The Zients presidency begins: Buy gold?

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Well, this certainly builds confidence in what’s coming the next two years. As expected, Joe Biden appointed longtime advisor and one-time COVID czar Jeffrey Zients to replace Ron Klain as chief of staff. The change provides the first major shake-up to a presidency that has run into the shoals of public opinion, and perhaps the first signal of changes coming as Biden prepares to run for re-election:


“When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does,” Biden said. “I’m confident that Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, steady leadership.”

The decision, which was reported last weekend, comes as Biden prepares for a reelection campaign and braces for House Republican investigations targeting the Biden administration and the president’s son, Hunter.

Zients will take over the role in the coming weeks from Klain, with whom he has developed a close relationship and who is expected to step down early next month. Klain served as Biden’s top aide for more than two years, making him the longest-serving first chief of staff for any Democratic president. Biden said that the White House would hold an official transition event next week to commemorate Klain’s role and welcome Zients. 

Wait, what? Since when do chiefs of staff get “transition events”? (Normally, they get unceremoniously canned when presidents tire of them.) Jim Geraghty wonders about this, too, and diagnoses it perfectly:

Now if Biden wants to throw Klain a goodbye party, or have some get-together to welcome Zients back to the White House, that’s his right. But it’s new, and a little odd that a change in the president’s chief of staff now warrants an “official transition event” at the White House. This isn’t naming a new captain to a U.S. Navy ship. …

No previous president ever thought that his new chief of staff needed a “official transition event” at the White House. But this administration is very, very proud of itself.


Exactly. The “official transition event” translates to “yet another self-congratulatory PR event,” as if Biden and his team have any lack of options in that effort as it is.

By the way, here’s what they’re celebrating with this mutual backslapping:

Bang-up job so far, fellas. Be sure to celebrate your public-support collapse with all the fervor it deserves.

All of this raises more questions about this transition. Just how much will the Biden administration actually transition — and in what direction? It has clearly gone the wrong direction with voters, even if Biden skated in the midterms to an extent. All of the Republican handwringing over November has obscured a couple of outcomes that give strong hints of trouble to come for Biden in 2024, assuming he runs.

First, Biden lost control of the House, although with a smaller number of flipped seats than expected. The losses there are even lower than in a normal midterm election cycle, but he lost seats in places like New York, California, and watched Florida go from purple to deep red. More troublesome, however, is the Democrats’ inability to take advantage of a large numerical imbalance in Senate elections. Republicans defended nine more seats than Democrats and had five solid incumbents retire on top of that — and yet they could only gain a single seat.

In 2024, that situation reverses and Democrats will defend at least ten more seats than Republicans in the Senate. They’ve already had one incumbent announce her retirement, Debbie Stabenow in purple-state Michigan, and face voters in multiple red states in this cycle. Team Biden will need to repair their standing with voters immediately — which is usually the main force behind “transition events” at the White House.


Is that what Zients will provide? It certainly doesn’t look that way from his track record thus far. Zients looks more like a continuity provider, someone who will pick up precisely where Klain left off. Bill Clinton mastered the triangulation maneuver, but Biden appears to be doubling down. At the very least, he’s not tipping his hand towards anything with this selection, unless Zients plans to pursue a change through replacement of Cabinet officials and other personnel.

Zients’ other plans might be a better indicator of what will come ahead. The Federalist’s Sean Davis discussed Zients’ big play in gold bullion Wednesday night with Tucker Carlson:

“Especially through the Covid [lockdowns], it was a story we saw all over the country where … the rich got richer and the poor got poorer,” said Federalist CEO Sean Davis during an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News. “My favorite excerpt from the [Jeff] Zients financial disclosure … [is] he had up to $5 million in gold bars listed on there, so he’s a real man of the people.”

Byron York said it’s more significant than just the bullion:


Good question. Like Carlson said, actions speak louder than words. And given the incompetence and demagoguery of Joe Biden and his administration over the last two years, “buy gold” may be the most competent example any of them set.

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