Joe Biden’s cabinet selections have been refreshingly boring. The second he announced that Antony Blinken would be his choice for Secretary of State, the general feeling amongst journalists was that it lacked “pizazz.” In reality, it just shows how much the Presidency of Donald Trump has warped our brains. In a normal presidency, this would be a normal, pretty sleepy pick that would cruise through the nomination process. I don’t think people are looking to get excited about Biden’s nomination for Secretary of Labor. Case in point: Biden’s current favorability rating is around 55%, which could possibly go higher once people realize they will be able to simply forget that he is the president for a few days of the week.
I think that is good context to discuss the criticism of Biden’s pick for Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin. Eliot Cohen had a great piece in The Atlantic this week that captures many of the issues with Austin’s nomination, but to summarize it quickly: There is a law that requires any appointment for Secretary of Defense to have been outside of the military for at least seven years. General Austin retired in 2016, so the requirement will have to be “waived” in order for him to be sworn in.
The rub here is that the law was previously waived for General Jim Mattis in 2017 when he was nominated by Trump. Cohen has a whole host of different arguments in his piece about why it was a good idea to waive the law for Mattis (namely that Trump was one or two bad CNN segments away from starting World War III) and why it’s a bad idea to waive it for Austin. But I think the entire crux of it is pretty simple.
America is a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of norms. If the norm becomes, “We will waive the seven-year requirement for Generals nominated to the Secretary of Defense,” then the actual law itself loses its meaning. Moreover, the nature of General Austin’s background encourages a continued waiver of law: Austin would be the first African-American to serve as Secretary of Defense. It would truly be a historic and wonderful moment for America, but does that mean we waive any law on a nominee going forward if they would make history?
No one doubts that General Austin is qualified and deserving of the nomination on the merits. But part of the reason Americans chose Joe Biden to be their next president was to move back towards respecting the “norms” we so often abandoned during the chaos of the Trump presidency. No matter how qualified Austin is, his nomination is a violation of that sentiment. And it’s not like Biden doesn’t have better options available.
Everyone has been talking about the Supreme Court’s smackdown of Texas’s legal challenge. But there was a case in Wisconsin that was a lot more fun. On Saturday, a Trump-appointed judge thoroughly dismantled the Trump Campaign’s claims. The whole decision is only 23 pages and worth reading, but money quote:
With the Electoral College meeting just days away, the Court declined to address the issues in piecemeal fashion and instead provided plaintiff with an expedited hearing on the merits of his claims. On the morning of the hearing, the parties reached agreement on a stipulated set of facts and then presented arguments to the Court. Given the significance of the case, the Court promised, and has endeavored, to provide a prompt decision.
Having reviewed the caselaw and plaintiff’s allegations, the Court concludes it has jurisdiction to resolve plaintiff’s claims, at least to the extent they rest on federal law, specifically the Electors Clause. And, on the merits of plaintiff’s claims, the Court now further concludes that plaintiff has not proved that defendants violated his rights under the Electors Clause. To the contrary, the record shows Wisconsin’s Presidential Electors are being determined in the very manner directed by the Legislature, as required by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Plaintiff’s complaint is therefore dismissed with prejudice.
An important point here: Trump’s team and the State of Wisconsin agreed to a “stipulated state of facts.” That means, the Trump Campaign conceded the State of Wisconsin’s basic argument that there was not widespread voter fraud that would have had an effect on the outcome of the State’s election. The Trump Campaign was given the opportunity to call witnesses and…didn’t. You’re probably wondering why the Trump Campaign agrees that there was no fraud whenever they’re in court but always seems to same something else in public. Trump himself has given us a hint.
During Trump’s interview with Fox News this past weekend, he made two noteworthy statements: First, he said that courts keep throwing out his cases on technicalities, like a lack of standing. In the Wisconsin case, the judge explicitly said that Trump’s team had standing and instead threw the case out on the merits. Second, Trump also made another fun little comment: He bragged about how his legal fund had raised 200 million dollars. However, there is some neat tiny print in his little legal fund’s paperwork. Most donations to it will not actually go to court filings and will instead go to paying off his campaign’s debts. Alternatively, they can be re-routed back into a Super PAC that Trump can use for anything he wants.
In other words, Trump, Inc., is the grift that keeps on grifting.
David French has a great piece this week on the dangerous idolatry of Christian Trumps.
I’ll probably do a midweek update with all the stuff I liked this year, from books to movies to slippers to whiskey. I know some people are still looking for last minute Christmas gifts. If you have anything you really loved, send it my way and we’ll make one big list for all the procrastinators! After that, only one more Jackal for the rest of the year before I go on vacation. Have a great week my babies.
This post was edited by Elisabeth Podhaskie, all around boss lady and A+ puppy mom.