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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Left behind

Joe Biden’s Cabinet December 17, 2020 at 3:38 a.m.

Well, if The New Republic and The American Prospect are upset, maybe the Joe Biden administration won’t be so bad after all.

The far left in this country isn’t exactly outraged by President-elect Joe Biden’s picks to help him govern in the executive branch. But some among its commentariat are perturbed. Which might prove the incoming administration will be darn-near acceptable. Mostly.

We say “mostly” because, if reports are correct, two of the four top contenders for the Department of Education are union bosses. And we’re not kidding. Joe Biden is already expected to walk back the current administration’s support and encouragement for school choice, and Democrats have been trying to get rid of Betsy DeVos before they could accurately pronounce her name.

The Washington Post reported this past week that two of the front-runners to replace her are Lily Garcia, who recently stepped down as president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, the current head of the American Federation of Teachers.

Joe Biden has not attempted to hide his advocacy for unions of all kinds over the years. Picking one of these candidates would cement it. More’s the pity, if you’d like to see students as the focus of education.

As for other members of his Cabinet, he seems to be off to a moderate start. Which is encouraging, given that there is so much pressure for him to cave to the extremes of his party.

The new secretary of Agriculture will be the old secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who served for eight years in the Obama administration. This pick gets the left as close to outraged as they can get with a new allied administration taking office: The American Prospect calls it a “political catastrophe” and proves that Biden “would rather gratify corporate donors and old friends” than win future elections. Future elections? Joe Biden won’t be inaugurated until next month!

Antony Blinken is scheduled to be the next secretary of State, which might be the most high-profile and important position in any Cabinet. If he’s confirmed by the Senate, he’d probably bring back the time when the United States relied on allies to help in international battles, hot and cold.

He’s pro-NATO, pro-Europe, and has as much experience in international affairs and the State Department as he has in being an important adviser to Joe Biden. Antony—no “h”—Blinken seems a serious man for a serious job.

Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin needs Congress to grant him a waiver before he can take over as the nation’s first Black secretary of Defense. Because this nation demands that the military be under civilian control, always, the rules say generals can’t become secretaries of Defense until after they’ve been out of uniform for seven years unless said waiver is approved. Such waivers have been approved before, including for Jim Mattis, President Trump’s first secretary of the DoD.

Picking experience over ideology, Joe Biden went with Janet Yellen to lead the Treasury Department. This nomination was “a good idea,” because as the former head of the Federal Reserve she “knows the ropes” and did a “decent job” in the past. She also has “sensible views on the economy.” These quotes are from President Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Another thing that recommends Janet Yellen: Her name isn’t Elizabeth Warren.

WHICH brings up a point that our friends in other publications keep repeating: Why not Elizabeth Warren? Why not Bernie Sanders? Where are the nominees from the Progressive Cabinet Project? Those recommendations include Kirsten Gillibrand at Defense (!), Russ Feingold at State, and former ACLU attorney and former acting assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta as Secretary of Homeland Security (!!).

Actually, the music hasn’t stopped yet, and there are still chairs to fill. As this was written, Joe Biden still hasn’t picked nominees for attorney general, secretary of Labor or secretary of Commerce, among others. He’ll also have to fill White House staff positions with Cabinet-level ranks, such as the leader of the EPA. These things take time.

There are concerns, as there are during any presidential transition, and even after a successful one. The wolf is always at the door. Which reminds us: Since there are all these folks with the word “Obama” on their professional bios, this administration would be wrong to go back to leading from behind. Frustrating progressives and liberals by picking experienced veterans for these positions is one thing. Frustrating Americans and allies by pushing an Obama III administration is another.

Getting the band back together isn’t always as good as it sounds. Especially with hits like “ISIS JV Team,” “Assad Must Go” and “Mishandled Arab Spring.”

But we still believe in a place called Hope. This new president and this new administration have met at least this challenge: It apparently has no interest in letting the far left dictate its appointments.

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