Saturday, December 26, 2020

Filling in the Blanks: The Balance of Biden's Cabinet Picks

Every President wants to make their mark. They look to standout; to make a statement. One way is their choices for Cabinet. After all, they reflect on the President and his policies. Last week's article gave you a good picture of what you can expect from President-elect Biden. This week, we will fill in the details.

Biden's choice for Secretary of the Interior is Deb Haaland, the first Native American (her father is of Norwegian ancestry and her mother is of the Jemez Pueblo tribe) to head that department. She will be responsible for not just federally owned parks and natural resources, but for tribal lands as well.

She supports AOC's "Green New Deal", Medicare for All, and abolishing ICE.  She has a law degree from New Mexico's School of Law with an emphasis in Indian Law. Rep. Haaland is Catholic and a single mom. She currently represents New Mexico in Washington. 

Pete Butteigieg is slated to head up the Department of Transportation. Butteigieg is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana and former U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.  He attended Harvard (majoring in history and literature) and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He will be the first gay Secretary of Transportation. His partner is Chasten Glezman, a teacher, writer, and LGBQT activist. He previously worked on John Kerry's presidential campaign and for several global management consulting firms.

Butteigieg identifies as a "democratic capitalist", which combines capitalism with a strong welfare state, emphasizing a reduction of "excessive" individualistic freedoms. It also supports expansion of collective bargaining and competition laws.

Jennifer Granholm has been picked to be the Secretary of Energy. Ms. Granholm is the former Attorney General and Governor of Michigan. She has been a political commentator for CNN. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, her family moved to the United States when she was four years old. She graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and French. She then went on to attended Harvard Law School.

She served on a number of boards of directors, mainly involved with the automotive, financial services, and defense industries. She worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential Campaign.  Ms. Granholm is married to Dan Mulhern, a graduate of Yale University's School of Theology.

Neera Tanden is Biden's choice for Director of the Office of Budget and Management (OMB). Neera is a political consultant and president of the left-center Center for American Progress, a influential Democrat think tank designed to counter conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the libertarian oriented Cato Institute.

Neera, who describes herself as a "Clinton loyalist", has worked extensively for the Clintons and the Obama Administration, where she helped draft the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").  Previously she served in the Clinton Administration as a associate director of domestic policy and worked on energy and healthcare issues.  Ms. Tanden was the domestic policy advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Ms Tanden worked on Hillary Clinton's Senatorial campaign and stayed on as her legislative director. She worked on Hillary's 2016 primary and general campaigns.  A graduate of UC Los Angeles, she obtained her law degree from Yale University.  She is married Ben Edwards, who is an artist.

Next on the list is Brian Deese, nominee for White House Economic Advisor. Deese was the senior political and economic advisor to President Obama. He previously served as the deputy director of the OMB and National Economic Council. He is currently the Global Head of Sustainable Investing for BlackRock, a global investment management corporation. Deese also had worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and then went to work for the Obama campaign.

Deese obtained a BA degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and then earned a law degree from Yale University.  After graduating, he went to work for the Center for American Progress as a senior economic policy analyst.  During his tenure with the Obama Administration, he was involved with the automotive industry bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. He is married.

The unenviable job of White House Press Secretary will fall to Jennifer Psaki. She was the White House Communications Director under President Obama and previously, a spokesperson for the Obama State Department.  She also served as the Deputy Press Secretary during the Obama Administration. Ms. Psaki appears as a political commentator on CNN.

Ms. Psaki graduated from William & Mary College with a degree in English. After graduating she worked as deputy press secretary for the John Kerry 2004 presidential campaign. She is married to Greg Mecher, the deputy finance director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The White House Domestic Policy Director will be Susan Rice. That name should be a name familiar. She was ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor under President Obama. Most notably, she was caught up in the fiasco of Benghazi, triggered by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's illegal weapons sales. She was also a strong advocate for the invasion of Libya and the subsequent assassination of Gaddafi. 

Dr. Rice supported reopening relations with Cuba, the Paris Accords on Climate Change, and the Iranian Nuclear Deal. She is an advocate for anti-poverty policies as well as strengthening rights for LGBQT and people with disabilities. 

Dr. Rice attended Stanford University and Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar where she obtained her PhD in International Relations. She worked for the Clinton Administration on the National Security Council and assistant secretary on African Affairs. She joined the Brookings Institute, a non-partisan think tank, before working as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, and Barack Obama.  

In addition to her long political career, Dr. Rice has served on the board of directors of Netflix, several global management consulting firms and the Council of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Rice is married to Ian Cameron, an executive producer at ABC.

