You need a Commander-in-Chief so that one person, with his or her staff, can bring together information on different things that are going on, and reach decisions that will advance matters in one area without setting them back in other, perhaps more important, areas.
This insight also applies to a President-elect in transition. It applies in particular to President-elect Joe Biden as he names his cabinet members and other high officials.
He led a brilliant, nearly flawless, campaign. Unfortunately, his campaign manager no longer seems to be guiding his actions.
Biden and the Democrats, after successfully fighting Donald Trump’s criminal conspiracy to overthrow the election results, seem to have relaxed quite a bit and may even be feeling a bit of hubris.
Trump has been attempting to carry out an “auto-coup” or coup d’état to retain his grip on power, but has failed–at least so far. The certification of voting results was completed by 50 states by December 8, the “safe harbor” day, giving Biden an electoral majority of 306 votes.
In the meantime, Biden has been naming his cabinet, apparently without regard for the impact of his choices on the two Senate run-off elections in Georgia.
He appears to be responding to pressures from different constituencies which have been arguing for their candidates on the basis of race.
Biden’s selection of retired General Lloyd Austin, a black, to head the Department of Defense has brought the mistakes he has been making in choosing his cabinet into sharp relief.
If there is one thing the white voters of Georgia are likely to abhor, it is identity politics and Biden’s yielding to pressures to name a black to be Secretary of Defense, over a much more qualified candidate, a woman who happens to be white.
Austin has one great advantage. He is a friend of Biden, under whom Biden’s deceased son Beau served in Iraq.
But it seems he was chosen because of his race, over a much more-qualified candidate, a white woman. That could cost Ossoff and Rev. Warnock votes in Georgia among women in general, and white women in particular.
There are many people in Georgia who might be willing to vote for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Rafael Warnock, a black, to be Senators, so long as Biden is seen as fair and choosing the best candidates for his cabinet positions.
Yet they could be turned off by what appears to be the overrepresentation of blacks in Biden’s administration. African-Americans make up less than 14% of the nation’s population, while Hispanics constitute some 18.5% of the population.
Vice-President Kamala Harris is black. No one seems to be questioning the apparent use of quotas to achieve diversity. Moreover, by undervaluing Latinos, Biden is making the same mistake he made at the Convention and in his campaign. That mistake probably accounts for his poor showing in Florida among Hispanic voters.
Austin lacks key qualifications which Michele Fleurnoy has in abundance, including Pentagon managerial experience, and familiarity with the strategic challenges which China poses and will pose in the future.
Moreover, Austin has only been retired from the military for four years, whereas a law intended to guarantee civilian control over the military stipulates that the nominee must be retired for seven years before becoming Secretary of Defense. There is a strong rationale underlying that law.
Austin’s nomination is likely to be fought tooth and nail by the Republicans, and opposed by some Democrats concerned over civilian control of the military. To waive the seven-year retirement requirement again, after having just waived it for James Mattis, would in effect be to turn it into a dead letter.
Yet the law, and the principle of civilian control of the military which it protects, is of vital importance to our democracy, and should not be abandoned.
Austin does not look like he will be confirmed. If Biden conducts a strong battle in the Senate to get him confirmed, he will draw attention to the fact he is making the appointment on the basis of race and friendship, and passing over the strongest candidate, who is a woman and white.
Biden should consult with his formmer campaign manager, and make a final decision on who to nominate if Austin is not confirmed who will help, not hurt, Democrats in the Senate run-off elections in Georgia.
Control of the Senate hangs in the balance.
History will not be impressed by the race of Biden’s specific appointments. It will be impressed by who controls the Senate, and the effect that has on Biden’s presidency.
Biden needs to bring a Commander-in-Chief perspective to bear in naming his cabinet members, and their replacements if they cannot be confirmed.
There are other problems with Biden’s cabinet picks. He is not selecting people who are likely to challenge his judgment. He favors people he has worked with, and likes. His is picking older people, when younger people of vision and dynanism are sorely needed to solve problems in a world which has been transformed since 2008.
He needs to be naming people who will challenge him, and people of outstanding merit who he doesn’t know. He is not doing that.
The risk of GROUPTHINK is great.
But, above all, the future Commander-in-Chief needs to focus on winning the Senate run-offs in Georgia, as his primary objective.
The Trenchant Observer