Friedman’s Cabinet

A New York Times editorial by Tom Friedman making the rounds offers specific recommendations for a Biden cabinet. Friedman’s terrible picks deserve both scrutiny and comment.

For starters, the “Team of Rivals” approach is even more ill-conceived today than it was in 2016. And backing up for a second, what’s the rush to anoint Joe Biden before he survives the Coronavirus, the last Democratic primary, and a convention? Joe Biden is not Juan Guaidó: he can’t simply proclaim himself president (or nominee) before an election says he is. Premature anointment is a 2016 mistake Democrats seem determined to repeat in 2020. This is a party that never learns.

Instead of a “Team of Rivals” that magically makes Republicans sing Kumbaya along with Democrats, what we really need is an experienced Democratic cabinet that reflects America’s neighborhoods and not America’s boardrooms. We need a kick-ass team of Democrats who believe in science and education and health and economic and racial justice — including Democrats usually relegated to the sidelines while people like Friedman’s choices run America into the ground as ineptly as their Republican golfing buddies.

The Democratic Party is being held together with duct tape and spearmint gum. If Democrats need anything, it is to give power to people already inside the tent, especially progressives and African Americans — rather than handing Republicans, Think Tank ideologues, CEO’s, and Friedman’s Davos crowd any more power than they already have.

Where Friedman casts a few crumbs to progressives and African Americans, they are cynical and ill-fitting posts akin to ambassadorships. With Friedman’s picks, Corporate America can rest assured that Neoliberalism and reckless foreign policy will continue — and his choice of so many American oligarchs all but guarantees it.

Worse, Friedman’s cabinet assignments are an extension of the Centrist Democrat election “strategy” of sidelining progressives and minorities in favor of America’s imagined “heartland” and “center.” The enthusiasm with which Friedman’s half-baked notions have gathered appreciative sighs is discouraging. It confirms my belief that Democrats are a party of small ideas and wishful thinking.

Who on Friedman’s List will finally deal with reparations, student debt, or the formation of a single-payer National Health Care System? Who on his list is prepared to implement economic, criminal, policing, and racial justice reforms? Remember: this will be a Biden monster cobbled together from human parts harvested from the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Basically, the best Friedman has come up with is an offer to share Democratic power with Republicans immediately after being won — that is, if a lackluster candidate and an uninspiring cabinet can even inspire voters to choose a Democratic slate.

Below are my comments on Friedman’s specific choices. Among them are too many Centrists and Republicans, a frightening number of oligarchs, numerous Think Tank and Davos buddies, and a racial and socioeconomic mix that looks little like the real America.

Post Person Notes
Vice President Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala or Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island This is a giant “F*** You” to African Americans. And from which section of his colon did Friedman pull Gina Raimondo?
Treasury Secretary Mike Bloomberg Another member of the Ruling Class?
Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Gates Another member of the Ruling Class?
Secretary of Oversight for the trillions of dollars in emergency Coronavirus spending Elizabeth Warren Instead of letting Warren create a single-payer national healthcare system
Attorney General Merrick Garland Why not Kamala Harris and save Garland for SCOTUS (again)?
Homeland Security Secretary Andrew Cuomo Another Giulani in the making; he is not acceptable to progressives
Secretary of State Mitt Romney A White Republican, and not even one most White Republicans like
Defense Secretary Michèle Flournoy A Clinton neoconservative, just what we don’t need
Labor Secretary Ro Khanna An attempt to buy off a progressive critic of reckless “Defense” spending
Secretary of National Infrastructure Rebuild (Friedman’s new cabinet post) Walmart C.E.O. Doug McMillon Another member of the Ruling Class?
Commerce Secretary Former American Express C.E.O. Ken Chenault Another member of the Ruling Class?
O.M.B. Director Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio Why is Friedman afraid to let a Democrat run the OMB?
Education Secretary Laurene Powell Jobs Friedman has been hob-nobbing at Davos too long with celebrities like Steve Jobs’ widow
U.N. ambassador Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Why not put AOC in charge of the Green New Deal? Maybe because Centrists don’t believe in it.
HUD secretary Ford Foundation chief Darren Walker Walker is Friedman’s only African-American pick but is not exactly in touch with its problems
Interior Secretary Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico Friedman treats this like an inherited position: Grisham’s father, Manuel Lujan, was Bush’s Interior Secretary
Energy Secretary Andy Karsner (a green Republican who led renewable energy for George W. Bush) Another from the Davos crowd, and affiliated with Laurene Jobs. But why not an author or cosponsor of the Green New Deal?
E.P.A. administrator Al Gore Gore made some nice movies back in the day, but my choice would be Jay Inslee

A little light reading

I know many have turned off the news and turned on the music and the yoga tapes. People are doing whatever they can to stay positive and de-stress. Unfortunately, I’m no good at it. For me, having an idea of where I’m heading is the only way to deal with something of this magnitude. I am also in the habit of bookmarking some of the articles I’ve read and organizing them into collections. Whatever works…

Science-based articles on COVID-19:

In the following collection I particularly recommend a Vimeo conference Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City gave on Mar. 22 in a Zoom call with family and friends on empowering and protecting families during the pandemic. While COVID-19 is 10x more dangerous than seasonal flu, over 80% of all people who contract the virus have mercifully typical flu symptoms.

Trump Administration incompetence:

Trump’s inaction and lying created a 3-month delay in responding to the COVID-19 virus — so named because it was first encountered in 2019. As long as we can still reach legislators, we should be calling them to keep the pressure up on preserving shelter-in-place orders, acquiring and deploying face masks, expanding testing, building respirators, and creating field hospitals.

Evangelicals behaving badly:

From holding up emergency legislation because it would also aid same-sex families, to whining that COVID-19 is God’s revenge on gay people and Jews, to thumbing their noses at shelter-in-place ordinances, some American Evangelical leaders and politicians have invited renewed contempt for their actions.

COVID-19 Legislation:

This is a collection of news articles on recently-passed legislation to help the nation survive COVID-19. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is more interested in saving the nation’s largest corporations than the nation’s human beings. If Trump’s science advisors cannot prevail upon the “stable genius” to keep shelter-in-place rules in place beyond Easter, he will have the blood of many hundreds of thousands of people on his hands.

America condemns its mass-incarcerated to death:

It is particularly cruel to keep people who have almost completed jail sentences locked up in places like Riker’s Island, where COVID-19 outbreaks are sweeping through prison populations that can neither escape nor protect themselves. Our jails and prisons are already cruel enough. Now we are effectively condemning many low-level offenders to death sentences.

Fighting the wrong enemy

An authoritative critic of the American national security state is Andrew Bacevich, West Point Class of 1969, retired Army Colonel, and historian specializing in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. Bacevich is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University.

Bacevich’s essay in TomDispatch yesterday (“America Terrorized”) makes the case that billions, and now trillions, of national treasure have been squandered annually since the 1950’s fighting largely phantom enemies. This may have turned us into a national security juggernaut but our dubious status has cost us our democracy and failed to protect us from all-too-real threats.

Read the whole thing here.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, keeping us safe provided a seemingly adequate justification for maintaining a sprawling military establishment along with a panoply of “intelligence” agencies — the CIA, the DIA, the NRO, the NSA — all engaged in secret activities hidden from public view. From time to time, the scope, prerogatives, and actions of that conglomeration of agencies attracted brief critical attention — the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, the Vietnam War of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Iran-Contra affair during the presidency of Ronald Reagan being prime examples. Yet at no time did such failures come anywhere close to jeopardizing its existence. […]

Presidents now routinely request and Congress routinely appropriates more than a trillion dollars annually to satisfy the national security state’s supposed needs. Even so, Americans today do not feel safe and, to a degree without precedent, they are being denied the exercise of basic everyday freedoms. Judged by this standard, the apparatus created to keep them safe and free has failed. In the face of a pandemic, nature’s version of an act of true terror, that failure, the consequences of which Americans will suffer through for months to come, should be seen as definitive.

Read the whole thing here.