Biden burned in bid to follow Trump playbook

On the roster: Biden burned in bid to follow Trump playbook – Trump adds new demands to allow troop funds – Biden win locked in – Trump-Pfizer rift may limit vaccine availability – Don’t mess with somebody’s cast iron

America’s risk-averse president-elect seems to have backed himself right into a corner.

Joe Biden is said to have picked Lloyd Austin, the retired four-star general who previously ran the U.S. Central Command, to be his secretary of Defense. If Biden does tap Austin and if the pick were confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first-ever African American to lead the Pentagon, a long-sought achievement among Black leaders.

The appeal for Biden is obvious. He owes his election to African American voters, especially given their support during the Democratic primaries. Austin is certainly qualified and has many admirers in Congress. Win, win, win, right?

Not so much.

In order to serve as the secretary of Defense, Austin would need the same kind of waiver from Congress that President Trump’s first secretary of Defense, James Mattis, obtained. Since the creation of the modern Defense Department the law requires a minimum of six years to pass between active military service and taking the lead at the Pentagon. Austin only mustered out four years ago.

The point of the law is to make sure that the good old military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us about doesn’t become a closed loop. In a country with such a large standing military, civilian control is especially important, a fact that is not lost on lawmakers in both parties today.

But you can almost hear the complaints of Team Biden. If Donald Trump gets to have a general, why shouldn’t Biden? The answer is pretty simple: Biden is not Trump and Austin is not Mattis.

In the coming weeks and months the Biden administration will be trying out some of the new real estate Trump opened up in the area of executive power and obedience to pre-existing norms. Biden may have campaigned on a return to normalcy, but that doesn’t mean that he is not like all the presidents who came before him in wanting to preserve and expand the new powers claimed by his predecessor.

Biden may be a man of the Senate, but he will not escape executive fever for long.

At this point four years ago, Republicans and Democrats alike were thrilled with the idea that Mattis, an almost universally respected Marine general and military philosopher, might be willing to take over the Pentagon under Trump. America had never had a president with no governmental experience or military service. Mattis was seen as an authoritative voice who could provide both ballast and boundaries for the inexperienced chief executive.

Biden has spent much of his career around the military and considers national security sort of his jam. He can’t claim to need hand holding. Austin, while an impressive individual, does not rise to the level of esteem that Mattis does. That’s why an increasing number of lawmakers from both parties are coming forward to say that they will refuse a waiver request for Austin if one does come.

This is the first step in what will be a long and tricky dance as Biden and his crew sound out the parts of Trump’s executive legacy they can keep and those that will depart with the current administration.

But you had better believe that however Biden feels about Trump as a person or a president, he will look favorably upon those things that might let him have his own way.

“It will be my aim to remove the obstacles from your progress in as compendious a manner as it can be done, without sacrificing utility to despatch.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 15

NPR: [Chuck Yeager] started from humble beginnings in Myra, W.Va., and many people didn’t really learn about him until decades after he broke the sound barrier… He accomplished the feat in a Bell X-1, a wild, high-flying rocket-propelled orange airplane that he nicknamed ‘Glamorous Glennis,’ after his first wife, who died in 1990. It was a dangerous quest — one that had killed other pilots in other planes. And the X-1 buffeted like a bucking horse as it approached the speed of sound — Mach 1 — about 700 miles per hour at altitude. … It’s what happened [on another flight] that cemented his legacy as a top test pilot. The X-1A began spinning viciously and spiraling to Earth, dropping 50,000 feet in about a minute. … And in this 1985 NPR interview, he said it was really no big deal: ‘Well, sure, because I’d spun airplanes all my life and that’s exactly what I did. I recovered the X-1A from inverted spin into a normal spin, popped it out of that and came on back and landed. That’s what you’re taught to do.’”

