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: Do Your Job, Emily Murphy!

Emily Murphy has demonstrated that with Donald Trump in office, even the systems we took for granted and thought would never break—like the lawful transition of presidential power—are breaking under the weight of corruption and sycophancy. As administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), Emily Murphy is the one whose job it is to ascertain the presidential election, certifying former Vice President Joe Biden as the winner and president-elect. But Emily Murphy refuses to do so.

Emily Murphy knows that without her ascertainment of the election, president-elect Biden and his team cannot move forward with the transition process. This means that the president-elect is not allowed access to intelligence briefings or executive branch agencies, or even the members of the current White House coronavirus task force. He is also not allowed access to designated office space or to essential funds to support his team’s transition. All of this is pleasing to Donald Trump.

It’s clear that Donald Trump has been working his plan to make Joe Biden’s presidency as difficult as possible, with no regard for the domino effect it will have on our country and its people for years to come. But along with Trump, Emily Murphy is aware of the danger of preventing the next president from being able to prepare adequately to take office. Murphy is not a sixth-grader; she is an attorney who understands the democratic process. Disappointingly, like her current boss, she appears to suffer from severe disregard.

We could give Emily Murphy more benefit of the doubt, though. Maybe she’s waiting for a sign. Or something. Some have speculated that her inaction is based on the fact that she considers the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore as the precedent; the results of the 2000 election were decided by the Supreme Court more than a month after Election Day.

But that “precedent” begins to sound more like an excuse when we consider that the 2000 election hinged on a very close race in one state: Florida. The margin between the two candidates, again, in that one state, was only a little over five hundred votes. The Associated Press hadn’t yet called it. After a recount, the margin narrowed even more. The Supreme Court ruled in Republican George Bush’s favor, and Al Gore quickly and graciously conceded.

Does Murphy expect the outcome of this election to go to the Republican-heavy Supreme Court, and then for Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, to be declared the winner? She is a lawyer. She should understand precedents.

In the 2020 election, Biden has won by tens of thousands of votes in numerous states, and with 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 232. His victory was clear enough that the Associated Press called it. Donald Trump would need to turn over not one, but three states in order to reverse the results of the election. And though Trump has brought numerous lawsuits to contest the election outcomes of various states, he has lost or been laughed out of court with all but one, and the one was ultimately reversed. 2000 was not exactly (or at all) a precedent for this election.

Some close associates to Murphy are convinced that she wants to “do the right thing,” but she can’t decide what that is. What a quandary: Bow to a petty, despotic president by continuing to block the president-elect from moving forward, thereby delaying processes that would preserve the democratic process and our faith in it, protect our national security, and even save lives from a deadly virus? Or allow the routine and lawful presidential transition process to take place, which is what is supposed to happen, since Joe Biden, by both electoral and individual vote margins is the clear winner of the election?

When asked what he saw as the biggest threat to his transition, given Trump’s unprecedented attempts to obstruct and delay a smooth transfer of power, Joe Biden replied “More people may die.”

Gee whiz, what’s a GSA administrator to do?

It would be good if this GSA administrator could just do her job. But, like so many other Trump appointees, Emily Murphy demonstrates that loyalty to Donald Trump takes precedence over loyalty to country and to doing one’s job well, and with integrity. Like the Republicans who remain silent, Emily Murphy is complicit in Donald Trump torching of democracy.

Biden forges ahead with transition as Trump administration holds up resources | CBS News [2020-11-09]

GSA Appointee Delays Biden Transition Process, Citing Need For ‘Clear’ Winner | Bloomberg Quicktake:Now  [2020-11-10]