Biden's reported SecState pick is about as vanilla as they come

Biden's reported SecState pick is about as vanilla as they come

Joe Biden is expected to announce his first few cabinet picks tomorrow and, as usual, the names are already leaking out in advance to spoil the surprise. Most of the attention will likely be focused on his choice for Secretary of State. Despite having promised the progressives in his party’s base one of the “most diverse administrations” ever seen, the reported choice for the head of the State Department is yet another cisgender straight white male. Antony “Tony” Blinken is a familiar name around the swamp, being an alum of the Obama administration.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.

In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.

It looks like Biden is aiming to go with what’s perceived as a “safe” choice in this case. If you’re looking for someone with the requisite experience and qualifications, it’s hard to complain much about Blinken, at least if you’re a Democrat. He’s served as a Deputy Secretary of State and also as a national security adviser. Diplomats from other countries are already familiar with him, so he won’t have all that much of a learning curve upon stepping into the role.

Blinken also shouldn’t run into too much trouble in the confirmation process. Biden is clearly aware that there’s a very good chance he will be dealing with a GOP majority in the Senate so he’s no doubt looking to avoid any food fights that could result in the awkward prospect of having his early picks shot down. One of the other names that was being tossed around for the State Department was Susan Rice, but given her lengthy record under Obama, there might not have been a single Republican that would have voted for her. (Aside from Mitt Romney, of course.)

It wasn’t all wine and roses for Blinken among the Democrats, however. Rashida Tlaib immediately popped up expressing worries that he’s insufficiently antisemitic.

We could be seeing some early signs of the sort of unrest that Biden could run into if he’s sworn in as the next president. Unlike Donald Trump, who entered the office beholden to virtually no one, Biden has lengthy ties to far too many people in the swamp, and many of them will be expecting to be repaid for their former loyalty. Going that route could result in some very status quo picks by Status Quo Joe. But with Biden’s noisiest progressive supporters already laying out their demands in terms of what they expect in return for their votes, too many vanilla appointments could lead to an uprising from the left flank of Biden’s own party.

If Biden veers too far toward the radical socialist end of the spectrum to satisfy “The Squad” and their supporters and Cocaine Mitch is still running the show in the upper chamber, Uncle Joe could wind up with a bunch of “acting” department heads just like Trump did. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants after we were promised a “return to normality” if Biden was elected?

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