I’ve been musing on many things since election day. With apologies to the Mamas and Papas, I’ve noticed all the leaves are brown and the sky is fading from purple to blue. I’ve been taking walks on these winter days and pondering why Donald J. Trump proved so very repellent to Coloradans. It tickles me though. President-elect Joe Biden is promising us a 2021 epiphany amongst congressional Republicans, while a chorus of progressive Democrats advises him to quit his dreaming and “…think outside the box”.
There is ample reason to believe the collective courage squeezed from Republican members of Congress would fail to fill a thimble. As long as the Orange menace continues to careen through the media atmosphere tweeting bile, they will remain frozen in a catatonic stasis. “Yessir! How high would you like me to jump sir?” So, let’s contemplate a breakout strategy. Joe Biden doesn’t need to lurch left to discombobulate Washington. Jim Hightower’s observation that all you find in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos, tells me he wasn’t stretching his imagination.
Try this thought experiment. Joe Biden asks Mitch McConnell and his band of Republican obstructionists to confirm John Roberts as Attorney General. Suddenly, the moderate middle becomes a very dangerous space. Why would Roberts accept such a nomination, you ask? Well, he can’t be looking forward to spending the next decade refereeing Trump’s quarrelsome appointees to the Supreme Court. Talk about an utterly thankless task. This is also a man who corrected the president when he complained about Democratic judges, pointing out there are only federal judges. And, it’s not like there isn’t a daunting janitorial challenge over at Bill Barr’s Department of Justice.
There is ample reason to think Roberts recognizes the theft of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the court affronted longstanding constitutional decency. How satisfying might it be to balance the scales by delivering the appointment of the next chief justice to President Biden? Two former presidents, James K. Polk and William Howard Taft, accepted such appointments after departing the White House. A familiar and well-liked constitutional law professor from Chicago happens to be available now. If not Barack Obama, there are other worthy candidates including Garland. Yes, Roberts has concurred in several decisions that trouble liberals, but he once led a successful Justice Department prosecution in United States vs. Microsoft for anti-trust violations. This experience would come in handy.
Imagine the dilemma this move would present for McConnell. Turn Roberts down and he returns to work at the Supreme Court carrying a grudge. Confirm him and Republicans will confront a subsequent nomination struggle over the chief justice’s chair. This notion has merit even if Democrats succeed in capturing the two outstanding Georgia Senate seats. It provides an immediate restoration of the 5-4 conservative lean to the court. Roberts is nearly universally respected, which is a quality that will be at a premium for anyone attempting to restore respect for and rebuild the reputation of the Justice Department.
Ready for a few more hypotheticals? What about yanking Bill Gates from his plush retirement to serve as U. N. ambassador? He would bring a pair of reputational strengths to the job: (1) He and his wife have devoted both their time and money to combatting health issues around the globe. His appointment would reposition the United States as more concerned with human welfare than power politics, and (2) Gates is indisputably qualified to assist in the development of an international regulatory framework to restrain Internet commerce and social networks — at a time when controls are desperately needed.
Susan Rice speculated recently that the Trump administration is dragging its feet on transition support because it will expose the reality that they have developed few plans for coping with the challenges Americans face, particularly in the national security arena. Most Cabinet departments have been hollowed out, substituting political flunkies for career expertise. Think Interior, the EPA, Energy, Education and Homeland Security domains for starters. It will take six months or a year to place these agencies back on their policy tracks. It may be necessary to form special purpose task forces.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would be a great pick to coordinate an inter-agency, immigration reform study emphasizing a permanent route to citizenship for DACA kids. Gov. Jay Inslee could do the same for designing a climate policy timeline that achieves the president’s 2050 zero emission target. Mike Bloomberg at Treasury has promise. Kathleen Sebelius would bring ‘A team’ chops to reestablishing the prestige of the FDA and CDC. Pete Buttigieg deserves a microphone that allows him to needle Republicans.
Is any of this likely to happen? Who knows? Free advice is worth what you pay for it, but a little Colorado dreamin’ keeps me smiling.