Some political givens in Washington as it relates to the Democrat Party:
There are two wings that are not based solely on ideology — there is the Clinton Wing and the Obama Wing.
These two wings of the party compete for power, not for policy primacy — they desire control of the institutions of government for the benefit of their friends and supporters.
These wings came into existence when first-term Illinois Senator Barack Obama had the temerity in 2008 to challenge the birthright of Hillary Clinton to be the first female elected President of the United States.
Joe Biden seems to straddle the two. He’s a creature of the Clinton Presidency if you gauge his “high water mark” in terms of his time in the Senate, and he was the accidental VP for Barack Obama when Obama had — literally — no better choice available to him.
The Biden White House is now a battleground for these two factions. The Obamaites thought they had the inside track when Susan Rice was put in charge of everything, but when Ron Klain was chosen to be “Chief of Staff,” that meant he was in charge of “people,”; and the old adage in Washington is “People are Policy.”
I have written before about Ron Klain and the significance I attached to Biden picking him to be his Chief of Staff. Klain has almost no meaningful connections to the Obama Administration alums. Klain’s only time in the Obama Administration was his time serving as Chief of Staff — for VP Joe Biden.
Klain came to that position with a portfolio of experience from his prior service as a Chief of Staff — for VP Al Gore.
Before he served Al Gore, among Klain’s first significant jobs in Democrat politics in Washington was serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Joe Biden was the Chairman.
The WaPo had a story out Saturday that Klain is now under fire inside the White House from rivals — i.e., Susan Rice and the Obamaites — over the nomination of Neera Tanden to be Director of Office of Management and Budget.
Klain is an ally of Neera Tanden’s and a key advocate who recommended her to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to four senior Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of private conversations. As Tanden’s strongest supporter in Biden’s inner circle, Klain has been adamant that the administration should continue to push for Tanden’s nomination despite the long odds, the officials said.
Tanden is a former Clintonista just like Klain. She served on First Lady Hillary Clinton’s staff and later worked for John Podesta. She was a senior campaign aide for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and was one of only a handful of Clinton campaign officials to join the Obama general election campaign. With a background in healthcare reform, she was named a Senior Advisor to HHS Secretary Katherine Sebelius at the start of the Obama Administration, but left in 2010 to become CEO of Democrat PAC Citizens for American Progress which she had helped John Podesta to form in 2003.
Famously, she opposed single-payer “Medicare For All” healthcare reform that was pushed by the Bernie Bros and the more extreme healthcare reform advocates in the Obama Administration.
And it now appears that the combination of her antagonism of both the GOP and the far left extremes of the Democrat Party is going to make her the first significant cabinet nominee to go down in defeat in the Senate.
The finger of blame is being pointed in Klain’s direction for the handling of the Tanden nomination and its failure.
Tanden’s challenges in being confirmed also underscore the risks for the president’s chief of staff, who must maintain Biden’s confidence across a range of personnel and policy decisions.
“This was Ron, Ron, Ron, Ron,” one of the senior Democratic officials said. “Ron is doing a great job, but this was not his best moment.”
But let’s pause for a moment and return to Susan Rice just so there is no mistaking the importance of her presence in the White House.
She was named to a position that does not require Senate Confirmation — which she could likely never secure given her history of duplicity in aid of the Obama Administration.
Though she was floated as a possible Secretary of State, she was named as Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Susan Rice’s entire career in Washington — as a government apparatchik and a denizen of DC “Think Tanks” — has been in positions concerning foreign policy. She is a lifelong friend through familial association with Madelyn Albright, who served as her very earliest mentor in DC. Yet the position she is appointed to by Biden is to oversee Domestic policy-making coming out of the White House.
The only way to make sense of that is by considering that Biden handed his Administration’s foreign policy portfolio to a long-time loyalist going back to his days in the Senate, Tony Blinken.
Blinken was Chief of Staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008 while Biden was Chairman of that committee. While Biden was VP, Blinken rose through the ranks of the State Department as a career bureaucrat, managing to ascend to the No. 2 position of Deputy Secretary for the final two years of the Obama Administration — the time in all second Presidential terms when the “A”, “B”, and “C” teams have cycled through and headed out for high-paying jobs in the private sector, while the mop-up crews burnish their resumes.
Like Tanden, that was another “combination” of two historical Biden loyalists — Klain and Blinken — who squeezed out the foreign policy team from the Obama Administration — John Kerry, Susan Rice, and Ben Rhodes. Kerry, Obama’s Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton sought to be de facto POTUS during her time as Secretary of State) has been marginalized by handing him a “Climate Change” portfolio under the title “Special Envoy” that gives him no authority over energy policy. It does give him the opportunity to fly around the world by private jet, which seems to be something of a hobby using the Heinz Family fortune he “Gold-Diggered” his way into by marrying the widow of his former Senate colleague, John Heinz.
If anything, it keeps Kerry out of the way doing stuff that will never be authorized by Congress.
The nomination fights taking place now are the scorecard being kept against Klain by the Obamaites who are unhappy in the White House with the level of their influence and authority. Hanging the Tanden nomination around his neck in the WaPo now is a precursor for pinning the blame for its failure on him as White House Chief of Staff.
The various lifelines to rescue her nomination all seem to have evaporated in the past 48 hours. The problems became manifest when Joe Manchin came out publicly with his intention to vote against confirmation late last week. To save her, it was necessary to find a GOP vote — but maybe not just one.
As OMB Director, her nomination is subject to a vote of the Senate Budget Committee, now chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders. The day before the hearing on her nomination, Sanders canceled the hearing. The assumption floated in the press was that she currently lacks the votes to be recommended out of that Committee. The composition of that Committee is 11-11 — and Sanders’ action strongly hinted that she didn’t have all 11 Democrat votes.
Did I mention that she was an outspoken critic of Sanders’ push for single-payer national health care while she was in the Obama Administration and later as CEO of CAP?
Did I mention that it has been reported that her nomination to OMB Director was not previewed to Sanders before it was announced?
Two GOP Senators were mentioned earlier in the week as being possible “Yes” votes for Tanden to offset Democrat “No” votes — Murkowski and Grassley.
Grassley announced on Thursday that he would vote against confirmation. Murkowski first signaled she was open-minded, but late in the week indicated that she was becoming skeptical of the White House’s efforts to persuade her.
Two other GOP “moderates” — Susan Collins and Mitt Romney announced earlier in the week that they would be voting “No.”
So all signs point to Klain losing this battle, and there being a price to be paid inside the White House for having spearheaded the pick.