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Biden’s Cabinet: a few thoughts

Well, it’s clear by now that the US Election was beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t have an idea – this is Trump we’re talking about after all – but I was still more than amused, and there was a copious amount of head-shaking. Anyway, only two weeks or so (as if it wasn’t painful enough) after Biden won the election, Trump authorised the beginning of the transition process – but still hasn’t conceded, surprise surprise – which meant that Biden was allowed access to classified briefings, to help him better prepare for office. 

Part of that preparation is getting a cabinet together. So far, Biden has announced members of White House senior staff, and the national security, health, and economic departments. 

Economy Nominees and Appointees

One thing to say about the Biden nominations in general is that they are quite diverse – more on that later. Following in that logic, his choice for the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, would be the first woman in this position. Yellen has had a distinguished career – if confirmed, she would be the first to have served as Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Chair of the Federal Reserve. Next up is Neera Tanden, as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Again, setting records as the first South Asian American in this role, and quite controversial – having allegedly punched a journalist in the chest back in 2008. If you thought the age of President Twitter was coming to an end – she really likes to tweet, something that hasn’t always worked in her favour. An interesting choice for sure. 

Wally Ademo seems like a call-back to the good old days, having served in the Obama Administration. He’s also the current president of the Obama Foundation – evidence of ‘it’s who you know’? The second African American in the team (after Ademo), Cecilia Rouse, and nominee for the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, fits the job – she’s an economist who is currently the Dean for the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Since Trudeau’s cabinet, I’ve always liked it when a person has the correct experience for their job, which is why I’m not completely against Sunak. 

Two further members of the CEA, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, have been named, with Bernstein serving as Biden’s Chief Economist during the first years of Obama’s tenure. 

Since Trudeau’s cabinet, I’ve always liked it when a person has the correct experience for their job, which is why I’m not completely against Sunak

 

Health Nominees and Appointees 

This department’s nominees and appointees were announced most recently. The Health Secretary Xavier Becerra is another friend of the Obama age – admittedly, he wasn’t in the administration, but has been defending Obamacare in front of the US Supreme Court in his capacity as California’s Attorney General. Dr. Vivek Murthy is a returning nominee, having served as Surgeon General under Obama. It’s understandable though – he’s one of the most decorated and respected doctors in America, and considering one of Biden’s priorities is to get Covid-19 under wraps, a sensible choice. In that vein, choosing a doctor who served on the frontline of the pandemic as Director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is the correct decision  – especially as Dr Rochelle Walensky is currently serving as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Dr Anthony Fauci remains a part of the efforts to tackle coronavirus, this time as Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser. This makes sense, as he’s been advising presidents since Reagan. Yet another attempt to present a coherent and decisive response to coronavirus is the appointment of coordinators to the Covid-19 response – Jeff Zients and Natalie Quillian. 

 

National Security Nominees and Appointees

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also served during the Obama administration as Deputy Secretary of State from 2015-17, and was Biden’s National Security Advisor in the first Obama term. Have you sensed the theme yet? Alejandro Mayorkas would be the first immigrant and Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security – having served as Deputy under Obama! Snap! Avril Haines, who was Deputy Director of the CIA and also an advisor to Obama, will serve as Director of National Intelligence, and we also see the return of John Kerry, as a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate – fitting as he signed the Paris Agreement of 2015, and probably the person who will help to get America back on board with it. 

I’ve saved a special spot for Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN – a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service, who is returning from retirement, and whose nomination is being feted as a comeback, having been kicked out by Trump. This African American woman is nothing but iconic – and if I could write an entire article on her, I would.

He’s got some good initiatives in place – but has he got the right people?

 

White House Senior Staff and general remarks

The media team will be the first all-female team ever, and just looking at the list on the Biden-Harris transition site, it’s quite diverse. Yet one group that is missing in all these teams are Asian Americans. Furthermore, as has been shown, a lot of them come from the Obama years – despite Biden’s claims this is not a third Obama term. Moreover, a lot of these nominees have questionable credentials. Blinken belongs to what has been called the foreign policy ‘Blob’, the DC establishment (anti-establishmentarians eat your heart out) that believes that the US should use force to maintain its position as a dominant global power. Haines played a key role in Obama’s drone programme, a national disgrace, and Mayorkas, despite being an immigrant himself, seems to have prioritised people with money. 

Biden is definitely a welcome change from Trump. That’s not to say that he might not be as damaging. He’s got some good initiatives in place – but has he got the right people? I would say it’s not a straightforward yes – and that’s worrying. 

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