Confirmation Hearing: Secretary of State Nominee Antony Blinken (Video/Text)

 

On January 19, Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the 71st Secretary of State appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing.

Excerpt from his prepared statement (PDF):

If confirmed, three priorities will guide my time as Secretary. 

First, I will work with you to reinvigorate the Department by investing in its greatest asset: the foreign service officers, civil servants, and locally employed staff who animate American diplomacy around the world.

I know from firsthand experience their passion, energy, and courage. Often far from home and away from loved ones, sometimes in dangerous conditions exacerbated by the global pandemic – they deserve our full support. If I am confirmed as Secretary, they will have it.

I am committed to advancing our security and prosperity by building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity. Recruiting, retaining, and promoting officers with the skills to contend with 21st Century challenges and who look like the country we represent. Sparing no effort to ensure their safety and well-being. Demanding accountability – starting with the Secretary – for building a more diverse, inclusive and non-partisan workplace.

Second, working across government and with partners around the world, we will revitalize American diplomacy to take on the most pressing challenges of our time.

We’ll show up again, day-in, day-out whenever and wherever the safety and well-being of Americans is at stake. We’ll engage the world not as it was, but as it is. A world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system, and a technological revolution that is reshaping every aspect of our lives, especially in cyberspace.

For all that has changed, some things remain constant.

American leadership still matters.

The reality is that the world doesn’t organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we don’t lead, then one of two things happen: either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values. Or no one does, and then you get chaos. Either way, that does not serve the American people

Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin.

Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad. And humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone – even one as powerful as the U.S.

But we’ll also act with confidence that America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.

Guided by those principles, we can overcome the COVID crisis – the greatest shared challenge since World War II.

We can outcompete China – and remind the world that a government of the people, by the people, can deliver for its people.

We can take on the existential threat posed by climate change.

We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.

And in everything we do around the world, we can and we must ensure that our foreign policy delivers for American working families here at home.

Let me conclude with a word about this institution, whose resilience and determination was on full display in the aftermath of senseless and searing violence in these halls. Both the President-elect and I believe we must restore Congress’s traditional role as a partner in our foreign policy making.

In recent years, across administrations of both parties, Congress’s voice in foreign policy has been diluted and diminished.

That doesn’t make the executive branch stronger – it makes our country weaker.

President-elect Biden believes – and I share his conviction – that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. You are the representatives of the American people. You provide that advice and consent. We can only tackle the most urgent problems our country faces if we work together, and I am dedicated to doing that.

If confirmed, I will work as a partner to each of you on behalf of all Americans.

 


 

 

Is it still okay to say, “Oh, you shameless flamingo?”

Last week, the outgoing secretary of state with just days left in his tenure tweeted to the Nobel Prize with a suggestive photograph that his boss get the award. Oh, yes, so very sad and embarrassing indeed.
We did not tweet back, we subtweeted. Twitter flagged it in a nanosecond for “violating” its rules against “abuse and harassment.” Twitter did not say which part they considered offensive.
Let’s see.
Sure @NobelPrize is really going to give one to a twice impeached president (impeached on December 18, 2019 and January 13, 2021)
who incited a mob (see text of trump speech inciting a mob)
that could have decapitated our legislative branch (“Yesterday they could have blown the building up, they could have killed us all, they could have destroyed the government”
hang mike pence, (see video of mob screaming “Hang Mike Pence“)
and put you first in line of succession (see line of succession)
#shamelessskunk (because the word “worst” is not enough for the occasion)
Oh, dear. We get the feeling that Twitter was really offended by the words “shameless” and “skunk” unless it was offended by the repetition of facts.  The two words put together seemed appropriate for a secretary of state whose tenure is an insult to the very old gal in Foggy Bottom. Yes, the same secretary of state whose upside down dictionary says swagger means humility.
Anyway, having allowed the soon to be former president to run amok on Twitter during his campaign and his entire tenure in office, the social media platform finally decided to lock him out of his account on his way out the door. And to show its great effort of cleaning up the barn after it has been filled with sh*t this past several years, Twitter had to show your blogger that a tweet blasted into its public sphere is now considered “abuse and harassment”.  Who would consider “shameless skunk” as fighting words, or as a threat or words that constitute incitement? Obviously, Twitter did and  locked us out of our account.
What else might they consider unacceptable words in the Twitter universe? “His Rotundity?” How about “most fervid lapdog?” “his blundering, maladroit, offensive self?” “selfishness at the expense of the national interest isn’t the mark of an honorable diplomat or a patriot“? No? Well, give it time or maybe its algorithm will learn fast. 
On the bright side — at least a social media company could not charge us as “a malicious and seditious person, and of a depraved mind and a wicked and diabolical disposition” as the government did with Matthew Lyon (1749–1822) when the then representative from Vermont was charge under the Sedition Act of 1798. Lyon was imprisoned under the Act after accusing President John Adams of having “an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp.” Imagine that.
Of course, Twitter is a corporation with its own rules. No doubt locking up the chief inciter’s account has limited the dissemination of the big lie and helped avoid further incitement. But we need to decide as a society if we want big tech to be the arbiter of what is acceptable language in the public sphere. It could decide tomorrow that  “#badactor” or “#absolutelydisgraceful” are also harassing and inciting words and could block anyone who tweets them.   And by the way, if “skunk” is off limits, what other animals are also off limits? If somebody eats all the shrimp at an official reception, can you say, “oh, you shameless flamingo,” or would that be considered harassment, too?
Now, you got us wondering how long it would take to get locked out for tweeting dangerous words like #shamelessgangofelks, #hordeofhamsters, #troopofapes, #conspiracyoflemurs, and perhaps the most dangerous one out there,  #shamelessmurderofcrows.
In any case, we’ve been asked to remove our tweet before they would give us back access to our account. Since we are a guest on its platform, we have complied but we will from here on also limit our presence on Twitter until they can figure out what are they doing and how exactly are they cleaning up their house. We are not deleting the account at this time as we have multiple links to the blog that would leave orphan spaces here.  But we can choose not to use it as a regular stop.  You can still reach us through our contact page here.
We must admit that we’ve been wondering for awhile now how much of our news and social media diet actually contributed to the deleterious effects on our mental health, our family members, friends, or folks in our communities.  Not being on Twitter these last few days wasn’t bad; it brought us some clarity. Instead of scrolling and refreshing the screen, we took long walks, did some bird watching and worked in the garden. In a few months, the wildflowers will be in bloom. Like Thoreau said, all good things are wild and free. True, out there in the open fields. On Twitter, in a few months, there will be new trends to replace the old trends that will be just as wild. Wild but not really free.
We are relieved that a new day is nearly here. We pray for a safe and successful presidential inauguration on January 20. Still, we could not shake our despondence away.  Truth to tell, your blogger is mentally and emotionally exhausted. Blogging may be sporadic for awhile until we can figure out if this old girl still has fire for the next ride.
🖤-D