Washington Post Via MSN
Power struggle among Biden appointees gets personal over race
A clash over race and social status has roiled a panel of Biden administration appointees entrusted with overseeing military cemeteries and war monuments, after a former U.S. ambassador and retired Marine who is Black was replaced as the group’s chairman by a White retired general, according to internal correspondence obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with nine people familiar with the matter. John L. Estrada, the former ambassador, was elected chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission on Nov. 9, but commissioners disagreed over how long he would hold the post. Estrada and at least two other commissioners believed he would serve indefinitely through the Biden administration. But the majority of the group said that they had agreed that they would vote on the role again if the White House appointed another member to a last, vacant commissioner position, and that they expected that retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a high-profile CNN news analyst, would join their ranks within days. Estrada, while serving as chairman, wrote in a Dec. 9 email to all of the panel’s 10 other commissioners that the issue was “divisive,” saying he had been asked by people outside the group whether his race was a factor. Estrada had just become the first person of color, immigrant and enlisted military veteran to become chairman. He came to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago at age 14, and rose to become the senior-most enlisted member of the Marine Corps through the height of the Iraq War. “I have had questions presented to me on whether this has to do with race, me being enlisted or immigrant born,” Estrada wrote to the other commissioners. “I never answer, but it does make me wonder.” The comment irritated other commissioners, according to emails obtained by The Post and interviews with Estrada and other officials familiar with the argument. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying the subject remains highly sensitive.