Joe Biden Will Bore You Now

My morning dissent: Nov. 24, 2020.

While every day of the Trump administration presented a new roller coaster, Joe Biden is charting a much more conventional course, stocking his Cabinet with Obama vets most people haven’t heard enough about to be offended by. 

ANTHONY BLINKEN: The most important of these picks is Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state

  • A longtime foreign policy adviser, Blinken “has been described as having a ‘mind meld’ with Biden on a range of issues that will be important in his early tenure.”

  • He served as Bill Clinton’s foreign policy speechwriter, was the staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair, and worked for Biden when he was VP before joining President Obama’s staff as deputy secretary of state.  

  • “He has been described as having a centrist view of the world, but has also supported interventionist positions. He once broke with Biden and supported military action in Libya, for example. During the Obama administration, he advocated for American action in Syria. His reputation as a nonideological consensus-builder is also in the mold that Biden is attempting to craft in his administration.”

  • He also pushed Biden toward voting for the Iraq War

  • His first priorities: rejoin the Paris accord, stop the US from leaving the WHO, and restore the Iran nuclear deal.

  • After leaving the Obama White House, Blinken and Michèle Flournoy—a possible defense secretary—founded a consulting firm that apparently helps tech companies get Pentagon contracts, though it won’t name its clients.

  • Matt Duss, Bernie Sanders’s foreign policy adviser, immediately endorsed the decision. Other progressives have been less enthusiastic, given his interventionist streak. 

  • Also: Blinken has a band called (sound it out) Ablinken. Listen on Spotify here

THE REST: John Kerry will be Biden’s climate czar. Lately, he’s been involved in a project called World War Zero, which aims to get elites on board with the idea that climate change is, in fact, a problem. 

The whole point is that right now, there’s too much polarization. There’s too much ideology. There’s too much pitting people in one program against another, whether it’s AOC and the Green New Deal versus a carbon fee—whatever it is. People are missing the point that right now, we’re not collectively demanding accountability overall in the political structure to make climate change a primary issue. We’ve got to start there.

Also—no surprise here—former Fed chair Janet Yellen will go to Treasury. She’ll be the first woman to have that job. 

Some other firsts among Biden’s other choices: 

  • Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American, will be the first Latino secretary of homeland security. His first tweet after the announcement signaled that the Biden administration will be much more open to refugees than its predecessor. 

  • Avril Haines will be the first woman director of national intelligence

His national security picks—who also include national security adviser Jake Sullivan and UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield—comprise 

former senior officials from the Obama administration, most of whom worked closely together at the State Department and the White House and in several cases have close ties to Mr. Biden dating back years. They are well known to foreign diplomats around the world and share a belief in the core principles of the Democratic foreign policy establishment—international cooperation, strong U.S. alliances and leadership, but a wariness of foreign interventions after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WHAT IT MEANS: A desire for a steady, competent, boring government that doesn’t perpetually leak, backstab, and generate tornadoes of headlines. For better or worse, that will likely lead to an administration of insiders and longtime Democratic hands. 

  • Pros: Fewer scandals and off-the-charts boneheaded decisions. 

  • Cons: Groupthink, a bias toward the way things have always been done.

  • Worth noting: All have previously passed background checks. With the Trump administration currently denying the Biden team access to transition resources, that might be a factor in Biden’s decision-making. Or they might just be people Biden knows and trusts.  

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6 Stories to Read Today

  1. “Our ability to detect lying versus truthful witnesses is mediocre. The meta-analysis by Bond and DePaulo, based on a database of more than 25,000 veracity judgments, showed that the average score was at chance level (54% correct), and that none of the professions that we might expect to be good lie detectors—police investigators, psychiatrists, interviewers in recruiting companies—scored better than laypersons. Due to the clever experimental designs and creative use of real-life situations by highly competent researchers over the last few decades, we have got an answer to the critical question of whether we can detect deceit by looking at peoples' behavior; the answer is no.” (Frontiers in Psychology)

  2. “The head of the General Services Administration said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that her office is ready to begin the formal presidential transition, after weeks of pressure from Democrats to allow the process to go ahead. ‘I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,’ GSA head Emily Murphy said in the letter.” (WaPo)

  3. “When it comes to political discourse, educated Trump voters are more likely than working-class Trump supporters to view politics as a zero-sum game and to have less tolerance for disagreement with political opponents. Trump supporters with college degrees are also considerably more distrusting of experts than people with college degrees who live in small towns and rural areas, so there really is something about Trumpism that is more powerful than geography and demographics.” (The Dispatch)

  4. “House Democrats are pushing to adopt a Senate-backed measure that would strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases over a slower timeline as they look to break an impasse with Senate Republicans and the White House on defense policy legislation. … President Donald Trump has promised to veto defense legislation that would strip the names, equating doing so to rewriting U.S. history.” (Politico)

  5. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a visit that would mark a significant shift in the historically hostile relations between the Jewish state and the Arab power that is home to Islam’s holiest sites. … According to the Israeli publication Ynet, Netanyahu spent only a few hours late Sunday in the Saudi coastal city of Neom, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo. In August, Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to establish formal relations and open up trade, security, and tourism ties. … [In] recent weeks, speculation has risen in Israel that Riyadh and Jerusalem are close to a similar agreement.” (WaPo)

  6. “As President-elect Joe Biden moves deliberately to transition towards the White House, even while Trump refuses to accept defeat, he has laid out a fast-paced agenda to unwind Trump’s harsh immigration policies. But even if Biden quickly orders a final end to family separations and re-opens the border for asylum-seekers, his plans could stall without action at the Justice Department, which holds extensive power over the immigration system. … Biden’s justice officials will have to contend with an immigration appeals court loaded by Barr with conservative judges known for denying asylum.” (The Marshall Project)

Quick Hits

Thanks for reading. These morning newsletters will become a more regular feature … starting next week, after the holiday. —JCB