By S.T. Patrick
Watching the Biden transition team announce succeeding cabinet picks and administrative appointments as if they are changing the world one knighting at a time has been strange, to say the least. Even the Democrat cheerleaders at MSNBC aren’t buying the discount priced bureaucracy that Biden-Mart is currently selling. The favored media organization of the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign published a recent online story that was headlined “Lloyd Austin is Biden’s Shakiest Cabinet Pick Yet.” When MSNBC is questioning the judgment of the country’s leading Democrat, something is amiss, and right now, that “something” is that Biden’s cabinet nominations continue to mimic the minor leagues of a third Obama administration.
If retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin is confirmed, he will be the first African-American to head the Pentagon’s war machine. Hayes Brown of “MSNBC.com” admits that Austin “comes with a lot of problems that will make his nomination a difficult one once it reaches the Senate.” The first problem Brown covers is one that he describes as a sort of technicality—Austin’s nomination would be illegal. Yes, that’s certainly “shaky.”
In transitioning the Department of War into the parallel-purposed though congenially branded Department of Defense after World War II, Congress was leery of powerful military men rushing into the civilian leadership posts (as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower did in his 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns). Congress added a time gap to prevent that professional hop, skip, and jump from dropping bombs to making multi-million (then) dollar orders for them. Seven years had to pass between active-duty service and installation as defense secretary. Austin retired from the military in 2016, four years ago. That said, two waivers have been granted by Congress: one for George Marshall in 1950 and the other for James Mattis in 2017.
Rose Brooks, a former Defense Department official under Barack Obama, tweeted: “I think Biden has been very badly advised. I am just gobsmacked that his inner circle does not see what a terrible message it sends to nominate the second recently retired general in four years.”
Fred Kaplan of online news site “Slate” wrote, “The waiver was meant to be used for truly extraordinary figures. Austin doesn’t seem to measure up to the standard.”
There are other problems. In 2014, Austin predicted ISIS would be “a flash in the pan,” an absolute misjudgment that, as defense secretary, could have deadly reverberations. As commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Austin, according to a 2017 Defense Department inspector general’s (IG)report, painted a “rosier” picture of the U.S. fight against ISIS than reality would show. This harkened back to the worst relationship the U.S. military has had with the people it protects, the period of the “Pentagon Papers” releases, when the U.S. military had been lying about the status of the fight in Vietnam. As with the Vietnam-era military also, the IG report claimed Austin was very high on ensuring that the military could “manage the narrative” of the war with ISIS. Austin’s statements on ISIS caused Obama to wrongly refer to the terrorist organization as a “junior varsity” basketball team. What would he now do for Biden?
Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell is currently the odds-on favorite to lead “The Agency” under Biden. Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has already called Morell a “torture apologist.” Morell approved of both torture and drone strikes as legitimate military tactics that should be used by American forces in the Middle East. In his 2015 memoir, The Great War of Our Time, Morell called drone strikes the “single most effective [counterterrorism] tool in the last five years.”
On PBS in 2016, Morell also advocated killing Iranians and Russians in Syria. Distasteful to antiwar Republicans and Democrats is the fact that, according to George Tenet’s memoir, Morell “coordinated the CIA review” of the intelligence used by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous 2003 WMD (weapons of mass destruction) speech to the UN Security Council, the speech that justified the U.S. military’s protracted invasion and occupation of Iraq.
With all the looming confirmation issues Austin and Morell could bring, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) nominee Neera Tanden has been labeled Biden’s “most controversial cabinet pick” by left-leaning National Public Radio.
When her nomination became an inevitability, Tanden deleted over 1,000 tweets she had written, many about the very senators who would have to confirm her nomination. Tanden has tweeted that Sen. Mitch McConnell has “fiddled as the markets burned” and that Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins was “the worst.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) was asked about Tanden. He said, “OMB seems to attract ideological folks, but she’s not just a liberal ideologue, she’s a partisan activist who’s gone after senators of the majority party. She seems to have chosen a path that doesn’t lead to a Senate-confirmed office.”
Democrats have decried President Trump’s bombastic, hyperactive use of Twitter for four years. His decorum on social media has not been one of Trump’s most respectable qualities, to be sure. Republicans may be thinking twice about allowing a Democratic version of their own Tweeterin-Chief to lead OMB. For different reasons Austin, Morell, and Tanden all seem unfit for duty, even in an administration that has dislikeable Sen. Kamala Harris as its vice president.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.