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WSJ: “President Trump broadened his threat to veto a bipartisan $740.5 billion defense-policy bill, as lawmakers prepared to approve the legislation’s final passage in the House Tuesday. ‘I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will VETO,’ Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday. The president said Congress must jettison a provision that would create a commission to rename military installations, monuments and paraphernalia honoring Confederate commanders, as well as include language to terminate Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants social-media companies broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their site. Mr. Trump also added two demands he hadn’t made earlier, saying the bill must ‘allow for 5G & troupe [sic] reductions in foreign lands!’ Republicans and Democrats in Congress have indicated in recent days that they intend to pass the bill over Mr. Trump’s objections.”

House to vote on stopgap spending bill Wednesday – CBS News: “With the deadline to pass legislation to fund the government fast approaching, the House is set to vote Wednesday on a stopgap measure in an effort to avert a partial government shutdown. The current spending bill keeps the government open until December 11, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that lawmakers will vote on a one-week continuing resolution, or CR, giving them until December 18 to reach an agreement on a package as negotiations continue over an additional coronavirus relief package. ‘I am disappointed that we have not yet reached agreement on government funding. The House will vote on Wednesday on a one-week CR to keep government open while negotiations continue,’ the Maryland Democrat tweeted.”

Virus relief package likely to be added to spending bill – USA Today: “Lawmakers in Washington have been deadlocked over another stimulus package for months. Last week, however, key lawmakers appeared to make concessions in hopes a bill could pass before both chambers leave for the holidays. Leaders in the House and Senate have restarted discussions and say the best chance in passing any relief is by adding it to the annual spending bill. … Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers released a $908 billion aid proposal, which attracted the support of leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some Republicans. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a separate, smaller $500 billion deal that focuses on helping businesses stay afloat while limiting their legal exposure to coronavirus-related lawsuits. It aims to also address a temporary extension of unemployment and provide vaccine distribution funding.”

Sanders concedes Dems have held things up – Fox News: “Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday criticized Democratic leaders for getting behind a smaller $908 billion coronavirus relief package after rejecting a $1.8 trillion proposal from President Trump in October. Sanders’ remarks seemed to clash with the Democratic narrative that Republicans are responsible for stalling coronavirus relief. CNN host Jake Tapper asked the senator whether it was a mistake for Democrats to walk away from the White House’s $1.8 trillion bill, which likely would have included $1,200 direct payments to all Americans, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was proposing a $2.2 trillion bill at the time. Sanders said, ‘That’s right. … That’s what I’m saying.’ ‘What we need is a compromise. I know I can’t get everything that I want. But this bill really is not a compromise,’ Sanders said of a $908 billion stimulus package…”

AP: “Other than Wisconsin, every state appears to have met a deadline in federal law that essentially means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week and sent to the Capitol for counting on Jan. 6. Those votes will elect Joe Biden as the country’s next president. It’s called a safe harbor provision because it’s a kind of insurance policy by which a state can lock in its electoral votes by finishing up certification of the results and any state court legal challenges by a congressionally imposed deadline, which this year is Tuesday. … The Electoral College is a creation of the Constitution, but Congress sets the date for federal elections and, in the case of the presidency, determines when presidential electors gather in state capitals to vote. In 2020, that date is Dec. 14. But Congress also set another deadline, six days before electors meet, to insulate state results from being challenged in Congress.”

Trump pressures Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn election results – WaPo: “President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The calls, confirmed by House Speaker Bryan Cutler’s office, make Pennsylvania the third state where Trump has directly attempted to overturn a result since he lost the election to former vice president Joe Biden. He previously reached out to Republicans in Michigan, and on Saturday he pressured Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a call to try to replace that state’s electors.”

Trump said to be considering mass pardons for associates ‘like Christmas gifts’ – Axios: “President Trump isn’t just accepting pardon requests but blindly discussing them ‘like Christmas gifts’ to people who haven’t even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios. Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon ‘every person who ever talked to me,’ suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come. As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn’t sure how seriously to take the president — although Trump gave no indication he was joking. The president relishes his unilateral authority to issue get-out-of-jail-free cards. Lately, though, he’s been soliciting recipients, asking friends and advisers who they think he should pardon. Trump has also interrupted conversations to spontaneously suggest that he add the person he’s speaking with to his pardon list, these sources said.”

