News Release Archive - US Elections

Biden Foreign Policy: Corporate, Pro-War, Secretive

DANNY SJURSEN, dannysjursen@hotmail.com@SkepticalVet

Retired U.S. Army major, contributing editor at antiwar.com, and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, Sjursen recently wrote the piece “What President Biden Won’t Touch: Foreign Policy, Sacred Cows, and the U.S. Military” which notes:

• Jake Sullivan, expected to be National Security Advisor, is with “the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (‘peace,’ in this case, being funded by ten military agencies and [weapons] contractors) and Macro Advisory Partners, a strategic consultancy run by former British spy chiefs.”

• “Avril Haines, a top contender for CIA director or director of national intelligence: CNAS [Center for a New American Security and] the Brookings Institution; WestExec [see below]; and Palantir Technologies, a controversial, CIA-seeded, NSA-linked data-mining firm.”

MARIAMNE EVERETT, [in France], mariamne.everett@mycit.ie@EverettMariamne
Everett recently wrote the piece “Biden: A War Cabinet?” 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 wrote earlier this month: “It is extremely important to note that Flournoy and Blinken co-founded the strategic consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, where the two use their large database of governmental, military, venture capitalist and corporate leader contacts to help companies win big Pentagon contracts. One such client is Jigsaw, a technology incubator created by Google that describes itself on its website as ‘a unit within Google that forecasts and confronts emerging threats, creating future-defining research and technology to keep our world safer.’ Their partnership on the AI initiative entitled Project Maven led to a rebellion by Google workers who opposed their technology being used by military and police operations.

“Furthermore, Flournoy and Blinken, in their jobs at WestExec Advisors, co-chaired the biannual meeting of the liberal organization Foreign Policy for America. Over 50 representatives of national-security groups were in attendance. Most of the attendees supported ‘ask(ing) Congress to halt U.S. military involvement in the (Yemen) conflict.’ Flournoy did not. She said that the weapons should be sold under certain conditions and that Saudi Arabia needed these advanced Patriot missiles to defend itself.” See latest Politico piece on WestExec: “The secretive consulting firm that’s become Biden’s Cabinet in waiting.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes@usfca.edu
Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and was just on an accuracy.org news release: “Tony Blinken: Iraq War Propagandist?” He said today: “As an effort to undermine anti-war Democrats and promote Bush’s plans to invade Iraq, Flournoy claimed that the U.S. needed to ‘strike preemptively before a crisis erupts to destroy an adversary’s weapons stockpile’ before it “could erect defenses to protect those weapons, or simply disperse them.” That Iraq had long since rid itself of such weapons was no matter to her. The oil would still be there. Iraq’s strategic position at the head of the Persian Gulf bordering other oil-rich nations — Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia — was still there.”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com@kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola recently wrote the piece “Biden’s transition team is filled with war profiteers, Beltway chickenhawks, and corporate consultants” for The Grayzone. See his latest Twitter thread on the most recent appointments.

Korea specialist Tim Shorrock tweeted: “Tony Blinken in 2018 sounding more hawkish on North Korea than John Bolton and, like Bolton, completely dissing South Korean President Moon Jae-in as a dupe of Kim Jong Un. These are the kinds of comments feared by Moon’s people and Korean progressives.”

Blinken: AIPAC is Pleased

Several media outlets are reporting that Joe Biden will announce Tuesday that Tony Blinken is his nominee for Secretary of State.

ZAREFAH BAROUD, zarefahbaroud@gmail.com@ZarefahBaroud
Baroud is with American Muslims for Palestine. She recently wrote the piece “The Leahy Laws: Why Biden’s Promise to Israel is Illegal,” which states: “Biden and [Kamala] Harris are pledging to break U.S. law for Israel. … Essentially, the [Leahy laws state] that foreign military assistance must be suspended or discontinued if there exists credible information that the recipient foreign security force unit has committed a gross human rights violation. … According to Tony Blinken, Joe Biden’s senior advisor, ‘He [Biden] would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes. Period. Full stop. He said it; he’s committed to it.'”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com@richards1052
Silverstein at Tikun Olam just wrote the piece: “Biden Names Blinken Secretary of State, Israel Lobby Pleased,” which notes: “During the campaign, Blinken’s most notable comments were made in a conference call to pro-Israel leaders hosted by the Democratic Majority for Israel. DMI is a hawkish group which is the Democratic Party version of AIPAC. Though the latter claims it is bipartisan, it’s common knowledge that the vast majority of its membership, donors and leaders are Republican. Thus, DMI was manufactured to ensure that Democrats would not stray too far from the pro-Israel party line. The group has regularly acted as an enforcer within the party when candidates espouse positions considered anti-Israel.

“Among those who’ve been taken to the woodshed are Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The group sunk over $1 million in ads in the Iowa primary attacking Bernie Sanders … the ads didn’t mention Sanders’ views on Israel.”

Biden Can Have a Progressive Cabinet

MAX MORAN,  moran@cepr.net
MIRANDA LITWAK, litwak@therevolvingdoorproject.org@revolvingdoorDC
Moran and Litwak are researchers at the Revolving Door Project. They just wrote the piece “Biden’s cabinet could do a lot – if he resists the urge to fill it with ‘consensus’ picks” for The Guardian.

They write that “by a staggering 2 to 1 margin, voters of all stripes — including Republicans — say that Biden should not hire big business executives to run his government.”

They note that Biden has a series of options so that he doesn’t have to appease [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, such as using the Vacancies Act, “which lets the president temporarily make a senior staffer at a given agency the secretary, or bring a different Senate-confirmed individual (like the many Democratic commissioners at independent agencies like the Federal Trade Commission) into the cabinet job temporarily. He can also make appointments while the Senate is in recess, as presidents of both parties do all the time. Biden could even force the Senate into recess by playing a bit of constitutional hardball – the kind of hardball McConnell plays constantly.

“Biden’s treasury department can implement financial regulations to impede investments in the fossil fuel industry and reallocate funds to tackle Covid-19 and provide support to the most harmed Americans. Biden’s justice department can prosecute Big Oil companies or seek breakups of corporate monopolies. Biden’s labor department can enforce OSHA rules and crack down on wage theft like never before, making sure people’s hard-earned wages actually make it into their pockets. His IRS can focus on ensuring the rich pay their fair share, instead of auditing poor Americans making mistakes on their taxes. He can even, with one directive to his acting education secretary, cancel 95 percent of student loan debt. There are at least 277 actions broadly popular within both wings of the Democratic party which Biden could take on day one of his administration. And he needn’t even walk near a McConnell-controlled Senate to do them.

“Yet all of these actions depend on Biden appointing committed soldiers for the public good — not corporate allies. A treasury secretary Gina Raimondo would prioritize slashing aid to struggling cities in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as she has in her home state. If ex-Googlers like Roger Ferguson or Eric Schmidt pepper the executive branch, it will undercut the authority of the most important antitrust suit in a generation. Appointing Seth Harris to labor secretary will give the intellectual architect of California’s Prop 22 an insider’s angle to spread pain for gig-economy workers.

“Stopping these people must be a priority for the Democratic base. Activists can and should make clear to Biden that their repayment for hard work should be a highly-motivated and public interest-minded executive branch.”

Biden: More Humane Cages for Immigrants?

ADRIENNE PINE, pine@american.edu@adriennepine
Pine is associate professor of anthropology at American University and co-editor of the just-published book Asylum for Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry.

She just wrote the piece “More Humane Cages? Prospects for Immigration Justice Under Biden Appear Dim,” which scrutinizes new Biden appointees including “Obama’s former top immigration adviser Cecilia Muñoz to [Biden’s] transition team, who brushed off NPR interviewer Maria Hinojosa’s question about family separation, responding that ‘Some of these things are going to happen.’

