Richmond Times-Dispatch

‘America is back’: Biden looking past Trump era with nominees

- BY ALEXANDRA JAFFE, MATTHEWLEE AND AAMER MADHANI

WILMINGTON, Del. — Declaring “America is back,” President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team Tuesday, 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 theater in his Delaware hometown of Wilmington. “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 historic norms after PresidentD­onald 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. Biden’s picks included several women and people of color, some of whom would break barriers if confirmed.

They stood behind Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, spaced apart and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronaviru­s.

The president-elect’s team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol

Hill whose ties to Biden go back 20 years, for secretary

of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be secretary of homeland security; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. 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. Former Secretary of State 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 in January, some Senate Republican­s have already expressed antipathy to Biden’s picks as little more than Obama retreads.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a potential 2024 presidenti­al candidate, argued that Biden is surroundin­g himself with people who will go soft on China. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — another potential White House hopeful, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will consider Blinken’s nomination — broadly wrote off the early selections.

“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong résumés, 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 criticism of Trump, who has resisted many long-held 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 U.S. “reassertin­g its historic role as a global leader” under his administra­tion.

Trump, who has debated recently whether to mount another presidenti­al campaign in 2024, appeared to defend his worldview on Tuesday.

“We shouldn’t go away from that — America First,” he said at the annual turkey pardon, a lightheart­ed pre-Thanksgivi­ng White House tradition.

While Trump expected total loyalty from his Cabinet and chafed at pushback from advisers, Biden said he expects advisers to tell me “what I need to know, not what I want to know.”

Haines said she has “never shied away from speaking truth to power” and added “that will be my charge as director of national intelligen­ce.”

Biden celebrated the diversity of his picks, offering a particular­ly poignant tribute to Thomas-Greenfield. 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.

Mayorkas, who is Cuban American, also offered a nod to his immigrant upbringing.

“My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism,” he said. “They cherished our democracy, and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I.”

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