NYT: “Before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses the pharmaceutical maker agreed to sell the government as part of a $1.95 billion deal months ago. But the administration, according to people familiar with the talks, never made the deal, a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line. As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to issue an executive order that proclaims that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.”

Top scientist on vaccine team puzzled by Trump order – Politico: “The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain President Donald Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries. Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the president’s order during an interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’ ‘Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,’ Slaoui said. ‘I literally don’t know.’ … Indeed, it remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries. Slaoui was similarly dismissive when asked about the executive order in another interview Tuesday, telling Fox News that ‘what the White House is doing is what the White House is doing.’”

Florida Politics: “A U.S. Senator from Florida who was thwarted in his presidential ambitions four years ago says he’s comfortable with waiting at least eight more years to run again. In the meantime, says Sen. Marco Rubio, there is ‘work to do’ in the Senate. ‘If the President says he’s going to run in 2024, he’ll probably clear the field, he’ll be the Republican nominee, and he’ll spend the next four years running. And then I think he would have a chance to win, not just the primary, but the General Election.’ … Rubio told NBC 6 in Miami. Meanwhile, Rubio removed any doubt that might have existed about whether he would seek reelection to the Senate in 2022. ‘I still have work to do in the U.S. Senate. We’ve had a very successful four years out of the six years in this term. I have two years left in this term, and we have a lot of work to do. We’re full steam ahead,’ Rubio said.”

Report: Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tests positive for virus – Axios

Take a look: ‘Top 25 News Photos of 2020’ – Atlantic

“Let’s put one election on the books before we start worrying about two elections out.” – Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said after being asked if he supports Trump running for president in 2024.

“If I am not mistaken, fairly early on election night Fox News made a prediction that the Democrats would be gaining a minimum of five seats in the House. As is now clear, that prediction was wrong. It looks like Republicans will be gaining 9 or more seats. Can you explain what the factors were that led to this incorrect call? I know that you will, at some point, be doing an after-action report on the 2020 polls, and I look forward to your thoughts on what the polls got wrong, what they got right and what surprised everyone. If you could give us a ‘sneak preview’ of your analysis, particularly with respect to the call on the House races, that might keep some of us curious folks satisfied for the time being. Thanks for your almost-always thought-provoking commentary.” – Mike Kerley, Williamsburg, Va.

[Ed. note: That’s a pretty easy one, Mr. Kerley. The call we made was that Democrats would keep the House, which they did. We further estimated that Dems would gain something like five seats, which they did not. As was the case with every survey this year, our research understated voters’ preferences for Republican House candidates. The call was right and we would make it again, but certainly the characterization was wrong.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WYFF: “A Greenville [S.C.] man is sending out a Christmas alert and wants anyone who has or will shop at a Goodwill store to be on the lookout for a family heirloom: a cast-iron skillet. Stuart Dodson told WYFF News 4 that his 82-year-old-father mistakenly donated his 81-year-old mother’s old, beloved cast-iron skillet … the Friday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 20. ‘This item has immense sentimental value as my mom grew up in a farmhouse with a wood stove in North Carolina. This skillet was what her mother cooked with on that wood stove.’  … Dodson is offering to reimburse the price paid for the skillet and pay a ‘finder’s fee,’ if returned. Anyone with information is asked to email [email protected] … ‘My mother is a woman who values quality and appreciates what she has been granted and earned,’ Dodson explained. ‘From humble farm beginnings, she has always been a Southern host who seeks to provide, present, accommodate, and serve…’”

“Peace through strength is now politically obsolete. And painless prosperity through low taxes has proven false.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about the Republican Party’s problem, at the time, in the Washington Post on Nov. 2, 1990.

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