A few days ago, I conceded that at least Biden's Cabinet isn't going to be as bad as Trump's. Do you find that consoling? I'd give Biden a D-minus to Trump's F. A D-minus wouldn't be an OK job evaluation for the guy who goes to the elephant cage and scoops up the crap and carts it off. And for a president... well, we've gotten used to C grades from our presidents, but I would like to see an A once in my lifetime.
Biden's Cabinet picks range from really terrible to... not bad. Xavier Becerra is pretty good. Silly Arkansas closet queen and presidential-wannabe Tom Cotton called Becerra more radical than Bernie yesterday. He isn't-- nor is he what I would call great but, like I said, he's pretty good. And for Biden... an almost hopeful sign in a sea of... well that elephant dung the guy was carting off from the zoo.
And Doug Jones, a conservative Democrat from Alabama, isn;'t exactly a movement progressive, but he's a good pick-- as good as we can expect from Biden-- for Attorney General. He has courage, integrity and knows the difference between legal and illegal.
Some people may also take solace in the fact that Biden skipped over card-carrying military industrial complex member Michèle Flournoy for not as terrible card-carrying military industrial complex member General Lloyd Austin from Raytheon. But not everyone. James Hohmann reported this morning that "Several Senate Democrats spoke quite eloquently four years ago about the need for civilian control of the military as they opposed a special waiver to a federal law requiring that a secretary of defense be out of uniform for at least seven years to be eligible for the job. All of them insisted that their objections were principled and had nothing to do with President-elect Donald Trump or retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, his nominee." That puts them in a pickle now that Biden has picked Austin. Hohmann offers that "Now that a Democrat will be in the White House, we will get to gauge the sincerity of their supposed convictions."
Glenn Greenwald was far harsher-- and more to the point: "The choice of Gen. Austin," he warned this morning, "further erodes the once-sacred American norm that military officials will be barred from exercising control over the Pentagon until substantial time has passed after leaving active-duty military service." Since he was still in the military within the last 7 years, Biden will need Congress to give him a special waiver to get Austin confirmed.
Greenwald pointed out that Flournoy's nomination was derailed after Eric Lipton reported that her appointment would present a "test of transparency and ethics" in light of her heavy involvement during the Trump years in a consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, and an investment fund, Pine Island Capital Partners. "Those are classic D.C. revolving door corporate entities," continued Greenwald, "which exploit the access and influence inside the Pentagon and other government agencies of their principals, former top-ranking national security officials, to use their influence within the agencies they once ran to secure lucrative weapons purchases and similar government contracts for their undisclosed corporate clients. These are not just ethical problems of the past; as the Times noted, officials who have done this 'bring with them questions about whether they might favor or give special access to the companies they had worked with in the private sector.' It is hard to believe, though, that Biden’s choice of Gen. Austin was motivated by these kinds of ethical concerns over Flournoy. After all, the sleazy, legalized influence-peddling of Flournoy’s firm has long been known, at least since the investigative journalist Lee Fang revealed many of the details back in 2018 (last week’s Times article added new disturbing facts). Moreover, many of Biden’s key national security appointees were WestExec founders right along with Flournoy, including his pick for Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, and his Director of National Intelligence, Avril Hines.
Austin, apart from the serious civilian-military problem of the National Security Act, is himself a fully entrenched player in this swamp. Since retiring from the Army, the four-star General became, as New York Times reporter Ken Vogel noted, “a member of a private equity fund”-- Pine Island Acquisition Corp.-- that “invests in defense contractors, and boasts that its members’ ‘access, network and expertise’ are an advantage in government contracting.”
Biden’s choice to lead the Pentagon is also currently a member of the Board of Directors of Raytheon Technologies, the world’s third-largest defense contractor. That means that upon Austin’s confirmation, Raytheon will have a very good friend in charge of the bloated $750 billion annual U.S. defense budget.
...Over the last four years, Democrats and establishment liberals militarized themselves and became far more jingoistic in their rhetoric and far more reverential of the military and intelligence establishments, to the point where they even filled their newsrooms with former Pentagon, FBI and CIA operatives.
For that reason, it is unsurprising to see Biden relying at least as heavily on Generals and intelligence officials as Trump did, including doing exactly that which Democrats vowed in 2017 would not happen again: choosing a recently retired General-- one on the Board of Raytheon, no less-- to run the Pentagon. But that lack of surprise should not obscure the dangerous and anti-democratic threats posed by these ongoing trends.
And it isn't only Biden who is sealing the Democratic Party's fate with terrible personnel choices. House Democrats just sealed their own by electing clueless, seat-talking, Wall Street-owned New Dem, Sean Patrick Maloney as the replica for Cheri Bustos at the DCCC. As if that wasn't bad enough, they then chose one of Congress' most blatantly corrupt members, Queens County Machine boss Gregory Meeks, also a New Dem, of course, as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee (to replace primaried and defeated New Dem Eliot Engel, who wasn't nearly as horrible as Meeks). There are several far better choices on the committee-- Ted Lieu (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Andy Levin (D-MI), Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)-- but none of them were in contention for the top job. The Democratic Party is only concerned with seniority and identity politics-- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER with excellence, character, ability, integrity or competence.
This past cycle Shaniyat Chowdhury, currently getting his masters degree in foreign relations, primaried Meeks and I have no doubt we'll be seeing him do that again some time. Meanwhile, he told me this morning that "Biden and the Democratic establishment got exactly what they wanted with Greg Meeks as the new Foreign Affairs chair: nothing will fundamentally change. Meeks has a terrible track record with foreign relations such his push for free trade, ties to right wing groups in Colombia, and inappropriate discussions with foreign governments on the behalf of his donors. Clearly this wasn’t enough for the Dems to say no to him but he is someone who will fall in line for the next war the country is looking to profit from. This isn’t progress and it’s a shame that even after defeating Trump, the Democratic Party still doesn’t get why we ended up here to being with."