'I'm Disgusted': Obama Ethics Official Tears Into Biden Admin Over Nepotism Scandal


You almost want to dunk on former Obama administration ethics official Walter Shaub for suddenly realizing President Joe Biden is a nepotist.

It’s a Captain Renault moment from “Casablanca.” The morally fungible French military official is shocked, shocked that there’s gambling at Rick’s Cafe — right before he’s handed his winnings.

What can you say about an ethics official who just learned that Joe Biden, a man whose adult son, Hunter, has never had a job that didn’t felicitously align with his father’s legislative agenda, now tolerates nepotism?

The mind reels.

However, Shaub seems genuinely betrayed — particularly after a Washington Post report Friday that “at least five children of his top aides have secured coveted jobs in the new administration.”

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“The pattern — which continued this week with the Treasury Department’s announcement that it was hiring J.J. Ricchetti, son of Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti — has drawn concerns from ethics experts, diversity advocates and others,” the Post reported.

“They say it is disappointing that Biden didn’t shift even further from the practices of Donald Trump’s presidency, which they thought reeked of nepotism and cronyism.”

Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, was quoted in the article — and, of course, he didn’t believe it was as nepotistic as what he saw under the Trump administration. He was still disappointed, however.

“While it may not be as bad as appointing your son or daughter to a top government post as Trump did with Jared and Ivanka, it is still bad,” Shaub said. “‘Not as bad as Trump’ cannot be the new standard.”

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On Twitter, Shaub was a good deal less restrained. Here he was earlier in the week after Ricchetti’s son, who is fresh out of college, got a job as a special assistant in the Treasury Department. Shaub noted, in grand “Sesame Street” tradition, that one of these things is not like the others:

“Let’s play a game,” Schaub wrote. “See if you can guess which one of these special assistants at the treasury department has a daddy who’s one of the top aides to the president. See if you can guess the economic background of this privileged white boy.”

While the other three listed had long lists of accomplishments, J.J. Ricchetti’s accomplishment was graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a poli sci degree.

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I mean, it’s a good school, but usually that kind of degree gets you a job as, say, a communications director for someone pretty low on the totem pole — and preferably not with the administration your father is a key component of.

Shaub was disappointed by the number of Biden supporters unwilling to call out this kind of behavior.

WARNING: The following tweets contain graphic language that some readers will find offensive.

“I’m sorry, I know some folks don’t like hearing any criticism of him. But this royally sucks. I’m disgusted. A lot of us worked hard to tee him up to restore ethics to government and believed the promises. This is a a real ‘f*** you’ to us—and government ethics,” he wrote.

“Pathetic! The responses from people who spent 4 years complaining the other side was putting party over country are pathetic,” he continued. “They sound just like MAGAs. The jobs went to privileged kiddos with mommies & daddies who cozied up to POTUS. Nepotism is illegal.”

The meltdown was just beginning.


“When little problems like this, which are so damn easy to avoid, crop up, it’s a sign of much bigger rot. Because if you can’t even do the easy things, you sure as hell can’t do the hard things.”

“The White House’s defense that they had the minimum qualifications is total BS. The issue isn’t whether they were qualified (some weren’t). It’s that a WH that promised diversity is giving these privileged white kids with connected mommies and daddies prime jobs over others!” Shaub added.

“And all the whataboutism from tweeps defending this total BS is just giving fuel to the next corrupt authoritarian like Trump who wins the White House to say ‘if even Biden was fine with nepotism in his administration, I can do anything.'”

This goes on. There are 23 tweets in total and the tweetstorm closes with a link to Van Halen’s “Inside.”

I wish someone would have given him a commentary forum in which he could have vented his spleen as opposed to giving a restrained quote to The Washington Post, but there you go. If you want the full experience, it’s certainly there if you click on any of the tweets. However, the most salient points in the whole thing showcase Shaub’s disappointment — which seems genuine, surprisingly.

“Do I sound bitter? HELL, YEAH, I’M BITTER! I’m the stupid moron who fell for his false promises,” he wrote. “I wasn’t naive enough to think he’d be a transformative president. He told us he’d be plain vanilla. But I thought there was momentum behind his ethics promises. Boy was I stupid.”

Later: “So, yeah. I’m disappointed. I’m angry. I supported this guy. I provided help to the campaign and the transition because I believed ethics was going to be a priority. Well, it isn’t even in the top 100 things the administration cares about.”

This is surprising inasmuch as it would have required a Candide-level naïf to believe nepotism wasn’t going to happen.

What, pray tell, did Shaub expect? Biden’s only promise was that no one from his family would be working in the federal government. My guess is that Hunter Biden wasn’t up for any Jared Kushner roles. That didn’t preclude nepotism from outside the president’s family. Unsurprisingly, plenty of that’s been going on.

Shaub is angry. If other Americans start paying serious attention to this one, they’re going to be infuriated, too.

The buyer’s remorse, it seems, may be setting in.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture