It’s the return of the old and the familiar that is causing part excitement and part relief after Trump’s 24/7 Twitter Presidency. Now that the transition towards a Biden administration has formally begun, there is certainty that the restoration of “normal” will eventually take place in DC’s engagements at home and abroad. While ‘Trumpism’ doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, there is a much-needed break in the offing for those who were looking for a break.
After the Trump administration’s rather incompetent attempts at what the former Trump advisor Steve Bannon had described as a daily fight for “deconstruction of the administrative state,” Biden’s top cabinet picks smack of an urge to return to form and bet on experience to do it. This is most evident in his nominations for Secretary of State (Antony Blinken), Treasury Secretary (Jennet Yellen), National Security Advisor (Jake Sullivan) and Ambassador to the UN (Linda Thomas-Greenfield).
Given the centrist credentials of Biden’s nominees that have been announced so far, especially for posts that deal with foreign policy and national security, it is expected that a potential Republican-dominated Senate will eventually vote in favor of those individuals. However, when it comes to domestic reforms, especially in tax code, immigration and healthcare, expect a rough terrain for Biden’s Treasury, Homeland and Health Secretary nominees. Those confirmation hearings are prone to fall prey to partisanship.
Hence, it is at the foreign policy front where the incoming Biden administration is more likely to govern with a more bipartisan flair (barring the issue of ‘climate change’, for which Biden has appointed John Kerry as his special envoy with an elevated status). After four years of Trump’s ‘America first’ that was panned by Biden as ‘America alone’ during the presidential campaign, even establishment Republicans are looking for resumption of America’s leadership role in the world. But it won’t be easy.
Former President Obama recently suggested that while he had confidence in Biden’s team to bring allies back into fold and put rivals on notice, he didn't expect normalcy to return quickly. To an informed outsider, it is plain that America’s credibility stands damaged around the world, thanks to a toxic cocktail of incompetence, apathy and chaos delivered over past four years through angry press conferences, ill-planned executive orders and divisive tweets. America’s woeful pandemic handling added insult to injury.
There is also the danger of a Democratic administration trying to over-correct for what it deems as failure of the past. Some of Biden’s cabinet picks, who have previously worked in the Obama administration, reportedly regretted the failure in the Obama years to promptly address the Syria humanitarian crisis, the Russian election meddling and China’s economic and security challenges. Based on their past government experience and recent statements, they are being dubbed as “liberal interventionists” by seasoned political commentators in America.
While Biden is surrounding himself with seasoned folks who have a good idea of what they have to do, it is unclear as to what extent Biden will go along in slapping sanctions on human rights violators, resolving civil wars in different regions, mediating conflicts in the Middle East and making an exit from Afghanistan. Barring Biden’s record on Iraq War (he voted for it, but regretted later), he can be described as someone with a dislike for military interventions. But his reluctance to intervene overseas is a double-edged sword: America can hardly afford a new war, but Biden cannot be seen as weak on national security either. Let’s see where the Biden years take the world.