The flawed case for firing Kellyanne Conway

In a weird case of uneven enforcement, the Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel recommended that President Trump's presidential advisor, Kellyanne Conway, be fired for making political statements in a violation of the Hatch Act. Here's the Washington Examiner's listing of her supposed 'violations':

Specific violations listed by Kerner related to Conway's comments during interviews about several 2020 Democratic candidates. For instance, she insinuated Sen. Cory Booker was “sexist” and a “tinny” “motivational speaker.” She castigated former Rep. Beto O'Rourke “think[ing] the women running are good enough to be President" and said Sen. Elizabeth Warren was "lying” about her ethnicity and “appropriating somebody else’s heritage.”

Kerner also detailed her comments about "frontrunners” Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she referred to as “two old white straight men career politicians." She claimed Biden lacked “vision,” said his announcement video was “very dark and spooky,” and criticized his unwillingness to be “held to account for his record.” Conway said Sanders' ideas were “terrible for America."

He determined that Conway used her “@KellyannePolls” account on Twitter to perform her official duties, but also engaged in "significant political activity." This included her retweet of a March 31 message that referred to Biden as “Creepy Uncle Joe.”

Which is kind of weird, given that it pretty well posits that no one, not even a political appointee, is allowed to have an opinion of any kind once in the White House. And by the way, the press asked for these opinions, Kellyanne didn't just give them.

It also implies by default that no one in the Obama White House ever had or gave an opinion, which is laughable. Hello, Valerie Jarrett? Hello, Ben Rhodes. Double standard anyone? Spotty enforcement? And how is this not giving a political opinion, even without words? Shouldn't all the creatures in that picture have been slapped with the Hatch Act, too? There was some politicking in that opinion, too, by the Special Counsel's standard.

Thirdly, it suggests that everyone can have an opinion at whatever level, even the level of a political appointee in an advisory role, but they need to keep the public in the dark about it. Which doesn't sound too good for transparency.

The criticizing office, as the Examiner notes, is not affiliated with Robert Mueller's special counsel, but it is led by a Trump appointee, responding to complaints from leftists, and then going one further by attempting to micromanage President Trump's personnel decisions. (When Julian Castro was found in violation for the exact same thing, nothing but nothing happened to him, and he certainly wasn't fired.)

The problem is kind of multi-fold. Yes, there should be a law against career government employees openly politicking for global warming and Planned Parenthood as they would like to do. Plenty of them do it anyway -- remember the DoJ intern who used her position to harass cabinet officials? Apparently, she got fired, but not based on the Hatch Act. The question remains whether such a law should apply to top level political appointees, whose views are useful for the public to know.

 Should leftist activists be allowed to control who President Trump can have as advisors, using the Hatch Act to pick them off one by one, every time one of them says what he or she actually thinks? That's rather giving them too much power and you can bet they are going to catch on quickly. If Kellyanne goes, they'll go after anyone who's effective. 

The other problem is the claim that Kellyanne giving her opinion was 'politicking.' Really? She's that powerful? She can change an election tide, just by giving her opinion? Whatever Kellyanne said was obviously her opinion and none of it was surprising, so to call it bona fide politicking that influences the national debate is pure baloney.

Lastly, shall we now have a silent administration, all but for the president and vice president, who are exempt from the Hatch Act? Part of the problem is the design of the law, which unrealistically puts tape over the mouths of high level political appointees. It would be far better not to do that, at least at the top-advisor political level, so that the public can know what these people actually think. Obama advisor Anita Dunn's admiration for Mao Zedong was very useful to the public for understanding what the Obama administration was about. Knowledge like that should not have a gag on it, and if Obamatons or other Democrats want to endorse communism, the public really does have a need to know about it, just as the left has a right to be outraged about Kellyanne's actual thoughts.

It's not politicking, it's sunlight. And this Special Counsel recommendation got the whole thing wrong.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0