An especially important cabinet nomination in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic and when the Affordable Care Act is under attack is reported as going to former congressman and present California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The selection of Becerra to become the next head of the Health and Human Services Department “comes as the president-elect is under increasing pressure from the Latino community to diversify his cabinet,” reports the New York Times.
The Biden slogan “Build Back Better” will hopefully apply, in particular, to the Cabinet and the team of senior-ranking advisers — the “A-Team” — the president-elect is presently putting together.
A Cabinet and Team who are big thinkers (not big donors), loyal (but not sycophantic), familiar (but not cronies).
Just as important, a Cabinet and Team who reflect the Constitution and the rule of law, not a president’s cynicism, dishonesty, and pettiness.
Finally, a Cabinet and a Team with longevity and stability.
During the past three years, 319, days, 4 hours, and 42 minutes, the outgoing president has probably broken every standard and every rule when it comes to the longevity and stability of his Cabinet and of his “A-Team.”
According to the Brookings Institution, “the Trump administration has established a record for turnover among cabinet secretaries and senior advisers during a president’s first term…”
Starting with the A-Team, as of December 2, 2020, the turnover was 91% according to the Brookings Institution, and “the count is ongoing.”
These are just a few of those who have moved on or resigned — most of these “under pressure”: Michael Flynn, KT McFarland, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, H.R. McMasters, Hope Hicks, Omarosa Manigault, Gary Cohn, Kevin Hassett, Fiona Hill, John Bolton, Dan Coats, Kellyanne Conway.
On Thursday, White House communications director Alyssa Farah jumped from the sinking USS Trump amounting to “a tacit acknowledgment that — despite his baseless and dangerous claims to the contrary — Trump lost the 2020 election, and much of his team is now pondering their post-White House future,” according to the Washington Post.
And the carnage and destabilization of our institutions continue.
On Friday, several members of the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board, including the chair and vice-chair, were fired “marking the latest effort by the Trump administration to clean out the Defense Department in the final weeks of the president’s term..”, according to three former board members.
Last week, nearly a dozen members of the Defense Policy Board were fired.
Stability in Trump’s Cabinet hasn’t been that much better, with 11 Cabinet members departing during Trump’s tenure. The most recent one, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, resigning less than a month ago. Attorney General Barr may not be too far behind.
In addition to Esper, the following names might ring a bell: John F. Kelly, Tom Price, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Jim Mattis, Kirstjen Nielsen, Rick Perry…
As to breaking every rule, Trump’s disregard for the laws governing presidential appointments is now legend.
At Just Security, Becca Damante writes how Trump has often “shown a blatant disregard for the critical and constitutionally prescribed role the Senate is supposed to play in determining who should fill high-level positions in the executive branch.” Indeed, Damante adds, “there are currently at least 15 other officials serving in at least 12 executive branch departments who do not hold their positions lawfully…”
The Trump administration has utilized more acting officials than other recent presidents and found numerous ways around the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and other laws intended to constrain the use of temporary appointees.
By giving Trump an expedited, superficial and friendly “advice and consent” on his nominations and by giving him a wink and a nod on his trampling of the laws and Constitution, the GOP-controlled Senate has given Trump a huge free hand and pass for so shoddily hiring, firing and running the Executive Branch.
No such friendly advice and consent to Biden’s nominations should be expected from a McConnell-controlled Senate – unless the upcoming Georgia run-off elections put a stop to McConnell’s partisan rampage.
GOP leaders have already indicated they intend to block, oppose, slow-walk and otherwise place hurdles in Biden’s quest to get his Cabinet confirmed. In addition, Trump is cynically using his last 46 days, 4 hours, 42 minutes in office to do everything in his power to sabotage the incoming president’s administration and agenda — poison the well all Americans will have to drink from.
Well aware of this, the President-elect is focusing on selecting personnel to fill mid to lower-level positions across the government that don’t require Senate confirmation — with special emphasis on maintaining national security, defeating the pandemic, and rebuilding our economy – in order to hit the ground running on January 20 and to start cleaning up the mess and booby traps left behind by an irresponsible, vengeful, poor loser.
It is noteworthy that also in these lower-level positions, Biden is fulfilling his transition team’s promise to “hit the ground running on day one…rebuild our institutions…address the defining challenges of our time — from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.”
It is hoped that once Trump clears out of the White House, Republicans will see a common light at the end of the tunnel the nation has been in during the past three years, 319, days, 5 hours, and 12 minutes and assist the new president in these efforts
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.