Barack Obama, Cabinet, President Trump discussed on All Things Considered
News. I'm Michelle Martin. We're going to begin this hour thinking about President elect Joe Biden's Cabinet picks and the arguments within the Democratic Party over who should or should not be selected. Just days after the announcement of some key Cabinet positions, those divisions are becoming clear. Progressives are pressuring Biden to avoid selecting people with ties to past policy positions or industries to which they object, for example. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Arising Progressive star with an enormous social media following tweeted. It was shameful that former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Obama, chief of staff and congressman, was reportedly on the short list for a Cabinet position. Emanuel has been much criticized for his handling of a police shooting of a teenager while serving his mayor. Meanwhile, the president elect must also live up to his commitment to assemble a diverse cabinet that will not only unify his fractured party but also get confirmed by a bitterly divided Senate. So we wanted to talk more about all this. We've called two people who've been thinking a lot about how personal shapes policy in government. Spencer Overton is the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That's a think tank that focuses on issues of particular concern to black communities, and that includes a major project on staffing at all levels of government. He's also a professor of law at George Washington University. Spencer Overton, Welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us. Thanks, Um, show and David Sirota is the founder of the Daily poster. That's a progressive online news publication. He's also a former speechwriter for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. David sort of nice to have you back on the program as well. Thanks for having me so special. I want to start with you because you served on the Obama transition in 2008. I wanted to get your take on some of them appointments that the president elect has made so far some of the nominations he's made so far he selected For example, Alejandra my your cast who would be if confirmed, the first Latino and the first person from an immigrant background to lead the Department of Homeland Security. He also attacked representative Cedric Richmond to serve as an advisor and the director of the White House office of Public Engagement. Richmond is a Democrat from Louisiana. And he's a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. What of these selections say to you, Spencer? You know, Representative Clyburn has mentioned this the importance in of ensuring some African American diversity on in the Cabinet level pick. So right now we just got Linda Thomas Greenfield, who's been selected Cedric Richmond. You mentioned that means you're gonna have an important position, but it's not in the formal technical cabinet, so we're glad that he is there. It's great in terms of homeland security important, So you know, racial diversity is important, and there is much more work to do. I do want to point out Michelle that these Cabinet officials are really just the tip of the iceberg. There. 4000 presidential appointments on Lee about 1000 of them are Senate confirmed. These other important appointments are important as well. David, What's your take on the appointment so far, the ones that have been announced? Well, I think that they represented a new attempt to restore the pre trump normal quote unquote that that what we're seeing is almost Ah third term Obama cabinet and I think One thing that some folks were disappointed with is that we're in an era where the crisis that we face the economic crises. The climate crisis are Maurin tense in many ways than they were even at the beginning of the Obama era. And I think that some of the questions that have come up our arse are these appointments while they are from The the almost a third term of the Obama that kind of pick. Are they up to the crisis that we face? The Cedric Richmond appointment? For instance, It's a person who is going to be doing liaison with the climate movement who has very deep ties to the oil and gas industry. I'm just using that as one example. So I think that we're gonna have to see whether these appointments can be pushed. And go ahead. Yeah, if I could just respond this immediate attack by progressives on Congressman Richmond. He's our immediate past. CBC chair Hey, was co chair of the of the campaign. It really concerns may also these these arguments and litmus tests. Sometimes mean that people who have corporate experience like Roger Ferguson of TIA Craft for Melody Hobson or Ursula Burns. The strong African American candidates could be disqualified here. And so, you know, I think Cedric Richmond is going to be open to talking to various folks, and I think he really is going to impress on embrace. Progressive activists. You know, In the past, he has had to represent a district that was energy dependent in Louisiana on he's done that in terms of jobs back home. He's in a different position now. So I'm concerned about, you know potential conflicts between progressives in an African Americans here. David, Can I ask you about that? Because I will say that this is something that the former president Obama wrote about in his in his new book, and that other black elected officials have dealt with. It's almost as if there is a certain segment of the kind of White conservative voting population that believes your race is always and forever dispositive unless you take these extreme kind of conservative positions and kind of prove yourself. You're being black as a black elected official. That is what is preeminent for many of these officials like they deal with this constant sort of attack on their legitimacy. And I wonder if for progressives, is it the other way? I mean, is it that progressives for your last campaign contribution of your last job was dispositive and overrides any sense of moral agency that you might have from other experiences in your life? Well, I reject this idea that you have to make that choice. I mean, there are a lot of people of color who have decided not to have close ties with the oil and gas industry. There are a lot of people of color who decided To not sell out to corporate America. There are a lot of people of color who have taken jobs in the nonprofit sector in the in the labor movement as just examples. So the idea that you can on Lee find a diverse cabinet by going to corporate America and plucking people out of Wall Street and putting them into jobs, too. Do economic policy is insulting to lots and lots of people who have chosen a different career path. And I think what we're seeing is is that the idea that you have to choose people out of corporate America and let them go through the revolving door back into government is an ideological decision to say. That's the kind of administration we specifically want before we let each of you go. I did want to ask about this idea that President elect Joe Biden should reach out to Republicans by intentionally appointing a Republican to the Cabinet or some other high level. Position. Spencer, What do you think? I think there could be some value in terms of engaging moderates to show good faith. I am not optimistic that an olive branch like that will engage or mean anything to Mitch McConnell. But the point is, you've got to get as much done as possible. So you need folks with good values..