Democrats on the far left side of the party are not impressed so far with the people Team Biden is choosing for their administration. Rep. Cedric Richmond from Louisiana has been chosen to lead the White House Office of Public Engagement. He will be one of the highest-ranking black members of the Biden administration in his role as a senior adviser to Biden.
As John wrote yesterday, Justice Democrats and other groups are complaining about choices like that of Richmond. Justice Democrats are more interested in creating an Office of Climate Mobilization and loading up the new administration with the most progressive Democrats available. Someone who is quite pleased with the choice of Richmond, though, is House Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn. He’s even taking credit for Richmond’s move from Congress to the White House.
Asked Majority Whip Clyburn about Cedric Richmond move to WH, and he's clearly very happy about it.
"I think everybody knows I've been pushing him for this administration forever," Clyburn.
— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) November 17, 2020
Rep. Richmond is a close ally of Clyburn’s. During his ten years in the House, Richmond has established a reputation as a moderate Democrat who has a good working relationship with Republicans like Republican Whip Steve Scalise, a fellow Louisianan. Joe Biden owes a debt of gratitude to Clyburn who single-handedly can be credited for Biden’s win in the South Carolina Democrat primary. Until Clyburn gave his last-minute endorsement of Biden, Biden was trailing the other Democrats badly. Clyburn has huge sway in South Carolina, now in his 14th term in the House of Representatives. He’s been one of Speaker Pelosi’s most loyal soldiers. Black voters in South Carolina paid attention to his endorsement of Biden and voted accordingly. Without the majority of black voters in South Carolina, the primary is impossible to win for Democrats. So, Joe Biden owes Clyburn, big time.
Clyburn is a Democrat and, like Richmond, isn’t known as an extremist. His recommendation of Richmond carried weight. Don’t get me wrong, Clyburn is as hideous to President Trump and other Republicans as any other Democrat. He’s honest enough to admit that the Defund the Police garbage hurt Democrats in the election. But, elevating Richmond isn’t like elevating AOC or Rep. Barbara Lee, for example.
The climate alarmists criticize Richmond for taking money from oil and gas PACs. Well, duh. Louisiana is an oil and gas state and Richmond isn’t stupid. A fellow climate change alarmist from the AOC wing of the Democrat Party wouldn’t go over big in Louisiana, much less get elected. Justice Democrats slam Richmond for taking $92.000 from oil and gas PACs this year. Progressives demand equal representation, thus the idea of the Office of Climate Mobilization, whatever that means.
Richmond led the Congressional Black Caucus, served as Biden’s first national co-chairman, and has a large political network. Clyburn has mentored him well, apparently. There is little doubt that Biden’s team chose him to help quell the anxiety that Biden’s administration will cater to the far left. It will, of course, because it has to, but the Democrat majority in the House is becoming more and more narrow and the Senate likely will remain in Republican control. That means Biden will have to work with Republicans to get anything done legislatively. He can always resort to this pen and phone when he sees fit but for someone who fancies himself able to work with both sides of the aisle, he’ll want to at least start off his term in the White House with the appearance of doing so.
At a news conference Tuesday in New Orleans, Mr. Richmond vowed to “offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometimes when he doesn’t want it.”
Like Mr. Biden, Mr. Richmond had relatively moderate instincts on some of the most urgent political issues of the 2020 campaign — and his appointment drew an immediate rebuke from the Sunrise Movement, a group of progressive climate activists. His relationships extend across the spectrum of the Democratic caucus as well as across the aisle, and include his fellow Louisianian, Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican whip.
“His political skills get overshadowed by his baseball skills,” joked Representative Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, referring to Mr. Richmond’s status as a star of the congressional baseball game.
It is interesting to see Clyburn eager to take credit for Richmond’s promotion, given Pelosi’s pleas to Democrat members of the House to remain in the House and not accept offers from the Biden transition team. Richmond is being careful to assure his constituents that he’ll be a strong voice for Louisiana in the White House and will likely endorse a candidate to replace him in the House. His district covers the New Orleans area and is safely Democratic.
Addressing reporters, supporters and a handful of potential successors on Tuesday, Mr. Richmond vowed to keep delivering for a state that, even before the pandemic devastated the tourist economy, had some of the worst health and education outcomes in the country.
“When you talk about the needs of Louisiana, you want somebody in the West Wing,” he said, adding that he’ll remain “New Orleans through and through.”
He promised to play an “active role” in the special election to replace him in his safely Democratic district, a race that is expected to spotlight the byzantine local rivalries and alliances Mr. Richmond has navigated since his first campaign for state representative two decades ago.
In a brief interview after his news conference, he went further, saying he would “probably” make an endorsement in the race after the holidays. “It’ll be a battle,” he said.
Richmond has had his share of bad publicity.
But Richmond has faced controversy in the past, some of which emerged in his 2010 bid for office. The New York Times reported at the time that it had emerged that Richmond had been in a fight in a pool hall in 2007 — Richmond claimed he was reacting to a “belligerent drunk” who was taunting him with racial epithets.
Politico also reported that he had his law license temporarily suspended in 2008 for listing a false address when he ran for city council in 2005 — which got him removed from the ballot for that contest.
More recently, he got into hot water in 2017 when he made a joke about White House adviser Kellyanne Conway over a picture showing her kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office during a gathering.
“But I really just want to know what was going on there, because, I won’t tell anybody,” Richmond said at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s congressional dinner. “And you can just explain to me that — that circumstance, because she really looked kind of familiar there in that position there. But don’t answer. And I don’t want you to refer back to the ’90s.”
Richmond is also the guy who watched a golf tournament during a House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing. So, there’s that, too.
What on earth is Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond watching on his laptop during this impeachment markup?
To me, it looks like Rep. Richmond is watching the President’s Cup golf tournament.
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) December 13, 2019