The Corner

Politics & Policy

There’s No Such Thing as a Federal Mask-Wearing Mandate

President Donald Trump wears a mask while visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, July 11, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Reuters )

Reporters keep asking White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany if the president will consider a mask-wearing mandate. Journalists keep writing about federal mandates. House speaker Nancy Pelosi says a federal mandate on mask wearing is “long overdue.” Joe Biden promises that if he’s elected this November, he would require all Americans to wear masks in public.

Have any reporters every wondered which federal agency would be tasked with forcing Nevadans or Texans to wear masks in public? Or under what constitutional power Biden can enact a mask-wearing ban in Vermont? Will he just sign an executive order? Or will he just declare a mandate like Michael Scott declared bankruptcy? And what federal agency would enforce the mask-wearing mandate? Will National Guard be called in? Will CDC paratroopers be dropped into Arkansas? Will Biden direct local police departments to chase down non-compliant joggers? Will there be a fine? Will there be jail time? Will the offenders stand in federal courts?

And what if Biden could enforce this edict? Every day, thousands of needless interactions over petty crimes put police in contact with Americans. Let’s remember that Eric Garner was killed for selling ten-cent cigarettes. Now, many of the same people who advocate “defunding” police want to create a national mandate that would result in thousands of interactions between cops and citizens.

The CDC already recommends that everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public” — though the agency recommended the opposite when the outbreak began — as a way of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. The media can’t stop talking about wearing masks. Lots of people do. Some people don’t. Businesses are free to force customers to wear them on their private property. As far as I can tell, most do. State governments are free to mandate mask wearing, or strongly suggest it, or not.

Mask wearing has become just another stupid front in our partisan war. The fact is that whenever Donald Trump fails to engage the federal government in ways that Democrats demand, they claim he is negligent; and whenever he uses the federal government in ways they oppose, they rediscover the Tenth Amendment and accuse him of being a dictator. Trump could no more declare a no-mask mandate than Biden could force the entire country to wear masks. It’s all just political theater.

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