Biden is giving most-coveted jobs to those he knows well. That may help Doug Jones get Justice.
By James Hohmann, with Mariana Alfarowatg
The Washington Post
December 9, 2020
The following are excerpts from the article, with my comments (in BOLDFACE).
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, wanted to be secretary of agriculture.
“As this country becomes more and more diverse, we’re going to have to stop looking at only certain agencies as those that people like me fit in,” Fudge told Politico last month. “You know, it’s always ‘we want to put the Black person in Labor or HUD.’”
On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden put Fudge at HUD. If confirmed, the congresswoman from Cleveland will replace Ben Carson, who is also Black, as secretary of housing and urban development. …
For USDA, the president-elect picked his good friend Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who is White and held the same job during all eight years of the Obama administration.
I am reminded, sort of — to be flippant — of a chess game. White and black.
The transition team put out word that Fudge was getting the housing job during an hour-and-45-minute virtual meeting that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held with the leaders of seven civil rights groups. They had been grumbling in recent days that not enough African Americans are getting high-profile jobs, even though this constituency played a pivotal role in delivering the Democratic nomination. The news that Biden will nominate retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to be the first Black secretary of defense broke on the eve of this scheduled Zoom call.
During the conversation, NAACP President Derrick Johnson told Biden directly that he did not want Vilsack to get Agriculture, sources familiar with the exchange tell my colleague Annie Linskey. Some Black leaders still have hard feelings because of his 2010 firing of Shirley Sherrod, an African American who was Georgia state director of rural development for the department, after Breitbart posted misleading excerpts from a speech that she gave to make them appear racist. The full recording made clear her remarks had been taken out of context and she was offered another federal job.
Within an hour of their session wrapping up, though, the Biden team announced he will nominate Vilsack to lead the Agriculture Department. This was savvy political jujitsu. These staggered rollouts appeared carefully choreographed to blunt criticism.
Attorney general is the highest-profile Cabinet slot left to fill. There is a widespread belief among people close to the selection process that picking Austin and Fudge gives Biden more breathing room to pick a White man for attorney general. Multiple outlets, including NBC and CNN, report that Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is the leading contender to take over the Justice Department. …
President-Elect Biden needs “permission” to pick a white man for attorney general? Isn’t that racism? Since when did it become copacetic to bar someone for employment or an appointment (or consideration for same) on the account of skin color — or to suggest that this should be a valid reason for doing so?
Let’s say, for purposes of argument, that a black person has been selected as the next president of a university? I weigh in and say: that position has always been held by a white male, and most of the student body is white. I object to a black person being appointed. That’s okay, perfectly fine, for me to think or say?
All seven of the Black leaders who met virtually with Biden on Tuesday held a press call afterward to give a readout of their discussion. Al Sharpton said he told Biden that his preference is for a Black attorney general but that he could accept a White candidate “with a proven civil rights background.” This sounded like an implicit endorsement of Jones. “I said the least we could have is someone that has a proven civil rights background,” Sharpton said, “that’s going to handle this heightened racist bigoted atmosphere.” …
What are Al Sharpton’s qualifications to be advising the President-Elect on this matter? Zero. Sharpton has meager qualifications in this regard — in fact, none. He was a college dropout and has little knowledge or experience of anything, other than political activism. He is known as Rev. Sharpton (or Reverend Al) despite the fact that he never attended or graduated from divinity school (he was licensed and ordained a Pentecostal minister as a boy). His Reverend title is an honorific like Colonel Sanders or Colonel Tom Parker.
Sharpton permanently and irretrievably lost any credibility in the Tawana Brawley rape case. A grand jury found “overwhelming evidence” that Brawley (who was sued for defamation, defaulted by not attending the trial, absconded from New York to Virginia, and changed her name) had fabricated her story. Sharpton and two lawyers who also supported Brawley were successfully sued for defamation and were ordered to pay $345,000 in damages, with the jury finding them liable for making defamatory statements about Steven Pagones, an assistant district attorney in Duchess County, New York. Sharpton refused to pay his share of the damages. (It was later paid by a number of black business leaders.) Why is he treated unfailingly with respect as a public figure and authority/pundit?
A final thought. My key point is that it has become acceptable among liberals who regard themselves in the vanguard of public opinion to use race as a metric in making decisions and judgments about people. This is done with no sense or admission that it might be wrong to do so, that it amounts to racism.
I want to make one thing clear. There are certainly public and human issues related to race. Our history of racism and discrimination. The treatment of (and continuing and persistent outrages against) blacks and other minorities. Class and racial prejudice. Persistent inequality in all areas, from economics to social status and educational opportunity. And so on.
Should someone say, or editorialize, that they want to see diversity in Biden’s cabinet (this pertains to representation of women as well as minorities) or that they are glad to see that his cabinet looks or is diverse, I would be (am) all for that. Since (let’s say, as one reason) blacks or women have been traditionally unrepresented in such positions, or their views on issues affecting minorities are important for the President and his administration to hear. It goes without saying that such views, such reasoning, are entirely valid. But it is not valid to say a white male should not be appointed to a cabinet position because of race. Racism should be recognized for what it is, plain and simple; and spoken out against — without fear, hesitation. or qualification — loudly and clearly. It is not okay, period. Liberals have decided that it is okay, and are not ashamed to openly embrace it.
— Roger W. Smith
addendum, January 1, 2021
I agree with the point of view of an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal this week:
“The Tyranny of Diversity: Its monomaniacal pursuit undermines other values—true equality among them.”
By Joseph Epstein
The Wall Street Journal
December 30, 2020
I stated above:
Should someone say, or editorialize, that they want to see diversity in Biden’s cabinet (this pertains to representation of women as well as minorities) or that they are glad to see that his cabinet looks or is diverse, I would be (am) all for that. Since (let’s say, as one reason) blacks or women have been traditionally unrepresented in such positions, or their views on issues affecting minorities are important for the President and his administration to hear. It goes without saying that such views, such reasoning, are entirely valid. …
I do feel that these views are valid, as a guiding principle or aspirational goal. But, as I think Joseph Epstein would say, I also believe that in choosing appointees for a position, race, ethnicity, or sex should not be the controlling factor, that one wants the best man or woman for the job, period. So, excellence, in my view — however that is judged — should be the controlling or decisive factor.
In saying this, I realize that choosing among candidates can be difficult, and that the President may be thinking, for example, this woman would be a good choice because of sensitivity to women’s issues that (for various reasons) are important in the job; or the fact that a person belongs to a minority group may make him or her particularly sensitive to, aware of, or knowledgeable about issues affecting a minority group or groups. But I think there are dangers and there is ossification of thinking that results from trying to “keep score” by counting how many whites or blacks, males or females, etc. It’s the person and what the person has to offer in terms of qualifications and experience that count, not externals, which are just that.
— posted by Roger W. Smith
Nice to see Doug Jones and Merrick Garland being considered for Attorney General. Excellent choices. Al Sharpton is weighing in with his choice: the person who has the best record on civil rights, if the choice is not a person of color.
Legal expertise and knowledge of the law should be the major factor is choosing an Attorney General. Sharpton must be happy that we have a Black vice president, a powerful platform, as a voice for civil rights.
Other cabinet positions must look at who gets along with Joseph Biden and the best qualified person, and not hold the color of their skin or their age against them.
Thanks to Roger for posting this piece.
Thanks for your thoughts, Janet.
Roger’s comments were right on the mark. Well said. He will probably get flack for his views. But Roger has a valid point.