But Biden should avoid the controversial figures some on the left are pining for, primarily for purposes of revenge on Republicans, such as like Hillary and Bill Clinton.
President-elect Joe Biden has begun to piece together his cabinet, and the early announcements reveal an administration that prizes diversity and familiarity, but more vitally, experience over blind loyalty.
Needless to say, that is very refreshing and reassuring. My blood pressure has already begun to fall.
The last four years have been a roller coaster of incompetence and scandal at the highest levels of the Trump administration. From a staff secretary with allegations of domestic violence to a White House communications director who lasted a whopping 11 days, President Trump’s picks, as you’ll remember, were in many cases inexperienced friends, donors, supporters and hangers-on who had no business doing the jobs they were chosen for.
Some of the low lights:
Ben Carson, a surgeon and one-time Trump critic-turned-fanboy, was for some reason chosen to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was tapped to head the Energy Department, which he’d promised to abolish while running for president.
The former CEO of Exxon, a civil engineer by training, was appointed secretary of state, the highest-ranking member of the cabinet and fourth in the line of succession to the president.
And as recently as May of this year, Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor, was appointed postmaster general, the first in nearly two decades who was not a career postal employee.
Then, of course, there were the numerous officials who resigned or were fired under ethics scandals — Tom Price at Health and Human Services, David Shulkin at Veterans Affairs, Ryan Zinke at Interior, Alex Acosta at Labor, Scott Pruitt at EPA and the list goes on.
Finally, there were the few but not insignificant number of officials who left as a function of being unable to do their jobs under Trump’s constant coercion or public denigration.
The sum result has been a revolving door of cronyism, incompetence, controversy and conflicts of interest. The effect was instability, dysfunction and national embarrassment. In Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp,” he turned it into a nuclear waste dump that was toxic to all who went near it.
As his term wore on, qualified people wanted no part of Trump’s administration. By the end of it, quacks like Rudy Giuliani were running his “elite strike force” legal efforts in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
Biden’s early picks signal a return to stability, experience and sobriety.
Antony Blinken, a career foreign policy and national security official and close adviser to Biden, will be his secretary of state, a more than reasonable role for such a person.
Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, will be tapped for Treasury. Yes, that makes sense.
Avril Haines, a former CIA official and national security adviser to Obama, will be director of national intelligence — an intelligent pick.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be ambassador to the United Nations following a 35-year career in the Foreign Service. Yep, I see what you did there.
Alejandro Mayorkas, former head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, will be Biden’s Homeland Security secretary — because, presumably, he has relevant experience in homeland security.
Biden deserves credit for these picks, of course, but it should be noted that the usual political appointments weren’t on the table for him. Democrats can’t afford to lose any seats in Congress, rendering many elected senators and House members, especially in states with Republican governors, undesirable.
Biden also deserves credit for his eye toward qualified diversity — selecting the first woman to lead the intelligence community, the first Latino to run DHS, one of the youngest national security advisers in history, the first woman at Treasury — signaling that a return to experience can still and should come with fresh perspectives.
He can continue the good course he’s on by appointing experienced leaders in their field to the rest of his cabinet.
During the course of his campaign, Biden continuously stressed that he’d put scientists out front, both when it came to COVID and climate change. While John Kerry is perfectly suited to lead his climate special envoy — inherently a political post — Biden should avoid putting a political figure at EPA. Names like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee would defy that promise. If Biden wants to take politics out of science, he needs to take politicians out of science.
Likewise, Biden should avoid the controversial figures some on the left are pining for, primarily for purposes of revenge on Republicans who have attacked them — like former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, or Hillary and Bill Clinton. Cabinet appointments aren’t the place for comeuppance, score-settling or vanity projects, especially with so much work to do.
But so far, so good. In a press conference Tuesday, Biden defined his approach succinctly in describing Blinken’s appointment to State: “No one is better prepared for this job.” Ah, experience — how we’ve missed you.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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