News Release Archive - Biden's Cabinet

Biden Nominating Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland

Various media outlets are reporting that Joe Biden will nominate Victoria Nuland for the influential role of under secretary of state for political affairs.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09@gmail.com
Carden is the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord and founding editor thescrum.substack.com. He is also a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission.

He said today: “Victoria Nuland has had a long and storied career in the foreign service and for a long time was viewed with something like reverence by career officers. Nuland served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO and later was national security adviser to vice president Dick Cheney. After that, Nuland found herself on the ‘outs’ at the State Department during the early Obama years. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had other plans for Nuland, the well-connected wife of the neoconservative publicist Robert Kagan. Clinton, to the astonishment of many of the political appointees in Clinton’s orbit, plucked Nuland from the obscurity of her position at the Naval War College to become Clinton’s spokeswoman.

“This was the road back to influence and Nuland used it, quickly ascending to the position of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. It is from that post that she oversaw U.S. efforts to encourage a street coup in Kiev — going so far as to hand out cookies to anti-government protesters alongside the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The February 2014 coup, undertaken by an alliance of pro-Western liberalizers and hardline anti-Semitic militants, resulted not in a more peaceful order, but in a civil war (in which both Russia and NATO funded and armed their proxies) that resulted in the loss of over 10,000 lives and the displacement of well over a million people from the Russophone east. After the coup, Nuland became an unwitting symbol of American heavy-handedness in the region when a call between her and Pyatt leaked in which they were seen to be hand-picking personnel for the new government in Ukraine. What would the EU think? ‘Fuck the EU,’ exclaimed Nuland, a diplomat.

“After the coup — violent and unnecessary, given that the deposed Ukrainian leader had agreed to an early peaceful transition at the ballot box, Nuland bragged at a conference sponsored by Chevron that: ‘Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance. … We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.’

“In the years following, we have ‘invested’ a great deal more money into Ukraine — for questionable returns. But the affair has not seemed to have clouded Nuland’s career prospects. Smart, well-connected, and well-liked, she, like many of her fellow neocons, seems to move from strength to strength in this town, never held to account for the damage they’ve caused. After her stint in the State Department ended (she was replaced in the early Trump years by the woefully unqualified neocon operative A. Wess Mitchell), Nuland took up what one can only assume were lucrative positions on the other side of the revolving door at the Center for a New American Security (where she served as CEO), the Boston Consulting Group and the Albright Stonebridge Group (from which, perhaps not coincidentally, her future boss, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, hails).

“Her views on Russia and European affairs are well known. Less known, however, are her views on America’s role in the Middle East. Let’s hope that changes because in an article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Nuland lamented that the U.S., under Trump, ‘made both Putin’s and Assad’s lives easier by neutralizing a shared threat, the Islamic State, or, ISIS.’

“As Biden’s undersecretary of political affairs, Nuland would have immense influence over policy and personnel. Progressives in Congress and their partners in the media, think tank world and among grassroots activists should join forces with the growing caucus of anti-interventionist Republicans on the Hill and vigorously oppose this nomination.”

Buttigieg at Transportation Gives Campaign “Investors” Great Return

President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation.

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net@revolvingdoorDC

Moran is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project and wrote the piece “Biden’s cabinet could do a lot – if he resists the urge to fill it with ‘consensus’ picks” last month. The group also just launched a Personnel Map.
The group recently posted the piece “Buttigieg’s Campaign Donors Would Likely Get A Strong R.O.I. [Return on Investment] If He Headed Transportation” which states: “Buttigieg’s tendency to shift policy positions based on the preferences of large donors remains a significant concern if he were chosen to head a cabinet department. …

“Buttigieg’s campaign policy director Sonal Shah (a former Goldman Sachs and Google executive whose market-centric vision of change we have previously written about) regularly headlined high-dollar fundraisers for wealthy donors (whom the campaign tellingly called its ‘investors’). By tapping his national policy director to oversee big donor fundraisers, Buttigieg eroded what had typically been a dividing line between campaign policymaking and solicitation of campaign contributions.

