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Biden Fires Architect of the Capitol

It was a slow news day yesterday. As in, molasses slow. Three-toed sloth slow. Donald Trump trying to solve a crossword puzzle slow. You can tell because the hands-down, no questions about it, 1A story everywhere was Joe Biden's firing of Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton.

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is the 2,400-person agency responsible for facilities management at the U.S. Capitol complex. The person who heads up that agency is also called the Architect of the Capitol. In other words, the AOC leads the AOC. Although one might expect the folks who work for this agency to be under the purview of Congress, the AOC is an executive agency, and the AOC is a presidential appointee, and so the buck stops with whomever is in the White House.

In the case of Blanton, he was appointed to a 10-year term as AOC by Donald Trump. And, not long after taking his office, Blanton began to abuse the privilege. An October report from the AOC Office of the Inspector General (or, if you prefer, the AOCOIG) found that Blanton misused official vehicles for personal purposes, that he misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds, that he and his wife led private tours of the Capitol that created the "appearance of impropriety," and that on at least one occasion, he represented himself as a police officer. While the AOC is an ex oficio member of the board that oversees the Capitol Police, the holder of that office is not themselves a cop.

In any event, the recommendation of the AOCOIG was that Blanton should be cashiered, which is appropriate because AOCOIG descrambles to "Go" and "Ciao," so that's "get lost" in two languages. Why it took so long to act on a report that was issued nearly 6 months ago, we do not know, but partisans on both sides of the aisle wanted Blanton gone. So, it was an easy call for the President. Now, he gets to talk about how he has no tolerance for corruption, while House Republicans are talking about (really!) how they managed to bring down AOC. This is not the AOC they most want to destroy, but beggars can't be choosers.

Is there any larger significance to this story—which, again, got front-page attention from pretty much everyone? We can see at least one. Take a guess how many people have served as AOC (the architect job, not the congresswoman from New York) since the modern version of the office was established in 1851 (a.k.a., 174 years ago). Go ahead and ponder it; we'll wait. The answer appears in the next paragraph.

Before we tell you, we'll note that while the architect is appointed to a 10-year term these days, it hasn't always been that way. Further, even in the 10-year-term era, it has been possible for the AOC to be renewed for another 10 years. And so, the result is that Blanton is only the ninth person to hold the job since a year when Abraham Lincoln was just a little-known former congressman from Illinois, photography was less than 30 years old, the transcontinental railroad was still 20 years away, Vincent Van Gogh had just turned 2, and the first edition of Moby-Dick was hot off the presses.

Put another way, the average AOC has served a little less than 20 years. And none had failed to make it to at least 10 years, before Blanton. Point is, this is not a hard job to fill with a competent person. And yet, the Trump administration couldn't even clear that very low bar. It's just a reminder of how godawful the 45th president and his administration were at vetting candidates for appointments and at finding people who are, you know, not sleazy. (Z)

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