Biden hires Keisha Lance Bottoms as top adviser - will it make a difference?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Joe Biden is bringing former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms into his administration as a senior adviser. With the mountain of crises facing his White House, Biden seems to think if he moves the chairs around a bit and keeps bringing in new faces, his poll numbers may move in a more favorable direction.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is filling the vacancy created when Cedric Richmond bailed out as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. It’s important for Biden to pick a person of color since the whole purpose of this job is to appear to be working on matters of racial equality and social justice for minority communities. Bottoms isn’t just Black, she’s also a woman so that’s a bonus. Biden is beholden to Black voters, especially Black women voters. Richmond is working for the DNC now.

Axios has the scoop of the latest person being brought in to save Joe Biden’s presidency. Her role will be important as we move toward November and the midterm elections. Notably, she has only committed to staying in the role until the midterms, which is a rather short commitment, as it’s only five months away. She will be a part of planning and strategy sessions with access to the president.

As director of the White House Office of Public Engagement beginning in the coming weeks, Bottoms will immediately have access to some of the most high-level planning and strategy sessions in the West Wing — and to the president himself.

The role is integral to developing Biden’s policies and then convincing the broader Democratic coalition that the president is charting the right approach.
The stakes are high: Bottoms will be responsible for navigating divergent policy goals between progressives and centrists ahead of what’s expected to be an ugly midterm cycle for Democrats.

She’ll have her hands full. Biden’s problems aren’t so much personnel problems but his policies. Granted, he has hired some really inept cabinet members in order to claim historic representation in those positions – checking identity boxes instead of hiring people with actual experience – but they are carrying out his policies. Biden ran as a calm and steady moderate and immediately took a hard turn to the far-left when he came into the White House. In Joe Biden’s mind, he has a mandate to be a transformative president when he truly has no mandate. He’s a placeholder, not a transformational figure.

Bottoms plans to be a listener. She wants people to feel heard so she says she will do “more listening than anything.”

Biden and his staff are now in campaign mode. You can hear it in his speeches. He immediately launches into attacks on Republicans having long ago stopped his charade of being a unifying figure. He enjoys repeating the nonsensical label of Ultra MAGA Republicans. All Biden has left these days is his core supporters and they like the scorn he shows for the other side of the aisle. There doesn’t seem to be any real urgency in the arrival of Bottoms, as it’s reported that she will start in the next few weeks. Another reason to think this is just a short term plan for Bottoms is that she will spend most of her time in Washington while her family – she’s married with four children – will remain in Atlanta.

Bottoms has an impossible job if she is to help highlight the alleged successes of this administration. There was one bipartisan bill (barely) passed that dealt with infrastructure but other than that, Biden has failed to bring together both sides in support of his policies. He is now starting to remind audiences that Republicans refused to support his American Rescue Plan and I hope he continues to do that right up until election day. It is that massive spending bill that really threw a match on the fires of inflation and it’s a good thing that Republicans didn’t support that additional spending.

Keisha Lance Bottoms has experience as the mayor of a major city so maybe that will help. She allowed the Summer of Love riots to continue too long in Atlanta, though, and she is prone to throwing the race card for most problems. She was on Biden’s short list of vice-presidential contenders. She clearly has future goals in mind as she raises her profile by campaigning for candidates, as she did in Virginia in 2021. We’ll see if this job does anything for her. I don’t think she’ll be able to do much for the administration. They refuse to admit they have to change course on policies, not just personnel.