This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on November 24, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Photo: Antony Blinken meeting Sebastian Kurz in 2015.
Top Story: President-elect, Joe Biden, announced a number of key cabinet appointments on Monday. Antony Blinken has been pegged as secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security, and Avril Haines will lead the intelligence community. John Kerry, a former secretary of state, has been selected to lead the effort to combat climate change. Here’s what both sides are saying about some of Biden’s early cabinet picks.
On the Left: In an opinion piece for The Atlantic, Graeme Wood writes about “Biden’s Sleepily Reassuring Appointments.” Wood says: “If you wonder how these people will govern, just close your eyes and imagine yourself back to 2016, before you developed that nervous tic that causes you to rip out your hair by its roots whenever your phone buzzes with a news alert.” Wood says some of the names “are not widely remembered by ordinary, non-Beltway people, because they were hypercompetent public servants who tended not to make hilarious, unforced errors,” like members of the Trump administration. Although “hypercompetence is coming back the bad news is that 2016, the last full year in which this hypercompetent team was in power, was a bit of a nightmare, particularly in the Middle East,” Wood writes. “Blinken negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal… [and] even the deal’s defenders acknowledged that it guaranteed the survival of an odious regime and did little to constrain its non-nuclear misbehavior across the region.” Wood says “the Obama administration had learned the lesson [from] Iraq,” Libya, and Syria, “countries [that] devolved into apocalyptic messes.” Wood also points out that “Central Europe had to digest a massive refugee flow from Syria and Afghanistan,” which “enabled a populist wave that has yet to crest.” Despite these negative events, Wood writes: “What a luxury to see the cabinet gradually populated with low-key operators who do not view manic stimulation of the electorate as a sign of a job well done. The real sign of a job well done would be actual restoration of the wholesome vision of American-led idealism that was promised, and [was] never quite delivered the last time it was in power.”
On the Right: Evie Fordham of Fox News highlighted some criticism of Biden’s picks on Monday. Fordham’s article mostly focused on Antony Blinken saying: “President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state received criticism for his recent consulting work and early support for the Iraq War.” Ricochet editor-in-chief Jon Gabriel wrote on Twitter, “Blinken advised Biden to vote for the Iraq War. Also said US failed by not sending more troops to Syria.” According to the progressive magazine The Nation, “Blinken was Biden’s top aide in 2002 when the former senator voted for a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.” Fordham says, “news of Biden’s pick [also] turned the spotlight on Blinken’s firm WestExec Advisors. On Twitter, New York Times journalist Kenneth P. Vogel wrote: “TONY BLINKEN co-founded a consultancy @WEAdvisors that launched in 2018 to help clients navigate DC. It doesn’t disclose most clients’ identities, but has acknowledged working with an unidentified drug maker [and] a Big Tech firm it helped with US-China trade.” Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald called Blinken “Biden’s standard-Blob choice.” On Twitter Greenwald wrote: “‘A centrist with a streak of interventionism’ — the [New York Times’] gentle description of Antony Blinken, Biden’s standard-Blob choice for Secretary of State. Sounds exciting.” Fordham also highlighted a tweet from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who “used the news to blast current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent statement that the U.S. is ‘committed to countering the Global [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] Campaign as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.” Tlaib wrote on Twitter: “So long as [Blinken] doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies. The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.”
Flag This: POLITICO titled their PM Playbook edition, “Biden puts the Obama team back together.” Some people will read that and breathe a sigh of relief. Others will hold their breath until they turn red in the face. Not everyone wants a return to “normalcy” and even left-leaning authors admit that what came before 2016 is partly what gave rise to tectonic events like Trump in the United States and Brexit abroad. Whether you support the picks or not, there will be a lot of “firsts” in the Biden administration. “If confirmed, Mr. Mayorkas, who served as deputy Homeland Security secretary from 2013 to 2016, would be the first Latino to run the department charged with implementing and managing the nation’s immigration policies,” NYT’s Michael Crowley reports. Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, will, if appointed, become the first woman to become the director of national intelligence. Biden also “plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, an economist at the forefront of policy-making for three decades, to become the next Treasury secretary,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Yellen would become the first woman to hold the job.” At 6:36 pm ET last night, Emily Murphy, “a key Trump administration appointee said she would allow President-elect Joe Biden to begin his official transition – paving the way for his team to get access to briefings, office space, secure computers and other government services needed for the transfer of power.”