Bosses in the Biden admin are pressed over young staffers’ anonymous letters - Living Strong Television Network
Bosses in the Biden admin are pressed over young staffers’ anonymous letters

Protest culture is shattering the last remaining barriers in official Washington, exposing a generation gap between how young staffers and their older bosses view the responsibilities of a Washington operative.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, President Joe Biden’s consistent support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response has prompted a series of anonymous letters from staffers within the White House, the State Department and the Biden campaign — letters that have left politicos of a certain age shaking their heads.

The notion that junior staffers in such coveted jobs would dare cross the principal — even anonymously — would have been inconceivable not long ago, they say.

“There’s this whole, ‘You’re not the boss of me’ attitude now. ‘I might work for you but I have my own views,’” said longtime Democratic strategist James Carville, who worked for former President Bill Clinton as a top campaign strategist. “If you said you didn’t like some of President Clinton’s policies, the idea that you would go public with that would be insane. Just wouldn’t do that. It wouldn’t even cross your mind.”

In years past, it would be exceedingly rare for officials inside a White House to attempt to influence their own boss by going public with an internal disagreement over principle within his administration — at least without quitting first.

Leaks to the press from administration officials have been a hallmark of political reporting for generations. And during the George W. Bush years, top White House aides occasionally went public to air their disagreements. But that was only after leaving their jobs first.

“The bargain a staffer strikes has always been this: You get to influence the decisions of the most powerful government in the history of the world,” said Paul Begala, who worked alongside Carville in the Clinton White House. “In exchange for that influence, you agree to back the final decision even if it goes against your advice. If confronted with a decision that crosses one’s ethical, moral, social, political lines, the choice is clear: Shut up and support it, or resign.”

Things have changed more recently. In the Trump presidency, unauthorized leaks became a form of political currency, with anonymous officials writing op-eds, and wild bits of drama routinely finding their way into the news.

Inside the current White House, there’s a feeling that the culture has now irrevocably changed. Aides’ biggest frustration tends to be the outsized coverage of anonymous letters and criticism compared to on the record support for the president’s policies.

“This president … does not shrink from criticism. We aren’t afraid to open up our policy choices to scrutiny,” one Biden aide, granted anonymity to speak about internal discussions, told POLITICO. “Even the anonymous campaign staffers said they were doing this because they have so much respect for him. That says a lot.”

But some White House officials said they also found the current internal dissent confusing. The tactic of going public, even anonymously, is not one that actually works with Biden and his brain trust.

“What they don’t know is Joe Biden and that doesn’t work on him. That is not an effective way to get his attention,” said one former senior White House official granted anonymity to speak freely about the president’s actions. “The staffers who believe that writing the letters or resigning and doing an interview with Joy Reid is going to put pressure on the White House — that just makes the president himself more reticent to engage and his advisers more reticent to engage, but the direct conversation has been effective.”

For a younger generation of activists, these types of analyses seem painfully outdated. In college and afterward, they marched in rallies in an era of mass protests around gun violence, women’s rights and police brutality — in which political debates often have been directly impacted by vocal pressure. Whether that comes from outside actors or inside actors is largely immaterial.

“More members of Gen Z see the use of political power, whereas I’m not sure millennials even saw the use of it,” said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. “Millennials worked outside of the current systems, this generation seems committed to working inside the system and outside the system. And perhaps that’s what the difference is now for my friends and colleagues who’ve been in the system serving, you know, elected leaders for many years now.”

And young people have also embraced a mindset that the places they shop, eat and work reflect an extension of their very own morals. “Everything is an extension of their values. We lived in a time once right where like consumers voted, now it’s the other way around. Voters consume. And you’re carrying that with you on an ongoing basis based upon how other people are being treated,” Della Volpe added.

One of those new-generation activists, gun control advocate David Hogg, a survivor of the high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, argued that part of the change is owed to the way news is disseminated. The Biden

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