I know, I know. It’s rare that anyone gets reprimanded or penalized over violating the Hatch Act. I stumbled upon a story on Twitter, though, and it seems to me that the violator must at least receive a slap on the wrist. An Army Major in uniform, not civilian clothes, attended a town hall for 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. Her interaction with him took a turn when she said, “I hope and pray that you will be our next president.”
Major Ginger Tate of the U.S. Army National Guard Signal Corps took the opportunity to attend Biden’s outdoor town hall meeting at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina. Attendance was estimated to be 400 to 500 people. Major Tate grew emotional while she told her story to Biden. She led 130 troops in Afghanistan in 2013. Tate presented Biden with coins that she and fellow soldiers had collected on tour in Afghanistan. Her first sergeant had coins made listing all the cities they visited on deployment. She told him that she had waited six years to give them to former President Obama or to him, whichever one she was able to meet. Biden gave her a coin from Afghanistan he was carrying and they hugged.
WOW: Major Ginger Tate led 130 troops in Afghanistan and just told @JoeBiden she has been waiting 6 yrs to give him this coin. "I hope and pray that you will be our next president." [Credit: Iris Earls] @CBSNews via @LacraiMitchell pic.twitter.com/gZ4Jaku1DI
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) August 28, 2019
I’ve been saving these coins for six years to meet you and President Obama so if that I ever met you, I would give it to you … and when I saw on the news that you were coming, I just had to be here. Thank you so much for your guidance … I’m so honored to have served under your administration and your leadership and I hope and pray that you will be our next president.
With any other supporter, this wouldn’t be a noteworthy story. The difference in Tate voicing her support publicly for Joe Biden for president, or any other candidate for that matter, is that she is a member of the military and she was in uniform at the time. She is free to privately support anyone she wishes to support. She can’t, however, make a political statement in uniform. That action violates the Hatch Act – a federal law whose which prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in political activity. The Department of Defense is a part of the Executive Branch of the government. As a member of the National Guard, Major Tate is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice which is subject to the Hatch Act.
The media covering the town hall swooned. Not any of them on social media questioned her action, which is in stark contrast to the media reaction to some service members who held MAGA hats during a visit by President Trump in Germany last December.
You can see her in uniform and holding up the coin from Biden in this tweet:
A really powerful moment on the campaign trail, as Major Ginger Tate gives @JoeBiden a coin from her unit when she was deployed in Afghanistan. She said she had been waiting for years to meet him and give it in person. He gave her his VP coin in return. pic.twitter.com/SPx6Vx5MoN
— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurns) August 28, 2019
Here is a tweet from an MSNBC reporter:
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) August 28, 2019
It was a nice moment for both Biden and the major, to be sure, but it wasn’t appropriate. She violated the rules and should be held accountable. No one wants the military to engage in partisan political activity. Let’s be honest, the media find it endearing because they support Biden, as a Democrat. Such an action brings an entirely different reaction from reporters covering President Trump.
In November 2018, six staffers in the Trump White House were issued warnings over possible violations of the Hatch Act as it relates to their behavior on Twitter, given that President Trump is running for re-election. They were all told that any further violations would warrant stronger action.
The White House officials who were reprimanded were principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah; deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto; Madeleine Westerhout, executive assistant to the president; Helen Aguirre Ferré, former director of media affairs; Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Vice President Pence; and Jacob Wood, deputy communications director for the Office of Management and Budget.
All six had tweets or Twitter profiles that contained political messages, including the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” or the abbreviated hashtag #MAGA.
Because Trump is running for reelection, the Office of Special Counsel — a separate agency from the Justice Department special counsel’s office, which is leading the Russia investigation — prohibits federal employees from displaying Trump’s 2016 campaign images or using his slogan.
The Army National Guard said they are aware of the action by Major Tate, according from a story at Breitbart.
April Cunningham, a National Guard Bureau spokesperson, said in a statement: “The National Guard is an apolitical organization. Personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and should avoid the inference that imply or appear to imply approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause while in uniform.”
The Army National Guard said they are aware of the situation with Maj. Ginger Tate. pic.twitter.com/ZSXdQ6cgWO
— Kristina Wong 🇺🇸 (@kristina_wong) August 29, 2019
I’ll end with this nugget from Biden’s town hall – a woman in the audience referred to President Trump as “orange Hitler”. Biden, who is all about being Mr. Civility, didn’t bother to say anything about that. That is in sharp contrast to how John McCain, Biden’s pal in the Senate, corrected a woman during a town hall in 2008 when she referred to Barack Obama as an Arab man.
The speech was largely a repetition of Biden’s stump speech — complete with the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax — although there were two exceptional moments.
One came after Biden claimed that Trump was inspiring violent racists, when a woman interjected from the audience: “Get rid of the orange Hitler!”
Biden replied: “I’ll tell you — well, I don’t want to be tempted here.”
Biden showed he wasn’t bothered by her calling the President of the United States “orange Hitler” at all – he acted as though he was showing restraint by not chiming in on that remark. So much for the civility bit. Civility only goes one way in a presidential election cycle.