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‘I Owe You a Debt’: Michael Eric Dyson Applauds Biden’s Selection of Gen. Lloyd Austin, Who Would Be Nation’s First Black Secretary of Defense

Earlier this week, Georgetown sociology professor and author Michael Eric Dyson applauded President-elect Joe Biden for selecting retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his pick for secretary of defense. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black person to hold the post.

Dyson spoke to CNN anchor Don Lemon on Dec. 7 about why Biden’s selection of Austin is noteworthy.

“Look, have you ever heard a president say before, ‘I owe you. I owe you a debt, you hooked me up, I’m hooking you up.’ I’ve never heard a president [say that],” Dyson said.

Michael Eric Dyson (right) applauded Joe Biden’s selection of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin for defense secretary while speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon (left). (Photo: CNN screenshot)

“The attempt to follow-up and to follow-through by President-elect Joe Biden is worthy of note. … I think Black people are well-deserved.”

Exit poll results reported by the Washington Post show that 87 percent of Black voters voted for Biden, and Black voters in key cities helped drive his victory. The president-elect has come under mounting pressure in recent weeks to diversify his Cabinet and select more Black officials.

Dyson also noted the significance of Biden’s decision to pick Kamala Harris as his vice president.

“He put a Black woman in as vice president, and, let’s be honest, Don … He’s put her in a pretty position to become, potentially, the first female president of the United States of America.”

Biden’s historic selection of Austin, a four-star general who led the U.S. Central Command is already facing challenges. A 73-year-old law designed to keep recently retired military officers from running the Pentagon dictates that former officers wait seven years before taking on the role of defense secretary. Austin, who retired in 2016, will need a congressional waiver to be confirmed by the Senate.

Lawmakers are at odds about whether Austin should be granted the waiver. The exemption must be approved by both the House and the Senate. Other than President Donald Trump’s choice of Gen. James Mattis in 2017, the waiver hasn’t been granted since 1950.

Biden argued Wednesday that Austin would uphold the principle of the Defense Department being under civilian rule, saying, “There’s no doubt in my mind — not any doubt whatsoever — that this nominee will honor, respect and on a day-to-day basis breathe life into the pre-eminent principle of civilian leadership over military matters in our nation.”

Austin, whose military career spans four decades, accepted Biden’s offer on the same day it was granted, Politico reported.

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