“The industry connections of Buttigieg’s donors are of even greater concern. According to FEC data collected in the Revolving Door Project’s Presidential Power Map, Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign raked in large contributions from top executives at major technology and defense corporations like Google (from whom he received over $44,000), Apple (from whom he received over $16,000), Amazon (over $12,000), and Raytheon (over $8,000). Public disclosures show that all four of these companies have repeatedly lobbied the Department of Transportation in the last year. Other major corporations whose executives donated to Buttigieg include Walmart and Allstate, as well as several members on the boards of Boeing, JetBlue, and American Airlines (all of whom, again, have lobbied DOT in the last year). Bradley Tusk, a former lobbyist for Uber who made more than $100 million helping the rideshare giant expand operations in New York, was one of the Buttigieg campaign’s top fundraiser hosts. …

“Buttigieg’s consulting work for McKinsey included serving on a team of consultants that advised the United States Postal Service (USPS) on partial privatization and the replacement of its unionized workforce with non-unionized labor. He also served on a McKinsey team that advised Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on mass layoffs, sparking a lawsuit and scathing anti-privatization report from Michigan’s Attorney General.

“The next Transportation Secretary will have many critical issues to tackle, from undoing the damage wrought by Elaine Chao, to regulating a bailed-out and scandal–ridden airline industry, to overseeing developments in the rideshare economy, corporate retail logistics, and autonomous vehicles. A nominee connected to major industry donors will undermine public confidence in President-elect Biden’s stated goal to ‘make government work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.'”

Vilsack at Agriculture: “Mr. Mon­san­to”?

Numerous media outlets are reporting that Tom Vilsack will be Joe Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary.

MITCH JONES, via Seth Gladstone – sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater

Jones is policy director of Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” Jones said: “Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn. America needs an agriculture secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven he will not be the agriculture leader we need.”

Background: Earlier this year, Branko Marcetic wrote in In These Times that while “Vil­sack resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to’…

“Days after step­ping down as agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary [in the Obama administration], Vil­sack spun through the revolv­ing door to the U.S. Dairy Export Coun­cil, where he now earns near­ly $1 mil­lion as the top exec­u­tive at its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion, Dairy Man­age­ment Inc. The pow­er­ful Coun­cil boasts a who’s who of big agri­cul­ture and even phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals as mem­bers, and last year, Vil­sack urged Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates not to crit­i­cize or tar­get agri­cul­tur­al monop­o­lies, cit­ing the poten­tial of job loss­es. Vil­sack was also a major boost­er of the con­tro­ver­sial Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship trade deal.”

Also, see recent Politico report for summary of objections to Vilsack from civil rights groups.

Austin at Pentagon: Good for Empire, Raytheon

Joe Biden has reportedly selected retired general Lloyd Austin III as his nominee to head the Pentagon. Michèle Flournoy had been the reported favorite for the position before her hawkishness and ties to weapons makers drew criticism.

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh wrote “Biden’s Moral Hazard” in November regarding the malfeasance inherent in Biden’s national security picks. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, a Marine Corps combat veteran of the Iraq War, and is a 100 percent disabled veteran. In 2009, he resigned his State Department position in Afghanistan in response to the escalation of that war.

He said today: “Other than a difference in identity, there is not a real difference between Austin and Flournoy. Perhaps Flournoy would have been more ideological and more keen on proving her ideas and concepts of war correct, ideas and concepts formed without ever knowing the reality of war. However, Austin’s 41 years of military service do not seem to have imparted on him the wisdom of the folly, destruction and immorality of war.

“Austin was integral in the disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the escalation of the vicious, illegal and counter-productive drone wars. His greatest achievement seems to have been overseeing the U.S. retreat from Iraq. Like too many in Washington, D.C., Austin quickly exposed the phony charade of public service by trading in his decades of time in uniform for a high-paying directorship with Raytheon, a stake in a military industry investment firm, and the establishment of his own consultancy whose clients are undoubtedly weapons companies.

“Biden’s pick of Austin is symptomatic of an American political system that values symbol over substance, utilizes rhetoric to cover corruption, and ignores the brutal truth of reality in favor of platitude and hagiography.

