Bay of Plenty Times
‘America is back’
Team Biden set to restore global ties — but are his potential appointments ‘Obama retreads’?
Declaring “America is back”, President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team yesterday, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers.
“Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” Biden said from a theatre in his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”
The nominees are all Washington veterans with ties to former President Barack Obama’s administration, a sign of Biden’s effort to resume some form of normalcy after the tumult of President Donald Trump’s four years in office. There are risks to the approach as Republicans plan attacks and progressives fret that Biden is tapping some officials who were too cautious and incremental the last time they held power.
Still, Biden’s nominees were a clear departure from Trump, whose Cabinet has largely consisted of men, almost all of them white and wealthy. Biden’s picks included several women and people of colour, some of whom would break barriers if confirmed to their new positions.
The president-elect’s team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda ThomasGreenfield to be US ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.
Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former Secretary of State
America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. President-elect Joe Biden
John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change. Kerry and Sullivan’s position will not require Senate confirmation.
With the Senate’s balance of power hinging on two runoff races in Georgia that will be decided in January, some Senate Republicans have already expressed antipathy to Biden’s picks as little more than Obama retreads.
Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate, argued that Biden is surrounding himself with people who will go soft on China.
Sen. Marco Rubio, another potential White House hopeful, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Blinken’s nomination, broadly wrote off the early selections.
“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” Rubio tweeted.
Biden said his choices “reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits”. He said he tasked them with reasserting global and moral leadership, a clear swipe at Trump, who has resisted many traditional foreign alliances.
The president-elect said he was “struck” by how world leaders have repeatedly told him during congratulatory calls that they look forward to the US “reasserting its historic role as a global leader” under his administration.
While Trump expected total loyalty from his Cabinet and chafed at pushback from advisers, Biden said he expected advisers to tell me “what I need to know, not what I want to know”.
Further drawing a contrast with Trump, Haines said she accepted
Biden’s nomination knowing that “you value the perspective of the intelligence community, and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult”.
Biden celebrated the diversity of his picks, offering a particularly poignant tribute to ThomasGreenfield. The eldest of eight children who grew up in segregated Louisiana, she was the first to graduate from high school and college in her family. The diplomat, in turn, said that with his selections, Biden is achieving much more than a changing of the guard.
“My fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world, I want to say to you, ‘America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back’,” Thomas-greenfield said.
Meanwhile, there were signs that the stalled formal transition of power is now underway. Biden’s team now is in contact with all federal agencies.
The moves came a day after the head of the General Services Administration wrote the letter of “ascertainment” acknowledging Biden as the apparent winner of the election.— AP