Politico has a story out today that will continue to grow and become more troublesome in the weeks and months ahead if Joe Biden makes it to January 21 as the President-elect — which is not a given.
Here is the headline:
People are Pissed’: Tensions Rise Amid Scramble for Biden Jobs — Veterans of the Democratic Primary Campaign Fear They’re Being Squeezed Out of Plum Posts by Later Arrivals.
Let’s jump right to some of the text:
It is still early in the Biden transition. There are thousands of jobs to fill. But a similar sense of dread is starting to bubble up from veterans of the Biden campaign, particularly those who were there with the president-elect from the Philadelphia announcement speech to the Wilmington victory speech. The target of their ire? The Obama establishment, which has eclipsed the Clinton name as shorthand for yesterday’s Democratic Party.
“The Obama staffers are now cutting out the people who got Biden elected,” said a senior Biden official channeling the feelings of the old guard of the Biden campaign, who requested anonymity for the obvious reason. “None of these people found the courage to help the VP when he was running and now they are elevating their friends over the Biden people. It’s f—– up.”
Today, the conventional wisdom is that Biden is actually stocking his administration with his campaign loyalists at the expense of other factions within his party. And in one sense that’s true. The top of the campaign — Ron Klain, Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti — will move into the top slots of the Biden White House.
But just below that elite level there is concern bordering on panic — depending on who you talk to — about the perceived lack of outreach to many campaign alumni. “There’s real doubt about whether they will be taken care of,” said the Biden adviser.
There’s the key. It is likely that Biden will be forced to name well-known Dem Party “politicos” to most Cabinet and other senior Administration officials because those are the people most likely to be able to get through the Senate confirmation process. But the operational functions of Executive Branch Departments and Agencies takes place at a couple of levels below those top slots, and the people who get those jobs have a tremendous influence on what and how policies are implemented. The Cabinet officials make the news and testify before Congress, but government operations are run pretty much independent of those forces except on a “macro” level.
As an example from my experiences, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division has far more influence on the areas of practice and the cases brought by the hundreds of attorneys in the Civil Rights Division than does the Attorney General. Having your hands on the operations of that Division is more critical to the government’s civil rights efforts than testifying before Congress of attending press conferences about the cases the Division brings.
What is happening to the Biden crew is similar to what happened in the early months of the Trump Administration. Pres. Trump came to office after having run a campaign that had very few high-level operatives who were looking to transition into roles in the Administration. As a result, outside influences with their own agendas pushed for certain people to be named to significant operational posts. Many of those individuals did not share the political mindset or policy goals of the Trump campaign. They became the “inside” operators, leaking to a willing press for the purpose of advancing their own agenda within the Administration — or simply to thwart a policy agenda of the Administration with which they disagreed.
A Biden Administration is going to be possessed of the same kind of demons from the start — if he gets that far. Biden’s candidacy was always a “stalking horse” for the DNC establishment to keep the nomination out of the hands of Bernie Sanders when it was clear that no one else in the primary field of candidates could beat-back the “Bernie Bros.” No one in the DNC really wants Dementia Joe having responsibility for much of anything, so the battle now joined is over whose supporters will staff the key positions of influence throughout the second and third tiers of the Departments and Agencies — all in preparation for the day when Joe is shoved aside.
When necessary, those members of the Administration who have political loyalties to other factions in the party will be the same “inside” operators who begin to leak for the purpose of advancing their own agenda — which will almost certainly involve moving Joe aside.
Some of the factionalism forming is related to Biden’s long career. Not everyone involved with helping him get to the White House formally worked on the campaign. There are Biden Senate staffers, Biden vice presidential staffers, Biden presidential primary staffers, and Biden general election staffers. Some people straddle multiple eras. The current fears about the transition being taken over by the previous generation of Obama staffers who make up Washington’s permanent establishment are coming from a younger set of Biden true believers who chose to work for him in early 2019 even when all of the cool young operatives were flocking to Beto and Bernie and Warren.
The staffing fight is not about who works for Joe — it’s about whose loyalists are in key positions of authority when Joe’s time is up.
This is a fight that was guaranteed to break out as part of an administration that is a lame-duck before it even gets started. Not a single serious person in Washington expects Biden can be a two-term President.
The parlor game taking place right now is to decide who will be sitting in an important chair when the Biden music stops.