President-elect Joe Biden continued to build his administration as he unveiled core members of his economic team this week, with a diverse group of picks with extensive Washington experience in the Barack Obama and Bill Clinton administrations.
Biden confirmed that he was nominating former Federal Reserve chairperson Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary and named as her deputy Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, a top international economic adviser to Obama who’d be the highest-ranking African-American in the department’s history.
Biden tapped another African-American, Princeton University economist Cecilia Rouse, a former adviser to both Clinton and Obama, as head of the Council of Economic Advisers. To run the Office of Management and Budget he nominated Neera Tanden, an Indian-American former policy adviser to Obama and to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Biden—making his first public appearance in a walking boot after fracturing his foot while playing with his dog—called them “groundbreaking Americans” poised to “advance racial equity across the economy and restore the backbone of this country: the middle class.” Biden also named an all-female communications staff headed by two Obama administration veterans: communications director Kate Bedingfield and press secretary Jen Psaki. Tanden was the first Biden pick to generate significant controversy.
The head of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress took heat both from progressives alienated by her criticism of Bernie Sanders and from Republicans angered by her years of Twitter bashing of Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers. She “stands zero chance of being confirmed,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Biden’s economic team is ready to party like it’s 2009, said The Wall Street Journal. From Yellen down, it’s stocked with “Obama veterans who believe in more spending, more regulation, higher taxes, and easier money.” It’s a good bet these Keynesians’ solution to the “lingering damage from the pandemic” will be more federal stimulus and tax hikes. But once widespread vaccination begins, “the economy should soar.” The Biden team’s job is to encourage growth, not stifle it “with the same policy mix that produced the slowest recovery in decades the last time they held power.” Biden’s foreign policy team also faces a huge challenge, said Bloomberg.com. Four years of Trump’s “open hostility” to diplomacy “has stripped the State Department of vital expertise,” killed morale, and hurt our prestige abroad.
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken is a career diplomat with deep credibility around the world and “an insider’s knowledge of what needs fixing.” He and his well-qualified aides will need to rebuild State with professional diplomats, undo President Trump’s submissive dealings with “strongmen” like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, and convince allies that America is back as a world leader. What the columnists said “What a difference an election makes,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.
The difference between Biden’s thoughtful, “intellectually respected” picks and the “know-nothings and cronies” that stocked Trump’s Cabinet is like the difference between “majorleague veterans” and “T-ball players.” The president-elect has shown a deft ability to thread the needle with nominees “progressive enough to reassure most Democrats and reasonable enough to impress conservative policy wonks.” Settle in for “another installment of Night of the Living Dead Democrats,” said Kevin Williamson in the New York Post.
Biden “has responded to his party’s call for sweeping social change” with a tired “hack pack” of “Democratic functionaries long associated with elite institutions,” such as Blinken and perennial mediocrity John Kerry, his climate-change envoy. Republicans may be relieved Biden doesn’t seem ready to do anything out of the box, but those looking for “bipartisan progress on issues of critical national importance are likely to be disappointed.” Biden’s picks “send a clear message,” said Julian Zelizer in CNN .com: Experience matters. For many years, voters have fetishized the “anti-Washington” political outsider who promises to shake things up. But over four years of ultimate outsider Donald Trump, “the weakness of the anti-establishment candidate became crystal clear,” especially when a pandemic struck. Voters have chosen to replace an impulsive president with a career Washington veteran who will “define his administration” by “experience and expertise.”