America has long been losing the battle when it comes to education. Although we currently rank second (just behind the UK) in educational systems, we rank in the second tier when it comes to the basics---math, reading, and science. Domestically, our schools struggled with attendance, absentee parents, top heavy (and often overpaid) administrators, underpaid teachers, and inadequately funded classrooms. The result is often throwing more money at the problems without any serious accountability and higher taxes (as in Kentucky).

The individual heading up the Department of Education has a lot of work ahead of them if our schools are brought up to par with the rest of the world and we are to remain competitive.  Biden's choice for Secretary of Education is Dr. Miguel Cardona.

Miguel Cardona is Puerto Rican. He grew up in a housing project in Connecticut where Spanish was his first language. He graduated from Central Connecticut State University with BS in Education. He obtained a MA degree in Bilingual Education from the University of Connecticut (UConn), followed by a Education Specialist Certificate, and a Doctorate in Education.

In 2019, he was appointed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lemont as Commissioner of Education. It's worth nothing that he was brought to President-elect Biden's attention by Linda Darling-Hamilton, who is handling the transition team for Biden, which she also did for incoming President Barack Obama.

With the ongoing pandemic, the Office of the Surgeon General will play a much more visible role than usual. Dr. Vivek Murthy has been selected for that position.  Dr. Murthy will be the first Surgeon General of Indian heritage (both of his parents immigrated from India).  Dr. Murthy will co-chair Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board along with David Kessler, the former Food and Drug Commissioner, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale public health professor.

Dr. Murthy was born in Yorkshire, England. When he was three years old, his parents moved to Miami Florida, where his father, a medical doctor, opened his practice. Dr. Murthy earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard and then a MBA and MD from Yale University. He is founder and president of Doctors for America, which promotes universal healthcare.

He was appointed by President Obama to several committees pertaining to medical and health policies within the Health and Human Services Department. Dr. Murthy is also active on issues pertaining to climate change and its effects on overall health. Dr. Murthy is married to Alice Chen, also a medical professional and current president of Doctors for America.

Closely tied to the Office of Surgeon General is the Office of Disease Control and Prevention. Biden has chosen Dr. Rochelle Walensky to be its new director.  Dr. Walensky is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. A physician and medical scientist, she regarded as an expert in AIDS/HIV research. She is also considered a leading expert in COVID-19 research as well. Dr. Walensky is Jewish and married to Dr. Loren Walensky, a pediatric hematology and oncology specialist.   

The Chief Medical Advisor on COVID-19 will be Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci should be familiar to most Americans by now. He is often seen and heard on TV and radio, particularly political talk shows. He has also testified before several Congressional hearings on the virus. Dr. Fauci is immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

Dr. Fauci is the rare exception in Biden's Cabinet picks in that he's the only holdover from the Trump Administration. Perhaps that's because he's regarded as one of the top world authorities on infectious diseases, and in particular, the COVID-19 virus. He is also an expert on AIDS/HIV research. In addition, Dr. Fauci has served in every administration going back to President Ronald Reagan.

As one would expect, Dr. Fauci is of Italian ancestry; his father was a pharmacist. He attended Holy Cross College and obtained a degree in the classics. He went on to attend Cornell University's Medical College, graduating first in his class.  He is a former Catholic and identifies as a Humanist.

In 1968 he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a clinical associate at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His long career has focused on diseases such as Ebola, AIDS/HIV, SARS, MERS, and developing bio-defense drugs and vaccines. Dr. Fauci is married to Christine Grady, a nurse and Chief of Bioethics Department at the NIH Clinical Center. 

Taken with last week's article, this rounds out Biden's key Cabinet picks with the exception of Labor Secretary (I expect he will name Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI)). Many will require Senate approval before assuming their jobs. Typically, incoming presidents get great leeway, I expect most, if not all, to pass muster. All are pretty bright, but a few (like Susan Rice and Janet Yellen) aren't without controversy. Practically all attended Ivy league schools. A few are noteworthy for being the first this or that.

Nevertheless, Biden's choices are overwhelmingly retreads from Clinton and Obama administrations. But, if we look at them in the aggregate, what do they tell us? They seem to indicate that Biden sticks with the familiar. He wants a return to the status quo. He is cautious. He doesn't like taking chances or rocking the boat. This administration will seek to undo much that President Trump did and attempt to continue the Clinton/Obama legacy.  That is their "Great Reset" and it will affect all of us.


Here's who Joe Biden has selected for his Cabinet

Biden's Administration: Here's Who has Been Named So Far





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