Editorial | President-Elect Joe Biden’s New Senior Communications Team: Welcome Back, Competence and Integrity

President-elect Joe Biden’s appointments of his senior White House communications team is notable in (at least) two ways. First, it marks the return of integrity to the roles; the role that comes first to mind is that of White House press secretary. Second, it is the first senior communications team consisting entirely of women.

“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House,” said president-elect Biden. “I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

Leading the new White House communications team as White House press secretary will be Jen Psaki. Psaki held various posts in the Obama White House, including deputy White House communications director during president Obama’s first term, and White House communications director during the final two years of Obama’s second term. She was also the primary spokesperson for the State Department from 2013 to 2015.

As White House press secretary, Jen Psaki will assume the role currently held by Kayleigh McEnany, who wasted no time in her efforts to attack the media for drawing attention to the fact that Biden’s White House press team would be all female, saying that President Trump, the Vice President, and the First Lady also have senior press staff who are women.

“The completely DISCREDITED @washingtonpost once again reveals their blinding propagandist Fake News proclivities,” tweeted McEnany, in the inflammatory style influenced by the tweets of Donald Trump.

Many Americans will find it refreshing when Jen Psaki steps up to the lectern for the first time (and thereafter) as the public face of the Biden White House. After four years of witnessing exaggeration, outright lying, disrespect toward the press and the public, cowardice, and sycophancy by the Trump administration’s various press secretaries, the country is ready to see standing before them in that role an adult who values truth.

Minyon Moore, a member of the Biden-Harris transition advisory board, says of Psaki, “When she (Psaki) steps to that mic, she brings not only a sense of gravitas, but fact, transparency and honesty, and even a sense of comfort.”

Jen Psaki has shown herself to be forthright and honest in her dealings with the public, and in how she has represented former president Obama. We can expect that she won’t use false and absurd claims to cover for the president’s false and absurd claims.

We should not look for her, for example, to exaggerate the size of the crowd at Joe Biden’s inauguration, as Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, did regarding Trump’s very small inauguration crowd (“The largest ever to witness an inauguration— period.”). Or, to make up cryptic stories to explain away the unexplainable, as Spicer did when the president tweeted out “covfefe,” attempting to reassure reporters that “the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” (Who knows how that fueled QAnon’s “cabal” conspiracy theory?) Or intentionally mislead the public about a respected public servant, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders did when she said that “countless members” of the FBI had contacted her to complain about (former) FBI director James Comey (she later said that her claims were “a slip of the tongue”).

We can be reasonably certain that, unlike the press secretaries of the Trump administration, Jen Psaki won’t use gaslighting as a tool for communication. We can expect, for example, that she won’t repeatedly lie without batting an eye, or deny obvious facts, as, most recently, Kayleigh McEnany is wont to do, such as when she stated that “the president never downplayed the virus,” even though Trump’s downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic is well documented. It’s safe to assume that Jen Psaki won’t use tweets and interviews on news shows to push president-elect Biden’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories; (it’s also safe to assume that Biden does not deal in conspiracy theories or compulsive lying).

Judging from her reputation and past performance, we can expect that as White House press secretary, Jen Psaki won’t cower from truth, or from challenging or difficult questions. She is not likely, for example, to hide in the bushes, as Sean Spicer did in order to avoid facing questions about the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Nor do we expect that Psaki will hide from the press, as Stephanie Grisham, who went for more than a year without holding a single White House press briefing, did. (Sarah Sanders comes in second for the amount of time without holding a press briefing, setting three records for the most days between press briefings, prior to Grisham’s tenure.)

Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki does not have the reputation of disrespecting the press or the public, unlike her Trumpian predecessors. We can be confident, for example, that she won’t attack the media during press conferences, or refuse to say, when challenged, that the press is not in fact the enemy of the people, as her boss maintains it is.

And though Jen Psaki has expressed her admiration and respect for Joe Biden, we can expect that she won’t be a Biden sycophant. First, she has been successful on her own merits, and second, she will not be serving a president who expects complete fealty and threatens repercussions to those who cross him.

Each woman appointed to the Biden-Harris senior communications team, in fact, is known for accomplishment, experience, competence, and integrity.

    • Kate Bedingfield, who was Vice President Biden’s communications director, and served on several successful Democratic campaigns, will be communications director for the Biden White House.
    • Ashley Etienne will serve Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as communications director for the Vice President.
    • Karine Jean-Pierre, whose past roles include regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration, and chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org, has been appointed as principal deputy press secretary.
    • Symone Sanders, who was a senior advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign, and is the former chair of the Coalition of Juvenile Justice Emerging Leaders Committee and former member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, will serve as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the Vice President.
    • Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign, former deputy director for America’s Voice, former national director of Hispanic media and western regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, among other posts, will serve as deputy White House communications director.

America looks forward to the next four years with Joe Biden as president for many reasons, not the least of which is great optimism that the White House communications team will bring back not only high competence, but also transparency, respect for the press and for the public, and, what we’ve perhaps missed the most: integrity.

