Joe Biden is poised to name Antony Blinken as his secretary of state on Tuesday, a telling pick that reveals what the President-elect views as his most urgent priorities in the wake of Donald Trump's four years in office -- and the sort of people he will entrust with accomplishing those goals.
Let's start with Biden's decision to name his secretary of state as his first Cabinet pick. There's no set order to these things, of course, but it is absolutely purposeful and therefore noteworthy that Biden is not only leading his Cabinet announcements with the nation's top diplomat but also that he is doing it so early in his transition.
In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain emphasized the speed with which these first Cabinet picks will be made: "You're going to see the first of the President-elect's cabinet appointments on Tuesday of this week. Meeting the pace -- beating, in fact, the pace that was set by the Obama/Biden transition, beating the pace set by the Trump transition."
The message sent here by Biden is simple: Fixing America's standing in the world -- after four years of President Trump fighting our traditional allies and making nice with our longtime enemies -- is absolutely urgent. There's no time to waste.
The primacy of the secretary of state pick is meant to send that message not just to the federal bureaucracy, but, more importantly, to the world community. America is back to being America, Biden is saying. The last four years are an aberration. it is not who we will be.
Now to Blinken in particular. He, like Klain, has deep roots with Biden. He served as staff director at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden chaired it. He was Biden's national security adviser in the vice president's office. And like Klain, he is a longtime Democratic policy hand. Blinken served in the Clinton administration as special assistant to the president and chief foreign policy speechwriter for the president.
He is, in short, a veteran of both Bidenworld and national politics as well. He's been there and done that.
Blinken is a striking contrast to Trump's first secretary of state, former Exxon boss Rex Tillerson, who Trump touted as the crown jewel of his Cabinet but who proved ineffective at building relationships within the State Department or with the President. Tillerson was an outsider, and Trump loved that. Blinken is an insider, and Biden loves that.
The Blinken pick -- and Biden's decision to name him first among his Cabinet choices -- is best understood, then, as the President-elect doing everything he can to make clear that he will be the exact opposite of the man who preceded him in office. If Trump pulled back from the world community, Biden will embrace it. If Trump valued outsiders with little to no past political experience in key Cabinet posts, Biden will lean on people with long resumes of service in past administrations.
If Trump ran and governed as the anti-Barack Obama, then Biden is signaling that he will govern as the anti-Trump. And the wheel turns.