“Austin is a good pick for the American Empire, the weapons industry and the bloodthirsty foreign policy elite of the Democratic Party. Tens of millions of people in the Muslim world will continue to suffer cruelly through America’s unending wars, while U.S. taxpayers hemorrhage trillions of dollars to the war industry. Meanwhile, the true dangers to the American people: Covid, climate change, racial injustice, economic inequality, et al., continue to go unaddressed.”

MARIAMNE EVERETT, [in France], mariamne.everett@mycit.ie@EverettMariamne
Everett wrote the piece “Biden: A War Cabinet?” just before the election. She is an intern at the Institute for Public Accuracy and radio presenter with World Radio Paris where she hosts the podcast “Hidden Paris.” She noted today about Austin:

* “He has been on the board of directors of the arms company Raytheon since 2016, a company from which Saudia Arabia purchased bombs to drop on Yemeni civilians.
* “He played a major role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

* “Lloyd Austin was significantly involved in the Syrian rebel program.”

Kenneth P. Vogel of the New York Times tweeted: “BIDEN’s reported pick for Defense Secretary, retired Army General LLOYD J. AUSTIN III, is a member of a private equity fund [Pine Island] that invests in defense contractors, & boasts its members’ ‘access, network & expertise’ are an advantage in government contracting.”

See from Glenn Greenwald; “Biden’s Choice For Pentagon Chief Further Erodes a Key U.S. Norm: Civilian Control.”

Flournoy: Hawk with Ties to Weapons Industry

The Washington Post reports: “Liberal groups urge Biden not to name Flournoy as secretary of defense.”

One of the groups, RootsAction, released a statement: “Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams Go Public with Strong Opposition to Michele Flournoy As Secretary of Defense.”

JODY WILLIAMS, jwilliams@nobelwomensinitiative.org@jodywilliams97
Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She is currently chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

She said: “If President-elect Biden really has a progressive agenda in mind for his administration, he should appoint members of his cabinet and other high-level positions who demonstrate progressive thinking and do not move this fractured country backwards. Nominating Michèle Flournoy for Defense Secretary would not be forward thinking. We do not need a hawk with relationships with the weapons industry.”

PAT ALVISO, mfsooc@earthlink.nethttps://twitter.com/mfso_us
Alviso is national coordinator of Military Families Speak Out. She said today: “The appointment of Michèle Flournoy as Secretary of Defense would be both wrong-headed and a huge setback for our troops and military families. After disastrous policies that have caused almost 20 years of death and untold suffering in a war that never should have happened in the first place, we deserve better. Flournoy pushed for the surge in Afghanistan and believes that we need to leave a residual force in Afghanistan. Why? If thousands of U.S. troops couldn’t accomplish our ever-changing mission, what good could possibly come out of leaving a small force there? Flournoy and the think tank she co-founded (the Center for a New American Security) promise more of the same — military solutions for conflict. If Biden truly cares about military families, as he has professed, then he should surround himself with the voices of those who value diplomacy over military force and find ways to bring all of our troops home now.”

See also: “Statement Opposing Michele Flournoy as Defense Secretary.”

Over 1,000 Educators Urge Biden to Pick Kumashiro for Education

As an increasing number of progressives call Biden’s first rounds of appointments a “betrayal” of their support to get him elected, educators offer ideas for rolling back many of the actions of the Trump-Betsy DeVos administration.

Anticipation and advocacy is building around Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Education and whether his policies will significantly depart from past decades.

Building on Biden’s reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt, over 1,000 educators and organizations have sent a letter to Biden urging the appointment of leaders who bring a bold, research-based vision for education that parallels FDR’s New Deal. The letter suggests one such candidate is Kevin Kumashiro, who calls for an “Education New Deal” in his latest book, Surrendered: Why Progressives are Losing the Biggest Battles in Education. Among the signers of the letter available for interviews:

CHRISTINE SLEETER, csleeter@gmail.com@csleeter
Sleeter is professor emerita at the California State University Monterey Bay, past vice president of the American Educational Research Association, and member of the National Academy of Education. She said today, “At the federal level, education is treated too much as an afterthought, as something to think about and resource after other things, such as the military, have been taken care of. I expect the Biden administration to give more substantive attention to education than previous administrations, mainly because of Dr. Jill Biden’s work and commitment to education. I think that much in Biden’s education platform, such as supporting teacher unions, cutting back on test-driven teaching, and making college more affordable, is important. But there are some areas in which I would like to push the administration.

