What Biden's cabinet picks spell for U.S. policy
Bradley Blankenship

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Thanksgiving week 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal moment in American history. On November 23, over 100 former Republican national security officials denounced U.S. President Donald Trump's refusal to concede in the 2020 presidential election, calling it a threat to national security and the country's democratic institutions. 

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is moving ahead undeterred to build a tangible cabinet with or without cooperation from the current administration.

This tumult in government is all taking place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that is tearing through the country in full force, probably set to be as bad or potentially worse as the country's first tangle with the virus in the spring. 

Many parts of the country's interior are seeing record infection spikes, rapidly filling hospitals and seeing critical staff shortages while other parts hit hard in the first wave, such as New York, are seeing an alarming resurgence.

To make matters worse, the Thanksgiving holiday is predicted to be a major nationwide super spreader event. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. surgeon general and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, all warned people not to travel for the holidays, but they are doing so at levels not seen since before mid-March when COVID-19 restrictions took hold across the country. 

President Donald Trump, who has refused to accept the results of his electoral defeat in this year's presidential election, is sitting idly by as this all unfolds. Even during the G20 Riyadh summit over the weekend, the president was absent during a pandemic preparedness discussion among world leaders, choosing instead to play a round of golf, and seemed to be in another reality during the summit's opening remarks.

Unprompted, Trump touted the accomplishments of his administration – many of which were outright falsehoods of misleading – and told leaders he looked forward to working with them into the future despite having lost his reelection bid.

The summit's greatest results were achieved totally without U.S. involvement, which may end up being a common theme for the long-term. At the same time, leaders are obviously hopeful that Joe Biden will be much more engaged, cooperative and forward-thinking in his approach to global affairs.

If Biden's cabinet picks reflect anything then it's exactly this; he is poised to surround himself with exactly the kind of people everyone was expecting, which should be a great sigh of relief for world leaders seeking consistency from Washington.

Expected to be formally announced on November 24, Biden's picks are almost all alumni of former President Barack Obama's administration that Biden also served in. They represent a total undoing of Trump's war against well-delineated U.S. foreign policy, for better or worse.

Perhaps his biggest pick, Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state who Biden has fielded for secretary of state, is as establishment as it gets. 

While a diplomat unlike the current secretary of state, he represents some of the establishment's worst tendencies – the revolving door between Washington and big business, having co-founded a firm to help tech companies acquire Pentagon contracts, and also a commitment to "just" intervention in other countries' affairs.

That is to say that Blinken would probably, for example, see the U.S. back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; the Iran nuclear deal) and see re-engagement in multilateral institutions and treaties, but he will also be aggressive in other fronts. 

This is well-reflected in his deep involvement in crafting the Obama administration's Syria policy and the fact that he was one of the architects of the administration's response to the 2014 Crimean Crisis.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2016. /AP

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2016. /AP

The former vice president also tapped his former national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to serve this post for him again as he enters the White House. Sullivan is an alumni of the State Department and played a pivotal role in U.S. Middle East policy, having been a lead negotiator in the formation of the JCPOA and the 2012 ceasefire in Gaza.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former ambassador with a deep understanding and appreciation for developing countries, particularly in Africa, will be nominated as ambassador to the United Nations (UN). This may be a clear signal that the U.S. intends to meet its commitments to the UN in peacekeeping missions and paying arrears.

Alejandro Mayorkas, an immigrant and a former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that helped devise the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, will get the nod for Homeland Security secretary. He would be the first Latino to serve in this position and would be expected to reverse the Trump administration's egregious policies toward immigrants.

Biden will also name former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his "climate czar," which is a sign that the U.S. will take the threat of climate change seriously and immediately get to work on rejoining and meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Controversially, Biden will nominate Avril Haines, an outspoken supporter of President Trump's nomination of Gina Haspel, to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to be director of national intelligence. This shows a clear continuity in American policy that war criminals and torturers will face no career repercussions.

To put it very simply, Biden's cabinet picks are a return to the not-so-distant past. They are a dream team of the political establishment that stood in power in the pre-Trump era, but the world has changed considerably since that time. They certainly have their work cut out for them in trying to rebuild America – rebuilding it better, as they say – and it remains to be seen whether the politics of yesteryear will stand up for that challenge.

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