President-elect Biden still hasn’t named a nominee for Attorney General. According to this report from CNN, the two leading contenders are Judge Merrick Garland and outgoing Senator Doug Jones. Sally Yates, whom I expected to be the frontrunner, and Deval ( “just words”) Patrick reportedly may still be in contention, but seem to be on the outside looking in.
Until I read the CNN article, I couldn’t understand why Jones is a serious contender for the AG job. Okay, he once led a successful case against KKK members responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. This hardly qualifies him to be the Attorney General of the United States. And if the goal is to satisfy the Black base, why not nominate a Black?
But the CNN article describes Jones as being close personally to Biden. CNN’s reporters don’t elaborate on the relationship between the two. However, personal closeness would explain why Jones is at or near the top of Biden’s list.
Given the way the Biden family enriched itself through dealings with foreign entities, especially during Joe Biden’s time as vice president, and given the ongoing DOJ investigation of Hunter Biden, the new president could use a “wing man” Attorney General. If Jones fits the bill, he has a good shot at the job.
The case for Merrick Garland is different. He is, or passes for, a traditional liberal, rather than a modern leftist. Therefore, Garland would be a relatively non-controversial nominee, though his selection wouldn’t please the far left.
Garland would likely sail through the Senate and enable the media to portray Biden’s presidency as “moderate.” At the same time, Biden could pacify the far left, and largely ensure that his DOJ won’t be moderate, by nominating hard leftists and identity politics heroes for key positions below the AG level.
However, Garland’s strength is also his weakness in terms of Biden’s needs. To the extent Garland actually is an independent-minded man of the center-left, he can’t be counted on to protect Biden and his family from investigations for corruption. This, I take it, is what CNN means when it says that Biden’s search for an AG is “complicated by competing questions.”
CNN says that Biden is expected to select his Attorney General nominee before Christmas. The selection will be a nice present for the nominee and for one or more factions of the Democratic party. For the rest of us, it will, at least, be interesting.