The Biden Train Gets  Rolling
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The Biden Train Gets Rolling

His First Cabinet Picks Look Solid and Competent. How’s That for a Change of Pace?

Terry H. Schwadron

Terry H. Schwadron

Now starts both the flow of names for the President-Elect Joe Biden’s team and sniping from the sidelines. The grudging, official go-ahead came from Donald Trump last night to start the formalities of transition.

We await clues to what Biden is asking his picks to do to start tallying political marks or fending off possible Senate opposition cliques in the inevitably tight confirmation processes.

We seem to have learned nothing from the divisions of this still-not-over election process.

We’ll have plenty of time to trash Team Biden, if that’s necessary.

What is it about the need to be first with bold, outlandish predictions about what Appointee X will or won’t do in office? Can’t we at least wait until they are announced formally and we learn something other than the name, gender and race of each?

I promise, we’ll have plenty of time to trash Team Biden, if that’s necessary.

It took seconds for both left and right to start commenting on the choice of Anthony Blinken for secretary of State, someone who has been at Biden’s side for years, as if that name had magically jumped out of a hat.

Breitbart jumped on the choice as the selection of a Trump-hating, Russia-conspiracy plotter believer. Progressives were quick to note that this was hardly a choice for a new way of looking at America’s place on the world stage.

We’re going to hear the same over the next days about each and every choice, from those actively counting Black and Brown faces for comparison with the lily-white complexion of the Trump cabinet. Still, Janet Yellin at Treasury, Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the UN, John Kerry as climate czar, Alejandro Mayorkas as homeland security secretary and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence are all solid veterans of government who care about their areas of expertise.

Look, I get it, Biden’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do. He is picking people who are experienced hands, whose confirmation should not be in doubt over competence, who are pre-destined to support the kind of global—and domestic–alliances that had been in play before we saw the aberration of Trump.

Wait a Minute

What seems more important than instant analysis is to hear what the incoming White House wants to achieve. Beyond the obvious – a twin attack on pandemic and a stimulus to job rehiring and growth – there’s a lot of gobbledygook still out there in Bidenland.

All I’m asking for this particular moment is to hold up on the slashing attacks – or the opposite outflow of adulation – until this group gets the keys, which are still being locked up by Trump fantasies of a post-election change of heart.

One day or so into the new appointments and we should be satisfied that Biden is picking people for what they know rather than for whom they know. The good news is that he has a very wide bench from which to pick, despite four years of decrying and dissembling the “deep state,” reflected by actual knowledge.

The bad news for those of us who lean more activist than Biden, just as with those who already hate the idea that he is not Trump, is that we are unlikely to suddenly turn Biden from his basically centrist views into someone who is a champion for what we actually believe.

On the whole, I like the fact that Biden is basically a good person who wants the right thing to happen far more than for business interests or lobbyists to dictate what passes as legislation. I like the fact that he wants to calm the international turmoil sufficiently for us to catch our national breath, that he wants his team and us to try, at least, to dampen the fierceness of our divides long enough to ensure that people actually can get access to these emergent vaccines, that nurses can have protective gear, that workers get some help as localized shutdowns grow in this awful rise of contagion again.

A More Efficient Government

Weirdly, Biden is making a bid here to run a competent government rather than a politically correct government, even while pulling together a cabinet that reflects more identifiable diversity than ever before.

That’s very good to hear – not necessarily inspiring, but seems the right note for a moment when the outgoing Trump is proving a petulant, dangerous leader who isn’t doing his day-to-day job.

I saw yesterday that not only is Trump officially withdrawing from another treaty with Russia for “Open Skies,” allowing flyovers to confirm troop movements, but he also wants to trash the actual aircraft – making it more difficult for Biden to undo the damage. Trump is not a leader with concern for anything close to running a government or a business or a household.

That sabotage is becoming a pattern across departments.

The Biden insistence on competence – at the cost of inspiration, perhaps – is a radical statement in these times.

It says science, diplomacy, knowledge, consistency and predictability matter in international affairs, markets, education, labor and public safety.

It would be a good idea for Republicans to get on board, rather than to continue to ride the Crazy Train to Trumpville.

November 24, 2020