The event offered millions of Americans their first opportunity to hear directly from Biden’s nominees, who have decades of experience in foreign policy but are not necessarily household names.
Taken together, their remarks previewed an approach to foreign policy that seems diametrically opposed to the one that President Donald Trump has pursued for the past four years.
There was no talk of “America first” and no hint of crackdowns on immigration or refugees. There were no corporate CEOs or career military officers named to high posts and no suggestions that U.S. foreign policy needs to serve economic interests through trade deals and bilateral purchasing agreements.
Instead, the nominees spoke of the importance of reestablishing America’s moral leadership, championing human rights and strengthening multilateral relationships with allies and democracies around the world.
While few Republicans doubted the raw qualifications of Biden’s nominees, there was already grumbling on Tuesday from GOP senators about the new approach. Biden will likely need the votes of at least a few Republicans in order to confirm his nominees to their posts.
“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,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted Tuesday. “I support American greatness and I have no interest in returning to the “normal” that left us dependent on China.”
Yet judging from Biden’s past statements on China, his incoming administration is poised to take a tougher line with America’s top economic adversary than President Barack Obama did.
Below are some highlights from the nominees:
Blinken: “We have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence. Humility because as the president-elect said, we can’t solve all the world’s problems alone. We need to be working with other countries, we need their cooperation and we need their partnership. But also confidence, because America at its best still has a greater ability than any other country on Earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time.”
Mayorkas: “The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission to help keep us safe, and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome … My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I.”
Thomas-Greenfield: “My fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world, I want to say to you: America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”
Haines: “Mr. President-elect, you know that I’ve never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as director of national intelligence … you would never want me to do otherwise, and you value the perspective of the intelligence community, [and] will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult. And I assure you, there will be those times.”
Sullivan: Mr. President-elect, “You have also tasked us with putting people at the center of our foreign policy. You have told us the alliances we rebuild, the institutions we lead, the agreements we sign, all of them should be judged by a basic question — will this make life better, easier, safer for families across this country?”
Kerry: “The road ahead is exciting. It means creating millions of middle-class jobs, it means less pollution in our air and our oceans, it means making life healthier for citizens across the world, and it means we will strengthen the security of every nation in the world. In addressing the climate crisis, President-elect Joe Biden is determined to seize the future now and leave a healing planet to future generations.”