Joe Biden’s National Security Team Signals an Effort to End the Trump Era

President-elect Joe Biden has announced the nominees for his national security team, and they are reassuring— refreshing, even. Not only are they a diverse group of people who, as Biden says, “look like America,” they are not top Biden donors, nor are they unqualified Biden loyalists, or cronies dripping with conflicts of interest. Neither have they been convicted of lying to the FBI, or charged with fraud. Should they be confirmed, they will not need to depend on on-the-job (on-the-fly) training to get up to speed on jobs for which they are not qualified. Joe Biden’s national security team picks come with skill, experience, global respect, and integrity.

For the past four years under the Trump administration, the U.S. has felt like a henhouse that was being guarded by foxes. Members of Trump’s national security team have moved the protection of our national security increasingly lower on their list of job priorities, choosing instead to further their own interests by furthering those of Donald Trump.

They have released classified information and put U.S. intelligence operations at risk in order to help support Trump’s conspiracy theories. They have removed officials in the administration whom they perceived as disloyal (not to the country, but to Trump). And they have demonstrated that they didn’t have a clue, or a care, what it means to be the keepers of national security. Nor have they had regard for the magnitude of the danger they put Americans in as a consequence.

Joe Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines, would be the first woman to hold the position, if confirmed. Haines was deputy director of the CIA, as well as deputy national security adviser under the Obama administration. She would also be among the first in four years to bring a solid record of integrity and good judgment, along with her national security expertise, to the role.

“Mr. president-elect,” Haines said after Joe Biden announced her nomination, “You know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power.”

As for national security advisors, one of Donald Trump’s appointees (there have been six under Trump), Michael Flynn, was convicted of lying to the FBI during its investigation into Russian election interference, about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador. Incidentally, this week, Donald Trump pardoned Flynn.

Joe Biden’s nominee for national security advisor is Jake Sullivan. Sullivan was head of the State Department’s policy planning department, and was later president-elect Biden’s national security adviser while Biden was vice president. Sullivan has voiced his concern for growing authoritarianism around the world, the need to build global coalitions to stem it, and the U.S. role in that initiative.

President-elect Biden’s pick for secretary of state is Antony Blinken, who was deputy secretary of state under the Obama administration, and an aide to Joe Biden when Biden was a U.S. senator. Unlike the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Blinken is not known for alienating U.S. allies or ignoring Congressional mandates. To the contrary, Antony Blinken is known and respected around the world.

After being announced as nominee for secretary of state, Blinken related the story of his stepfather, a holocaust survivor, who, as a boy, escaped from a death march into the Bavarian woods.

“From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound,” said Blinken. “It was a tank. But instead of the iron cross, he saw painted on its side a five pointed white star. He ran to the tank. The hatch opened. An African-American GI looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war. God bless America.”

“That’s who we are,” said Blinken. “That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly,” he concluded, expressing his desire to restore the U.S. as a global force for good.

For the role of U.N. Ambassador, president-elect Biden has nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year Foreign Service veteran. Thomas-Greenfield’s State Department career has included Director General of the Foreign Service, and ambassador to Liberia. She was Assistant Secretary for African Affairs from 2013 until 2017, when Donald Trump fired her as part of his purge of the State Department.

Following Biden’s announcement of her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield tweeted, “My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service — and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.”

Biden’s pick for homeland security secretary is Alejandro Mayorkas. Mayorkas, who is Cuban American, also made a reference to his parents, citing his immigrant background.

“My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism,” he said. “They cherished our democracy, and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I.”

The Biden administration has added a new cabinet position, that of special envoy for climate change, signaling that the Biden administration, unlike the current administration, recognizes that climate change is not a hoax, and that it is a national security concern. Biden has nominated former secretary of state John F. Kerry for the role. On day one of his presidency, Biden, who has stated the importance of addressing climate change and making it a part of global relations, plans to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement, from which Donald Trump withdrew the U.S.

“The president-elect is right to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Day One,” tweeted Kerry following Biden’s announcement of his nomination. “And he is right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough. All nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option.”

President-elect Biden has been asked whether so many nominees from the Obama administration will, in effect, amount to a third Obama term. Biden responded that the world is different now than what it was before Donald Trump’s presidency.

“This is not a third Obama term,” said Biden, “because … we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama/Biden administration. President Trump has changed the landscape. It’s become America first. It’s been America alone.”

“America’s back,” Biden said later. “We’re at the head of the table once again. I’ve spoken with over 20 world leaders and, they all are literally, they were pleased and somewhat excited, America’s gonna reassert its role in the world and be a coalition builder.”

