Antony J Blinken
Antony J Blinken

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named the deeply experienced Antony Blinken for secretary of state, also nominating the first female head of intelligence and a czar for climate issues, with a promise to a return to expertise after the turbulent years of Donald Trump.

As Trump continued to make flailing attempts at overturning the results of the election three weeks ago, Biden’s rollout of cabinet names was his biggest step yet to signaling he is ready to take over on January 20.

The list put out by Biden’s team ahead of a formal announcement on Tuesday demonstrated a push to lower the temperature in Washington and restore traditional US leadership abroad.

“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” Biden said in a statement.

“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative.” Blinken, a former number two of the State Department and a longtime advisor, will spearhead a fast-paced dismantling of Trump’s disruptive “America first” policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden named the first woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence, and the first Latino, Alejandro Mayorkas, to head the Department of Homeland Security, whose policing of tough immigration restrictions under Trump was a frequent source of controversy.

Signaling the Democratic president-elect’s campaign promise to raise the profile of global warming threats, he named former secretary of state John Kerry as a new special envoy on climate issues.

And in a further message of US re-engagement with the international community, Biden named career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador. Jake Sullivan, who advised Biden when he was vice president under Barack Obama, was named national security advisor.

The picks underline an emphasis on professionals whom Biden already knows well, in contrast to the Trump White House where officials were often picked without having traditional background for the job or proved incompatible and departed in acrimony.

The announcements come against an unprecedented backdrop of Trump refusing to concede defeat and blocking Biden’s access to the normal process for preparing an incoming government.

So far only a slowly growing minority of Republican leaders has denounced Trump’s conspiracy theory that mass fraud robbed him of victory, despite there being no evidence for this.

Many of Biden’s cabinet picks will require confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, although this would change if Democrats score an upset victory in two Georgia Senate runoff elections.

Trump remains defiant in spite of repeated failures by his legal team to prove their allegations in court.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020

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