President-elect Joe Biden announces all-female communications team |
Reuters [2020-11-30]

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Memorable Moments Defending President Trump | The New York Times [2018-08-08]

Editorial: Can Joe Biden Succeed as President without a Democratic Senate?

The 2020 Election has been bittersweet for Democrats and others who had been hoping for a stronger referendum against Donald Trump and Trumpian politics. Joe Biden’s election as president is certainly a triumph, but as the House lost a few Democratic seats, and the Senate did not win a majority (although it could pick up two seats in Georgia runoff elections in January), our new president’s ability to pass legislation through Congress will likely be hobbled. Nevertheless, when he is president, Joe Biden can still use the power of the federal government to execute a good deal of change, as well as reverse, repair, or prevent some of the environmental, economic, and public health damage resulting from Trump’s policies and/or incompetence.

Donald Trump has governed with the executive order numerous times throughout his tenure, and Biden, as president, can use it, too.

Trump used the executive order to, among other things, overturn various Obama-era actions and policies such as withdrawing from the Paris Climate Treaty, rolling back clean energy plans and the Clean Water Rule, and rescinding the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, along with many others. Trump also used the executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization, place a ban on most travel from several Muslim-majority countries, and file the Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal (which could overturn the entire Affordable Care Act).

As president, Joe Biden plans to use the power of the executive order almost immediately to reverse numerous Trumpian executive actions. Biden plans to rejoin the World Health Organization, as well as the Paris climate accords. He will reinstate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which will allow “dreamers”— those brought to the U.S. illegally as children— to stay in the U.S., the only country they have known as they’ve grown up. He has also said that on day one as president, he will pass an executive order to establish a task force for reuniting migrant children and parents who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration, and he will stop funding for continuing construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Additionally, Biden will repeal Trump’s ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

The most pressing issue President-elect Biden must face is the global coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, he announced that he is already setting up his future administration’s own coronavirus advisory board, which will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler.

The advisory board will not wait for Biden’s inauguration to begin meeting, and will convene a few days from now. Biden has also said he plans to “restore U.S. global leadership to fight the pandemic,” signaling his intent to begin repairing relationships with other world leaders. Though he will face a Republican-led Senate, Joe Biden has high hopes of passing a new bill for another coronavirus relief package, and will begin working on it even before he takes office.

In addition to looking to science and public health experts to address the pandemic, Joe Biden has plans to help remedy the economic impact of the coronavirus on Americans. He will have executive control of hundreds of billions of dollars left to be spent from the Cares Act, which was passed in April. Biden plans to us part of those funds to increase testing, as well as to make rapid COVID testing widely available for businesses and public gathering places, which could help curb the health and economic damage from the pandemic.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a longtime Biden ally, summarized Biden’s initial agenda: “Get us out of this pandemic that’s been made far worse by Trump’s bungled mishandling of it, rebuild our economy in a way that’s more sustainable and more inclusive, and deal with division and inequality.”

A Biden Administration could accomplish much of what Senator Coons calls out, even without a Democrat-controlled Senate. In addition to executive orders, Biden’s selection of Cabinet members will be instrumental to facilitating a certain amount of the Biden/Harris agenda. The Senate must confirm Biden’s cabinet appointees, and we can expect the Republican-controlled Senate to put up roadblocks. Consequently, the Biden team is considering appointing “acting” Cabinet members.

“Just by virtue of the calendar and how many positions are filled, that’s always a possibility,” said a Biden associate. “Because the Senate moves so slowly now, so much more slowly than it used to.”

Joe Biden has said that when he is president, he plans to reach out to U.S. allies and “pick up the pieces of Donald Trump’s broken foreign policy.” He will have the advantage of having already established good relationships with leaders around the world as Vice President, as well as during his time in Congress, along with the understanding of and respect for global diplomacy that Donald Trump lacks.

In addition, President-elect Biden has plans for a global Summit for Democracy where leaders of democratic nations would discuss ways to expand human rights, as well as help prevent government corruption and authoritarianism.

There is another reason to be somewhat optimistic about what Joe Biden could get done when he takes office. He is skilled at working across the aisle to get things done, even without a Democratic-controlled Senate. In today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere, many Democrats saw this trait of Biden’s as a liability early in his campaign. Now that he is facing the possibility of a Senate that remains Republican-dominated, it may prove to be a real strength.

If the January Senate runoff elections in Georgia result in Republican wins, it will be disheartening that Joe Biden isn’t likely to achieve all that he envisions, but we still have much to be hopeful and optimistic about. We can rely on the fact that Joe Biden will be a leader who is interested in the well-being of this country and its people; who will not fill his cabinet with self-serving and corporate-serving sycophants; who has already lifted, even if only slightly, the fog of ugliness. There is much that Joe Biden can accomplish as president, beginning with offering hope.

Biden transition team prepares executive orders to reverse key Trump policies | CGTN  [2020-11-09]

Biden Focuses On COVID-19 Taskforce, Executive Orders |
Fox 5 San Diego [2020-11-09]