NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden appoints Ron Klain as his incoming White House Chief of Staff

Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden named Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff on Wednes­day, the first pick for the future Biden administration’s Cab­i­net. The chief of staff is nor­mal­ly one of the most pow­er­ful roles in Wash­ing­ton D.C., since the role involves man­ag­ing access to the Pres­i­dent and plan­ning their schedule.

Klain (left) advised the Obama Administration during the West African Ebola epidemic.


Klain (left) advised the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing the West African Ebo­la epi­dem­ic. (Pho­to: the White House, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Klain is high­ly expe­ri­enced at fed­er­al pol­i­tics; he worked as Biden’s vice-pres­i­den­tial Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2011, and has served in vary­ing roles under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Janet Reno, and a num­ber of Sen­ate com­mit­tees. Per­haps most impor­tant­ly, giv­en the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, Klain served as the White House’s Ebo­la Response Coor­di­na­tor at the height of the West African Ebo­la epidemic.

Klain was picked for his close per­son­al ties to Joe Biden. He has worked with the Pres­i­dent-elect ever since the 1980s, serv­ing in all three of Biden’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns (1988, 2008, and 2020), as well as advis­ing Biden when the lat­ter was serv­ing as a U.S. sen­a­tor. Klain’s appoint­ment is a sign that, rather than con­scious­ly hew­ing to the pro­gres­sive or neolib­er­al wings of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, Biden is like­ly to appoint inhab­i­tants of “Biden­world” to top positions.

Although Klain is a Capi­tol Hill vet­er­an, promi­nent pro­gres­sive lead­ers expressed opti­mism about the pick. Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts tweet­ed that Klain is “a superb choice” who has “earned trust all across the entire Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.” Ever­green Action, a cli­mate-focused pres­sure group, released a state­ment point­ing out Klain’s work with Al Gore and prais­ing his will­ing­ness to “put the sci­ence first” when craft­ing policy.

David Segal, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Des­mand Progress, said that while Klain is “not a move­ment pro­gres­sive by any means…the alter­na­tives were square­ly aligned with the wants of cor­po­rate elites.” Segal’s group had been qui­et­ly lob­by­ing for Klain’s appoint­ment before the election.

Biden him­self said of Klain:

“Ron has been invalu­able to me over the many years that we have worked togeth­er… His deep, var­ied expe­ri­ence and capac­i­ty to work with peo­ple all across the polit­i­cal spec­trum is pre­cise­ly what I need in a White House chief of staff as we con­front this moment of cri­sis and bring our coun­try togeth­er again.”

Klain’s main tasks in the com­ing days will be to advise the Pres­i­dent-elect, help assem­ble the rest of his Cab­i­net picks, and work towards a smooth tran­si­tion of pow­er. This last task will be the hard­est, as Don­ald Trump and most oth­er Repub­li­cans con­tin­ue to refuse to accept defeat.

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