Axios reported yesterday on an email sent out by the Biden transition team encouraging interested persons to apply for positions in the new Administration but making it clear that preference would be given to individuals who were part of the campaign effort. Merely being an alum of the Obama Administration would not be enough to guarantee a place if Joe Biden is ever sworn in as President.
A very interesting data point from last week on this subject was the fact that Biden has selected Ron Klain to be his Chief of Staff. If you’ve followed Democrat politics for 20+ years then Klain’s name is familiar — but not because of anything having to do with the Obama Administration.
Klain was actually Biden’s chief of staff while he was Vice-President, but only for the first two years, departing the Obama Administration after the 2010 mid-term elections.
Other than that, Klain had no meaningful role in the Obama Administration.
But now Klain will be the “gatekeeper” for anyone wanting a shot at a senior policy position — either in the White House or any of the Executive Branch Agencies or Departments.
Before being his VP Chief of Staff, Klain had a prior association with Biden from his time as Chief Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee while Biden was Chairman. This included the confirmation fight over Justice Clarence Thomas.
After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, Klain joined the White House Counsel’s Office where he was largely responsible for judicial selections of the Clinton Administration, including the nomination of the late Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. In 1994 he was named Chief of Staff to Attorney General Janet Reno, and in 1995 he became Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore.
Klain was always viewed as a Clinton loyalist, and Klain left the position as Gore’s Chief of Staff as Gore’s focus began to shift to his own 2000 run for President. But Gore later tapped Klain to be his chief legal advisor during the various court battles over the outcome of the 2000 election.
When Joe Biden became the “accidental VP” for the Obama Administration, he went back to his former Senate Counsel Klain, who had experience as a VP’s Chief of Staff, rather than take on a member of the Obama campaign staff.
It is fair to say that Klain’s association with Democrat Party politics was much greater during the Clinton/Gore years than it ever was during the Obama Years.
Now that Biden may have won the election for the Presidency, he again turns to a familiar face to lead his transition and staffing of the White House — and it’s not an Obama loyalist.
If anything, given his historical connection to the Clintons, Klain would probably be viewed as an “outsider” to the loyalists who backed the upstart Obama over Hillary Clinton who believed in 2008 that the nomination was her’s to take.
The inescapable fact is that Joe Biden spent 36 years in the United States Senate surrounded by the “Establishment” Democrat Party — and the Obama crowd mostly didn’t come from those circles If Biden relies more on the connections he made during his long-standing tenure in the Senate — fellow Senators, House Members, Committee Staff, etc., — that will squeeze out Obama Administration officials who came to their positions from a different part of the Democrat constituency.
It will also minimize the opportunities for the younger elements of the 2020 Democrat Party to have a meaningful voice in a new Biden Administration. Nothing is more welcoming to a bunch of twenty-somethings looking for their first taste of national government operations than a President who is 77 and a Chief of Staff who is 59 — both of whom have been around Washington for nearly 30 years.
But, as Axios reported, they should feel free to send in an application.