We Americans are pleased and somewhat excited, as well. It will be a challenge for the Biden administration to get things done— or even to get its cabinet picks confirmed—should the Senate stay in Republican hands come January 5. Just knowing, however, that it is the end of the Trump era, that we once again have a president who is concerned with our national security, who is a competent man of integrity, and who picks competent people of integrity to serve with him, is enough for now.


Biden announces top foreign policy and national security picks |
CBS Evening News [2020-11-23]

Meet Biden’s National Security Cabinet Picks in 2 Minutes | Bloomberg Quicktake [2020-11-24]

Editorial: Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis Hasn’t Changed a Thing

Deep in our hearts, we knew that it would be too much to ask that Donald Trump, after testing positive for COVID-19, would have a change of mind in the way he has responded to the virus as a pandemic, or that he would begin to take the virus seriously. And now, many Americans, even the best among us, are also finding it too much to ask to offer thoughts and prayers, healing energy, or any other expression of wishes for Donald Trump to get well soon.

Maybe it would be different if Trump hadn’t downplayed the coronavirus for 10 months and allowed, without concern, more than 200,000 Americans to die. “It is what it is,” he said.

Maybe if he hadn’t politicized face masks, repeatedly made fun of them, and encouraged his supporters not to wear them, it would  have been easier to root for him in the first moments when we learned he was being hospitalized with the virus.

If Trump hadn’t encouraged people to rebel against public health guidelines and reinforced the idea that such guidelines were “tyranny” instead of common sense, maybe searches on the word, “schadenfreude” wouldn’t have shot up by 30,500 percent (according to Merriam-Webster) in the morning hours after learning of Trump’s positive COVID-19 result.

Maybe if Donald Trump hadn’t encouraged thousands of his supporters to gather closely together, maskless, to distribute droplets among themselves as they shouted their fealty to him, he wouldn’t have disgusted other Americans with how little he valued his supporters’ lives in comparison to their adulation; or how he places even less value on the lives of Americans who are not his supporters.

Maybe if he hadn’t participated, in person, in a presidential debate with former Vice President Joe Biden when he almost certainly knew he had been exposed to COVID-19, we’d wish Trump a good recovery as if he were a decent person.

We don’t have to wish Donald Trump ill, or pray that he suffers. We can just wish nothing at all. Still, it might be different, but for the grief, suffering, and loss that has resulted from his failure to lead during the coronavirus pandemic, and his callousness toward it.

Maybe if Trump hadn’t waited to talk about the coronavirus until it was him who became infected.

Maybe if he hadn’t carelessly exposed his secret service personnel to his sickness while he forced them to sit with him in a hermetically sealed car for the sake of a drive-by photo-op. Maybe if he hadn’t also disregarded the safety of the Marine One pilots who flew him to and from Walter Reed Medical Center; or his entire staff, from cleaning crew to senior aides— and their families.

Maybe if he had been honest with Americans from the beginning about his COVID-19 diagnosis.

Maybe if he hadn’t stood on the White House steps after demanding to leave the hospital, and taken off his mask for a photo-op, carelessly exposing more people in the White House to the coronavirus.

And maybe if he weren’t preparing to take health care away from millions of Americans by arguing the unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

Many Americans, whether wishing Donald Trump well, experiencing some schadenfreude about his diagnosis, or wishing him nothing at all, were still hopeful that, at last, Donald Trump would be forced to acknowledge the seriousness of COVID-19. Maybe a seed of empathy or caring would sprout from Trump’s firsthand experience with the virus. And surely, we thought, he’d begin urging people to wear masks and be cautious.

Instead, any hopefulness we may have had was met with Donald Trump’s tweet as he prepared to leave Walter Reed Medical Center: “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

As if a helicopter ride, a fun drive-by photo-op, and a jaunt through the hospital with treatments that aren’t even available to other Americans, were in any way similar to the tragic, painful, debilitating experiences many other Americans have had with COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases are rising within the White House. The president has instructed aides to keep quiet about their positive test results, should they have them. He will no doubt return to mocking mask-wearing, and though CDC guidelines demand that he isolate himself for at least 10 days, he already has plans to return to the campaign trail. Trump has learned nothing, and his supporters, in turn, have learned nothing. COVID-19 infections and deaths will continue to escalate.

We don’t have to wish an ill fate on Donald Trump. We don’t even have to wish him anything at all. But, even following his positive COVID-19 test results, it’s difficult to muster any well wishes for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump to leave hospital after being treated for COVID-19 |
Sky News [2020-10-05]

Here’s what you need to know about President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis | CNBC  [2020-10-05]