“First, education needs to be seen as a critical national resource for a vibrant participatory democracy. Over the last four years, we have witnessed so many citizens’ inability to discern fact from fiction, to talk across differences, and to value the right of everyone to be heard. Education tends to be viewed as preparation for jobs. It needs to be treated as vital to building the participatory democracy we aspire to.

“Second, the majority of students in K-12 public schools now are students of color. Students of color still tend to be framed in terms of deficits (such as around efforts to close the achievement gap) or ignored entirely. Yet, there is much exciting work that has centered students and teachers of color, work that can enable a shift in how we think about education in this country. We need leadership at the national level who are willing to immerse themselves in such work (work such as the ethnic studies movement, or movements for teachers of color), and take seriously the implications of such work for transforming education for a diverse democracy.”

KEVIN WELNER, kevin.welner@gmail.com
Welner is professor and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, fellow of the American Educational Research Association, and co-author of the research brief, “What’s Next for PreK-12 Funding?

He said today that Biden’s “initial appointments have evidenced a strong desire to draw upon expertise developed during the Obama administration. The appointees know the ropes and will be able to immediately embark on the difficult work of responding to the pandemic and economic crisis, as well as reversing four years of damage.

“But experience is not always a good thing. Specifically, past experience is not beneficial in a policy area like education, where the President-elect has promised to set a new course. The Obama-era Department of Education, led by Arne Duncan and then John King, had largely continued the test-based accountability and charter-school policies of the George W. Bush administration. These policies are rooted in beliefs that educators and students lack sufficient motivation to work hard, to demand universal excellence, or to efficiently use existing resources.

“Candidate Biden and the Democratic Party Platform promised to shift education policy away from this old thinking — and to instead focus on closing resource gaps and opportunity gaps. While Duncan and, particularly, King took some positive steps in the area of civil rights, their overall approach was inconsistent with the direction the President-elect has promised. Their experience, and the experience of their deputies and lieutenants, comes with far too much baggage.

“If experience were truly crucial, then President-elect Biden should choose the person currently leading the Department: Betsy DeVos. That suggestion is absurd. … The effectiveness of the nominee will depend on experience as well as a host of other characteristics: honesty, vision, leadership, communication skills, connections with the larger community, intellect, etc. But effectiveness is only valuable if the goal is valuable.

“The Biden team is fortunate to be able to choose any of a number of highly qualified progressive educators for Secretary of Education and other top Department of Education posts, including Dr. Kevin Kumashiro — who has been endorsed already by more than 1,000 educators and organizations.”

Pressure Grows on Biden on Pentagon Pick

JEHAN HAKIM, yemenialliancecommittee@gmail.com@jehan_hakim
AP is reporting in “Biden Facing Growing Pressure over Secretary of Defense pick,” that: “A coalition of at least seven progressive groups warned Biden to avoid [Michèle] Flournoy in an open letter to Biden obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press that referenced her record of ‘ill-advised policy decisions’ — particularly in relation to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan — and an ‘opaque history of private-sector activity.’

“‘Ms. Flournoy’s consistent support for military interventions has contributed to devastating crises around the world, including in Yemen,’ said Jehan Hakim, chairperson of the Yemeni Alliance Committee, which helped organize the letter.”

See: “Statement Opposing Michele Flournoy as Defense Secretary” — which includes other links and resources as well.

Also see the Yemeni Alliance Committee’s resource page: “World Says no to War on Yemen: Global Day of Action” on January 25.

See from Mariamne Everett: “Biden: A War Cabinet?” and “Biden Must End the War He Helped Start: Yemenis call on the president-elect to stop the onslaught” by Shireen Al-Adeimi.

Should Michèle Flournoy Be Defense Secretary?

