Austin is the wrong choice for defense secretary

Biden has now passed over two once-favored women for top Cabinet posts—Flournoy at the Pentagon and Susan Rice as secretary of state—which, whatever his reasons (in Rice’s case, the Republican-controlled Senate seemed unlikely to confirm her), is bound to demoralize many of his once-hopeful supporters.

He did nominate Avril Haines, a former deputy CIA director and deputy national security adviser, as the first female director of national intelligence—a nomination widely heralded as a breakthrough—but Haines is less well-known and her new job, by nature, is less visible to the public.

Biden said during his campaign that, if elected, his Cabinet would reflect the diversity of the American people—a refreshing idea. But picking top officials solely on that basis risks alienating those of another race or gender who were pushing for someone from their group to get the job. It also risks creating the perception of an identity-politics hierarchy of Cabinet jobs: secretary of defense and attorney general must be Black or female, secretary of homeland security can be Hispanic, and so forth.