I sat down to write down the political reasons why Joe Biden touched Pete Buttige yesterday to head the Transportation Department when the President-elect introduced:
“The first openly gay candidate to head the cabinet department.”
I gently hinted that identity politics played too much of a role in Biden’s choice when he offered this summary:
“The first black defense secretary, the first Latin leader of DHS and the first Latin leader of HHS. The first … a woman of South Asian American descent at the head of OMB, the first woman and a leading Asian-American [as] the U.S. trade representative … The first black woman to chair the president’s economic advisory board, the first woman to hold the position of finance minister for Alexander Hamilton. “
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If Biden didn’t try to recall all the loyal Democrat interest groups, it made a pretty good impression.
Look, it’s not a question of how important diversity is. Of course, Biden celebrates the most representative cabinet in American history – not to mention Kamala Harris – especially after President Trump’s mostly white and mostly male lineup.
From now on, if Jennifer Granholm includes the leak of former Michigan governor as energy secretary, Biden will name nine women and eight men.
But do you check the boxes without gaining the expertise? VA leader Denis McDonough, a former Obama chief of staff, is not a veteran. Buttigieg does not provide a background on transport issues and Granholm has no specific evidence on energy issues. At HHS, Xavier Bercera worked as a congressman and attorney general for California on health issues, but is not a doctor or medical expert.
As for politics, the 38-year-old was Presidential rival Buttigieg, who dropped out of Biden’s support just before Tuesday Tuesday, and that’s his reward. Of course, his selection garnered praise from the LBGTQ groups.
Buttigieg recalled yesterday that he was 17 and watched as Senate Republicans blocked voting on Bill Clinton’s gay candidate, James Hormel, as Luxembourg’s ambassador – a sign of how far society had come. Trump appointed Ric Grenell as ambassador to Germany and director of national intelligence.
While Buttigieg is familiar with transportation issues as a former small-town mayor, he actually wanted to be a UN ambassador, but he was boxed by an Arika-American woman, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Mayor Pete, who has no future in the conservative Indiana state, needed a high-profile position, and as a former adviser to McKinsey, he probably has the same qualifications as many other politicians and party hackers who led the DOT.
Other nominees – former climate prime minister Gina McCarthy, former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack for the same job, possibly Samantha Power for AID (according to Axios) – really see the next four years as Barack Obama’s third term. And the critique of the comfort-built cabinet, the wide selection of re-run Joe and Obama’s friends, lacks excitement, fresh thinking, or great personalities.
That’s what Biden might want when he tries to lower the temperature in Washington. And the conflicting pressures of the minority and other groups at this or that post may also signal a return to a policy of normality.
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The medicine about the various contestants will soon be forgotten and is clearly more of a Beltway ritual than scorched battles over election fraud and prosecution. With a few exceptions (state, defense, finance, and justice), most cabinet officials don’t get much media attention unless there is a crisis in their area or a scandal in their department.
As for Biden’s appeal to the unit, it collided at a rapid pace in an interview with Jennifer O’Malley Dillion, a campaign boss whose disciplined style helped her win the presidency.
He told Glamor magazine that Biden was ridiculed for saying he could work with Republicans, adding, “I’m not saying they’re not a lot of people. Mitch McConnell is terrible.”
It was an undisciplined moment for the incoming White House deputy chief of staff, whose administration could turn on Biden’s ability to make deals with his old Senate colleague.