A leading contender to be nominated by Joe Biden for Defense Secretary, Michèle Flournoy is facing opposition for her hawkish record and financial entanglements with the weapons industry.

MARCY WINOGRAD, winogradteach@gmail.com@marcywinograd
As a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Winograd wrote “Open Letter to Biden: Hire New Foreign Policy Advisors,” which was signed by more than 450 delegates.

Winograd said this week: “Progressives may be tempted to trade truth for access to the powerful and privileged, thinking they can influence the course of events if they bite their tongue when Flournoy talks of fighting and prevailing in a war with China. But this sort of thinking is misguided. The power progressives hold must be wielded now before it’s too late, before Flournoy is crowned and the U.S. slips further into decline, mired in a high-stakes high-tech arms race — or worse, another endless war, this one with a nuclear-armed nation of over 1.3 billion people.”

The quote from Winograd appeared in the article “Some Liberals and Arms-Control Experts Are Cheering for War Profiteers to Be in Biden’s Cabinet,” written by Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Norman Solomon.

On Monday, five progressive organizations — CodePink, Our Revolution, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org and World Beyond War — released a statement opposing Flournoy as Defense Secretary. “The people of the United States need a Secretary of Defense who is untethered to the weapons industry and committed to ending the arms race,” the statement said. “Michèle Flournoy should not be put in charge of the Pentagon, and neither should anyone else failing to meet those qualifications. We are opposed to her being nominated, and we are prepared to launch a major nationwide grassroots campaign so that every senator will hear from large numbers of constituents demanding that she not be confirmed.”

Two weeks ago, the Project On Government Oversight issued an in-depth report, “Should Michèle Flournoy Be Secretary of Defense?

Biden’s OMB Nominee: Firestorm of Criticism 

Joe Biden has just nominated Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, as his director of the Office of Management and Budget. This has produced a range of criticism online. See Twitter thread by Kevin Gosztola about issues such as her opposition to Medicare for All. Walker Bragman just wrote the piece “Biden Picks Budget Director Who Pushed Social Security Cuts.”

Early this year, Alex Burns of the New York Times wrote: “In 2015, Center for American Progress researchers wrote a report on U.S. Islamophobia, [with a] 4300-word chapter on the Bloomberg-era NYPD. When the report was published, the chapter was gone. By then, Bloomberg had given CAP ~$1.5mm. That number has grown.”

YASMINE TAEB, ytaeb@internationalpolicy.org@YasmineTaeb
Taeb is now senior fellow on Congress and foreign policy at the Center for International Policy. She was one of the researchers of the censored report while working at CAP. See her appearance on “Democracy Now!” earlier this year: “How Bloomberg-Funded Center for American Progress Censored a Report on NYPD Surveillance of Muslims.” Also see CommonDreams report: “‘Grotesque Corruption’: Emily’s List, Center for American Progress Sold Out to Michael Bloomberg.”

ZAID JILANI, areo64@gmail.com
Jilani also worked for CAP and wrote about some of his experiences there in the piece “Bernie Sanders v the Democratic establishment: what the battle is really about” for The Guardian.

As news of Tanden’s nomination spread, Joe Biden tweeted “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, and listen to each other again.” The New York Times in “The Rematch: Bernie Sanders vs. a Clinton Loyalist” describes how Tanden punched (according to a witness) or shoved (according to her) a staffer for asking Hillary Clinton about the Iraq invasion.

Glenn Greenwald just wrote the piece “Biden Appointee Neera Tanden Spread the Conspiracy That Russian Hackers Changed Hillary’s 2016 Votes to Trump.” In 2015, Greenwald wrote about CAP: “Leaked Emails From Pro-Clinton Group Reveal Censorship of Staff on Israel, AIPAC Pandering, Warped Militarism,” which revealed that  following the Libya intervention Tanden argued that “having oil rich countries partly pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me.” That is, as Greenwald wrote: “Libyans should be forced to turn over large portions of their oil revenues to repay the U.S. for the costs incurred in bombing Libya, on the grounds that Americans will support future wars only if they see that the countries attacked by the U.S. pay for the invasions.”