Monday, April 13, 2020

Why Biden should choose a unity cabinet

What with the news “cycle” actually resembling an infinite loop, I cannot blog about everything. Heck, I can’t even read a fraction of those articles meriting our attention. So I think I missed an important essay earlier this month by Thomas L. Friedman, opinion columnist for the NY Times. David Gordon at Blog for Arizona flagged it.

Friedman thinks What America Needs Next: A Biden National Unity Cabinet. We need a political system that mirrors the best in us.

I’ll cut right to it with what I think are essential excerpts.

In the last Democratic debate, Joe Biden declared that he would nominate a woman as his vice-presidential running mate. That felt right at the time. But times have changed. Biden needs to go much, much further: At the Democratic convention he needs to name not just his vice president, but his entire cabinet. And it needs to be a totally different kind of cabinet — a national unity cabinet — from Democrats on the Bernie Sanders left to Republicans on the Mitt Romney right. Why?

Because while most people are playing nice right now managing this virus, the wreckage, pain and anger it will leave behind will require megadoses of solidarity and healing from the top.

Americans are not focused on this now — but they will be. And when they are, Biden needs to show that he isn’t running to be president of the 48 percent (or less), as Trump is; he’s not trying to suppress the vote, as Trump is; he’s not running to squeak by in the Electoral College, as Trump is. He needs to show he’s running to be a majority president, a unity president — but not just unity for unity’s sake, but unity of purpose based on a set of shared values for rebuilding America.

Biden should enlist people ready to embrace these values:

1) They have to believe in science — and not just around the coronavirus but around climate change, which is the next train coming at us.

2) If they were in power during this crisis, they have to have led their city, state or business in a way that took the science of this epidemic seriously from the start and cared for those under them.

3) They have to be open to taking extraordinary measures to help the poor, the unemployed and the bankrupted get back on their feet.

4) They have to believe that America thrives when there is a healthy balance between the public and private sectors, so anyone subscribing to the old idiot mantra of the G.O.P. thought policeman Grover Norquist — “my goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” — is not welcome.

5) They have to want to extend health care to every American, for starters by strengthening Obamacare and adding a public option.

With those criteria, Biden could name his team of rivals. (I proposed an earlier version of this when the race for the nomination looked deadlocked, but the world has completely changed since.) My recommendations:

For vice president, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala or Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island; for Treasury secretary, Mike Bloomberg; health and human services secretary, Bill Gates; secretary of oversight for the trillions of dollars in emergency coronavirus spending, to make sure it’s done fairly and productively, Elizabeth Warren.

Attorney general, Merrick Garland; homeland security secretary, Andrew Cuomo; secretary of state, Mitt Romney; defense secretary, Michèle Flournoy; labor secretary, Ro Khanna (who co-chaired Sanders’s campaign).

Secretary of national infrastructure rebuild, a new cabinet post, Walmart C.E.O. Doug McMillon; commerce secretary, former American Express C.E.O. Ken Chenault; O.M.B. director, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio; education secretary, Laurene Powell Jobs; U.N. ambassador, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

HUD secretary, Ford Foundation chief Darren Walker; Interior secretary, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico; energy secretary, Andy Karsner (a green Republican who led renewable energy for George W. Bush); E.P.A. administrator, Al Gore.

A fantasy, you say? No, no. I’ll give you fantasy. Fantasy is thinking we’ll be OK, post-Covid–19, with toxic politics as usual or, God forbid, four more years of Trump’s lying, dividing and impugning experts.

If Biden seizes the moment to produce both a national unity government and a government that radically innovates — in ways we have not done for so many years — we might actually come out of this crisis stronger.

[But] If we fail to use this crisis to get healthy again — as a people and a government — it will not only be remembered for the vast death and destruction it wrought, but it will be remembered as the moment America ceded its global leadership to China.

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