’t allow it. Instead, he would lead by example and called for national mask mandate standards. (Why it took Biden so long to discover that a national mandate is unconstitutional is a mystery.)

Sept. 7: Interview on CBS5 in Arizona: “But here’s the deal, the federal government — there’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government could issue such a mandate. I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate. … But there should be national standards laid out as to how it should be gone about.”

3. I’ll Pressure State and Local Governments to Mandate Masks

Two days later, Biden reiterated his new position on the unconstitutionality of a mask mandate. This time he didn’t mention setting national standards, but instead said he’d pressure state and local governments and private businesses to mandate them.

Sept. 9: With reporters: “There’s a question of whether or not a president under the Constitution could mandate everyone wear a mask … I’m a constitutionalist, you know, you can’t do things the Constitution doesn’t allow you the power to do. What I’d be doing is putting as much pressure as I could on every governor on every senator, I mean excuse me, on every mayor, every county executive, every local official. and everyone in business.”

4. I Think I Can Issue a National Mask Mandate by Executive Order

A week later, however, Biden came out and claimed that he now thought he had the legal authority to issue a mask mandate by executive order.

Sept. 16: With reporters: “Well, the question is whether I have the legal authority as president to sign an executive order. … Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there’s a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country … And I would go to every governor, Republican and Democratic governors and I’d say, ‘We have to have this national mandate. We must do it.’”

5. I’ll Only Mandate Masks on Federal Property

But then just two days later, he reversed himself again, saying that he did not have the authority to issue a national mandate, but that he could and would mandate masks for anyone on federal land.

Sept. 18: At CNN town hall: “I cannot mandate wearing masks (but) I can do that on federal property. As president, I will do that. On federal land, I would have the authority. If you’re on federal land, you must wear a mask. And we could have a fine for them not doing it.”

So why does this kerfuffle over masks matter? It matters because Biden has made the pandemic the single issue on which he wants voters to decide who should be president. Yet he still can’t articulate a position on one of the key containment policies.

And it matters because Biden and everyone around him keep chanting about his “steady, unifying, experienced leadership.” How does that square with his wobbliness on this relatively simple issue, and what is his experience worth if still can’t understand the limits of presidential power?

Yes, the mask mandate is relatively trifle given the enormous issues at stake in this election.

But if Biden can’t be trusted to provide steady, unified, experienced leadership on that little thing, why should anyone trust his ability to lead on the much bigger issues?

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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