On the campaign trail, Joe Biden was dogged by a recurring question: If elected, would he really be in control of his administration?
Amid ongoing speculation that the media-declared president-elect would not be in charge of his own White House, critics say the “swamp” will be pulling the strings as Biden chooses staffers with close ties to the Obamas and the Clintons.
A third term for Obama?
While Biden and his allies have framed his picks as a return to competent and honest government, glittering credentials and “experience” in Washington are not universally appreciated these days.
With his staffing choices, progressives say Biden is overlooking their wishes by filling his team with allies from the Democratic Party’s corporate establishment, while conservatives see an equally undesirable return to the cozy, swampy corruption and failure evocative of the Obama years.
In a recent panel discussion on Fox News, former Benghazi investigator and retired South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy (R) said that Biden is “reaching into the recycling bin” of past administrations to build his own, a development that signals a return to a posture of weakness on the global stage.
“That included leaving pallets of cash on the tarmac of Iranian mullahs, a disastrous nuclear deal, the rise of ISIS, soft on China, soft on Syria, and much more,” Gowdy said on Hannity.
Biden started naming his foreign policy and national security team last week, according to Reuters, and it includes John Kerry; former Hillary Clinton staffer Jake Sullivan; Avril Haines, who played a role in President Barack Obama’s controversial drone strikes, according to Business Insider; and Tony Blinken, Obama’s former deputy secretary of State.
Who’s pulling the strings?
Biden’s picks are particularly important to many given speculation that he is not fit to run the White House and will be controlled like a “puppet.” While many fear that Biden’s presidency would veer to the far left, some on the left say he’s signaling that he won’t go far enough.
The Democrat named more staffers for top economic and communications posts on Monday, again opting for Obama and Clinton staffers for the roles, according to Financial Times.
One controversial choice is Neera Tanden, a Clinton ally disliked by progressives, to lead Biden’s Office of Management and Budget.
Despite appearances, Biden insists that his presidency would not be like a third term of Barack Obama.
“This is not a third Obama term because we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama–Biden administration,” the former vice president said last week, according to Fox.