Declaring "America is back," President-elect Joe Biden introduced selections for his national security team Tuesday, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on foreign policy and national security experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers.
Biden’s Washington veterans all have ties to former President Barack Obama’s administration as the president-elect has sought to deliver a clear message about his desire to reestablish a more predictable engagement from the United States on the global stage.
“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” said Biden, at an introductory event at which his selections stood on stage, at least six feet apart and masked.
The president-elect’s team includes Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy hand well-regarded on Capitol Hill whose ties to Biden go back some 20 years, for secretary of state; lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be US ambassador to the United Nations; and Obama White House alumnus Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.
Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, was picked to serve as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post, and former Secretary of State John Kerry will make a curtain call as a special envoy on climate change. Kerry and Sullivan’s position will not require Senate confirmation.
With the Senate’s balance of power hinging on two runoff races in Georgia that will be decided in January, some Senate Republicans have already expressed antipathy to Biden’s picks as little more than Obama world retreads.
Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful, derisively accused Biden of surround himself with “panda huggers” who will go soft on China. Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Blinken’s nomination, broadly wrote off the early selections as uninspiring.
“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” Rubio tweeted.
But Biden’s transition team hailed the president-elect’s selection as a group of “crisis-tested leaders” who will be ready to hit the ground running in the new administration.
Outside the realm of national security and foreign policy, Biden is expected to choose Janet Yellen as the first woman to become treasury secretary. She was nominated by Obama to lead the Federal Reserve, the first woman in that position, and served from 2014 to 2018.
Biden said his choices “reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits.” He said he tasked them with reasserting global and moral leadership.
Biden’s emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and world capitals. And with a roster that includes multiple women and people of color — some of whom are breaking historic barriers in their posts — Biden is acting on his campaign promise to lead a team that reflects the diversity of America. Thomas-Greenfield is Black, and Mayorkas is Cuban American.