The US is supposedly joined at the hip with the UK. During the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher went to Ronald Reagan for support against Argentina. Reagan refused.
If you analyze Joe Biden’s cabinet and White House, you will notice that he has hired a bunch of people from the Obama-Biden administration, but none who really was especially close to the former president.
Biden has insisted that his administration is not going to be an Obama 3.0, and his hiring spree indicates that he is fearful that were he to induct Obama’s left and right hands, his administration could very well end up as Obama 3.0. First of all, all is not well in the kingdom of Biden and Obama.
At the end of Obama’s presidency, Biden, the vice-president, deserved to be nominated for president, but Obama threw his weight behind Hillary Clinton, who was once his fierce rival. It’s unclear until today why Obama did what he did. The excuse trotted out then was that Biden was grieving the loss of his son, Beau and in no condition to run for president.
Biden seemed consigned to the dustbin of history until he decided to run for the presidency in the 2020 cycle. Still Obama didn’t endorse Biden until after he had won the Democratic nomination. It was believed that Obama did not want to play favourites between the different Democratic presidential contenders and therefore withheld his support to Biden.
Obama has usurped Bill Clinton’s popularity in the Democratic party. He and his wife, Michelle, are clearly the new shimmering stars of the party. Even in the upcoming Senate elections in Georgia, which are crucial to the Democrats gaining control of the Senate, partymen seem to want Obama to campaign there over President-elect Biden. That is an astonishing political statement.
Obama revels in the limelight and looms large over Biden. But Biden has spent 47 years in that most ruthless of power capitals of the world, Washington, D.C.
Just look at his appointments. The most important one is that of the White House chief of staff. That has gone to Ron Klain, a former top aide of Biden’s. The new secretary of state will be Antony Blinken who worked for Biden’s failed presidential campaign in 2008.
Jake Sullivan will be one of the youngest national security advisors in history for the oldest man to assume the presidency in history. Sullivan was Biden’s national security advisor when Biden was vice-president. Janet Yellen is the new treasury secretary. She was appointed chair of the federal reserve bank by Obama.
The president-elect’s climate envoy is John Kerry, who, even though he was secretary of state during Obama’s second term, never really had the ear of his boss because Obama was reportedly the most withholding foreign policy president since Richard Nixon.
Out of Biden’s loop so far are many Obama favourites. Susan Rice, a big supporter of Obama and his national security advisor, nearly made the cut to become Biden’s vice president. But now she languishes by the wayside.
Another Obama favourite was Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor under Obama. He too has got nothing. Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, has got nothing. Valerie Jarrett was a key Obama advisor. Nothing. The list goes on and on.
Biden has got his trusted men and women in all the key places. He has not even been kind to his Democratic rivals, except to Kamala Harris, who was nasty with him during the primaries, but whom he forgave to make her his vice-president. She has a fairly thin resume, being the attorneygeneral of California, and then just a few years in the Senate, but was not seen as beholden to Obama. Biden’s primary rivals – Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang – have not found a place in his orbit so far. Some of them might land minor portfolios.
What does his hiring tell you about Joe Biden? It tells you that he’s a crafty old fox and will run his administration with an iron hand. He has installed a climate czar, but the second most important issue during the election after the pandemic was police reform or systemic racism, call it what you will.
Biden has not appointed a czar for police reform. It was one of the planks that he was elected on but one that he now seems to be brushing under the carpet. How do you remove prejudice from the system? Lyndon B. Johnson, the former US president, did his best to do so. Lincoln did it. It can be done. It needs political will and the right people for the job. Biden must not back away from police reform, otherwise the issue will come back to haunt him, just as it drowned Donald Trump.
The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas.