Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Peanut Gallery

My Morehouse Brother and fellow scribe Ol' Hobbs sent me a piece he had written regarding the qualifications of General Lloyd Austin, nominated to lead the Department of Defense in the next Administration. I wrote back, surprised to learn that there was debate over this particular selection. I had not given much thought to the notion of controversy, since the Biden picks so far have been pretty straight-forward. Besides, I responded, it isn't like anyone questioned the qualifications of the reality TV game show grifter who became Leader of the Free World and nearly ushered in its total annihilation.

Throughout the day, I saw small rumblings erupt on Twitter. Concerns that the General had not been retired long enough from the military were most common, followed by complaints that his race had been the primary reason for his selection. By the end of the day, I was seeing opposition from members of Biden's own party, all of which was prefaced by suggesting that it was nothing personal, just principles. While reading all of this commentary, the following visual popped into my head:

Lucy snatching the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick.

As Brother Hobbs pointed out in much detail, there should be NO argument whatsoever over General Austin's qualifications for this job. As in, none of us civilians have the capacity to adequately judge military credentials to begin with, since so few of us make the choice to serve. The man spent 40 years in the Army and attained the rank of General...less was required to erect and defend monuments to long-dead Confederate traitors. So it should go without saying that General Austin is eminently qualified to lead the Department of Defense. Period.

So if there are no further questions about his resume, then what remains is the pro forma issue of granting him a waiver to serve in the Biden Administration. After World War II, Congress sought to establish civilian leadership over the military and required a separation of seven years from military service. Austin retired in 2016, which falls short of the requirement by three years. On two previous occasions in modern history, Congress granted a waiver, most recently four years ago when General James Mattis was nominated. I do not recall that we were offered any long elaborate explanations from then President-elect Trump, eager to argue the merits of his selection. He just squinted into the camera, announced his choice, and then despite some procedural opposition, General Mattis was confirmed.

For what it's worth, the third and current acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, would have required a waiver for confirmation as well, but since he's a placeholder and no one actually knows who still has what job in the Trump Abomination, we shan't revisit the timeline of pure cray and fuckery that has brought us to this moment. Thus, after these tumultuous years of instability and constant upheaval, are we seriously debating a congressional waiver?

If you were ever a fan of the Peanuts comic strip or holiday cartoons, you rooted for the hapless Charlie Brown to finally kick the football. Although you knew better than to trust Lucy, you wanted to believe that she would relent just once. For some, it was out of sympathy for the underdog; for others, it was the hope that Lucy had at least one redeeming quality. The truth is, this is the continuous loop some of us are caught in--a perpetual cycle of repeatedly having the ball yanked away at the last second. No matter if the effort is sincere and earnest, no matter how worthy the cause, no matter how deserving we are to have the opportunity, and no matter how just it would be to extend some courtesy...Lucy will always yank the football.

In this instance, the loudest detractors and opponents of Austin's nomination are on our side. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has declared her intention to oppose the waiver. So instead of Lucy donning her witch mask and resetting the rules to her advantage, she's enlisted Charlie Brown's own sister, Sally. 

Warren is joined by a few other Senators, some Members of Congress, editorials written by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, Jim Golby in the New York Times, and Hayes Brown on MSNBC. And of course, there are others because Lucy is always backed by a crew of sycophants. Hence the name of the comic strip...

The point here is not to delve into another psychological study of Charles Schultz's affable disturbia. Nor is it to argue how rules always seem to be more stringently enforced when certain among us are in the limelight. After all, Franklin was invited to that janky Thanksgiving dinner of popcorn, jelly beans, and cold buttered toast, but he was seated on the opposite side of the table. We already know what will probably happen.

But let's go through the motions anyway. Let's convince ourselves that this will be the day that Lucy will look deep into her celluloid heart and something will actually be drawn there that might compel her to give old Charlie Brown just one chance to kick that football...

Better yet, let's stop the insanity. Do not play football with Lucy Van Pelt!

Some of these people have made it clear that they will always put their exalted principles above everything. And because they are in a position to exercise some power, they will do so regardless of the outcome. If they sink this nomination (which can happen since the Senate majority is in play), they will have won the Pyrrhic victory of holding Presidential appointees to uniform standards. They will throw out words like 'integrity' and 'restoration' to justify their version of cancel culture. They won't even bother to read the editorial Biden wrote to defend his choice of Austin because this is about claiming the moral high ground.

Political coalitions are always fraught and flimsy. What unified this particular coalition was our hatred of Donald J. Trump. What will fracture this coalition is the realization that merely ridding ourselves of his demagoguery is insufficient firepower against entrenched racism/sexism as justifications for maintaining political hegemony. 74 million people voted to keep this shitshow going, and they don't care about your hallowed principles. There is no Secretary of Peace, so other than a retired General or Admiral who's been sitting at home knitting for the past seven years, who else should be tapped to lead the Pentagon? Our every internal disagreement will be exploited as an Achilles' heel to neutralize Biden and kneecap Kamala Harris for 2024. The fact that Biden even felt compelled to write an op-ed to justify his choice indicates that he anticipated this, and here we are. 

Deluding ourselves that because Lucy is Linus' sister and Linus is Charlie Brown's best friend, she might hold that football in place. But Lucy ain't never been Charlie Brown's friend! And you cannot trust her or anyone who follows behind her--not Frieda, Violet, Pig-Pen, Schroeder, Patty, little sister Sally, and not even Snoopy, the dog. Peppermint Patty might be down, but not Marcie (who sat with her back to us instead of sitting next to Franklin). Trust me, leave them Peanuts alone...

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