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Opinion: Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks — cause for optimism

  • November 25, 2020

Finally, US media coverage will no longer be dominated by discussions about crazy Tweets or absurd conspiracy theories. It will be about policy, political strategies and ideas. Multilateralism, global alliances and shared political goals will be back on the agenda. The question of how best to deal with China will, however, remain a pressing issue but the focus won’t be on flexing US muscle. The same can be said of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan and all the other foreign policy challenges facing the US and the world. 

Read more: US election: What happens next with Joe Biden’s transition to the White House?

Clever people with years of experience

We can sense something of the old America again at this moment. And that America seems to be making a resurgence: A country in which political leaders have shown themselves to be experts in their respective fields — thanks to their intelligence and knowledge but more importantly, their years of experience.

Among them are Antony Blinken, a long-time diplomat who firmly believes in global alliances and their role in keeping China in check; and Janet Yellen, who is poised to become the first woman to be Treasury secretary. Alejandro Mayorkas will run the Department of Homeland Security. Amongst other things, Mayorkas, a Cuban-American immigrant, will be the man responsible for the US-Mexican border. The choice of John Kerry as climate envoy is a cause for celebration in Europe. Kerry was one of the leading architects of the Paris climate agreement and has been deeply committed to tackling the climate crisis for years now. With Kerry, Joe Biden will have a very experienced man at his side — and one who is extremely well-connected. He is someone who can forge important alliances simply by calling on his own personal contacts. 

  • Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

    Blinken is a longtime confidant of President-elect Joe Biden. He’s served under two Democratic presidents as well as a key aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also served as a deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state in the second Obama administration, when Biden was vice president.

  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    John Kerry, climate change envoy

    The former secretary of state will become Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry served as a senator from Massachusetts from 1983 to 2013 before taking the top foreign policy role in the second Obama administration. Kerry signed the Paris Climate Agreement for the United States in 2015 — Donald Trump pulled the US out of the accord two years later.

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Job Biden's nominee to become the US ambassador to the UN

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN

    Thomas-Greenfield served in high-level State Department positions under Obama from 2013 to 2017. She led US policy in sub-Saharan African during the Ebola outbreak. Biden plans to restore the UN ambassador role to a White House Cabinet position.

  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Joe Biden's pick for Secretary of Homeland Security

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

    The Cuban-American headed Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama. He led the implementation of the DACA program that allowed so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the US illegally as children, to stay in the country. If confirmed, he would become the first immigrant and Hispanic to head the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Jake Sullivan standing next to Hillary Clinton in 2009

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser

    Sullivan served as Biden’s national security adviser from 2013 to 2014 while he was vice president. He also served as Hillary Clinton’s deputy when she was Secretary of State. He later served as her chief foreign policy adviser during her unsuccessful presidential bid in 2016.

  • Avril Haines, Joe Biden's pick for Director of National Intelligence

    Who are Joe Biden’s presidential Cabinet picks?

    Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence

    Haines was the first woman to serve as deputy director of the CIA, a role she held from 2013 to 2015. She succeeded Antony Blinken as deputy national security adviser when he moved over to the state department in 2015. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to head the US intelligence community.

    Author: Davis VanOpdorp

But Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks don’t just remind us of America’s old role as world leader — often characterized by ideals and principles. I think we are justified in thinking that this will be more than just a reprise of the past. The future can be better than the past and the president-elect’s Cabinet is not just made up of experts, but, at long last, also reflects US society in all its diversity.

DW's Carolina Chimoy

DW’s Carolina Chimoy

It is the first time that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and women will be represented in top government positions in such numbers. They are bound to bring into play their specific biographical experiences and their corresponding skills and knowledge. What an asset!

President-elect Joe Biden will become the first US president whose vice-president is a woman of color. And the first president to attempt to reflect the rich diversity of his country at the top of the government. 

Biden, too, will push an American agenda

But the road ahead will not be easy. If the new administration fails to secure a majority in the US Senate in the January run-offs in Georgia, the failure will present Biden with one of his biggest hurdles. A Republican majority in the Senate will attempt to block the president and his plans wherever and whenever it can. 

Another huge task will be to win over the more than 70 million people who voted for Donald Trump on election day. This will involve persuading them of the value of a democracy that cooperates with global partners and convincing them that the future Cabinet’s diversity simply reflects US society and is not some kind of dark conspiracy. 

The new administration has got its work cut out. And a lot can go wrong. The members of this administration will make mistakes despite their experience. They, too, will also put America first on many occasions, even if it means going against the wishes of close allies. Naïve, uncritical praise would be misplaced here — but tangible relief is justified. 

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