“While much has been made of the gendered diversity of Biden’s transition team (including Muñoz) and potential cabinet picks, it will be little comfort to the women of Central America, or any other region subject to U.S. interference, to know that the new U.S. #GirlBosses may include Susan Rice as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton as UN ambassador, or Michele Flournoy as Secretary of Defense. [See “Biden: A War Cabinet?“]

“Many of Biden’s DHS transition team selections show his platform will differ (if at all) only in form, not in substance, from that of Trump. None of his team members hail from the ranks of BIPOC [black, Indigenous and people of color] organizers who delivered him his victories in key states like Arizona, and for whom immigration is a major issue. …

“Biden’s DHS transition team members range from billionaire-funded think tank pundits to corporate lawyers, with a smattering of left-liberal ACLU types, none of whom fundamentally question the overarching logic of border security. Take Blas Nuñez-Neto, for example, DHS transition team member and RAND analyst who accuses migrants of ‘taking advantage of incentives created by the U.S. asylum process’ and has advocated that asylum seekers be made to seek asylum from U.S. embassies while still living in their countries (a non-starter for people fleeing deadly violence) and building more private prisons to detain entire families indefinitely, as humane alternatives to family separation.”

Biden Transition: War Profiteers, Beltway Chickenhawks and Corporate Consultants

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com@kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola just wrote the piece “Biden’s transition team is filled with war profiteers, Beltway chickenhawks, and corporate consultants” for The Grayzone.

Writes Gosztola: “An eye-popping array of corporate consultants, war profiteers, and national security hawks have been appointed by President-elect Joe Biden to agency review teams that will set the agenda for his administration. …

“A prime example of the interventionist-minded establishment-oriented figures filling the Biden-Harris Defense Department agency team is Lisa Sawyer. She served as director for NATO and European strategic affairs for the National Security Council from 2014 to 2015, and worked for Wall Street’s JPMorgan Chase as a foreign policy adviser. Sawyer was part of the Center for a New American Security’s ‘Task Force on the Future of U.S. Coercive Economic Statecraft,’ which essentially means she participated in meetings that focused on methods of economic warfare that could be used to destabilize countries that refused to bow to American empire. …

“Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada noted that Farooq Mitha, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration, has been appointed to Biden’s Pentagon transition team. Mitha was a board member of Emgage, a Muslim American PAC which has fostered ties to the Israel lobby, provoking angry condemnation from Palestine solidarity advocates. Mitha has reportedly attended AIPAC conferences. …

“Kelly Magsamen, the vice president of national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress and a former Pentagon and State Department official, is on the Biden-Harris NSC team. When Representative Ilhan Omar grilled Elliott Abrams, the special envoy to Venezuela, Magsamen rushed to the defense of her former boss, calling Abrams a ‘fierce advocate for human rights.’ (Abrams supported death squads in Central America in the 1980s.) …

“The Biden-Harris intelligence team features Greg Vogle, the former CIA head of station in Afghanistan and a former partner at the McChrystal Group consulting firm founded by former commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Stanley McChrystal. Both JSOC and the CIA, as well as the paramilitary forces they trained, have committed war crimes in Afghanistan. …

“Matt Olsen, the former National Counterterrorism Center director for Obama and briefly, the general counsel for the National Security Agency … is a defender of backdoor searches of Americans’ internet communications, having argued that the Fourth Amendment right to privacy is too cumbersome for the FBI to follow. He spent the months after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed mass surveillance programs working to discredit Snowden by accusing the whistleblower of aiding terrorists. …

“Half dozen or so of the appointees have links to Big Tech companies. Perhaps the most significant figure is Seth Harris, a lobbyist and former Obama Labor Department official who wrote a policy paper for the neoliberal Hamilton Project.

“This paper provided the framework for the passage of Proposition 22 in California. Uber, Doordash, and Lyft spent around $200 million to campaign for the passage of this bill, which exempted them and other corporations from paying their employees benefits and blocked Uber and Lyft drivers from organizing a union. … And like the interventionists that dominate the foreign policy review teams, Moran embodies Biden’s pledge to big money donors: ‘Nothing will fundamentally change.'”

“When Centrists Lose, Corporate Media Blame the Left”

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar@fair.org@FAIRmediawatch

Senior analyst for FAIR’s Election Focus 2020 project, Hollar is available for a limited number of interviews and just wrote the piece “When Centrists Lose, Corporate Media Blame the Left.” It analyzes several major media articles and notes: “Though all of these pieces offered plenty of suggestions that the left wing’s vocal support for things like socialism, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and defunding the police cost the party seats in 2020, they failed to provide any actual data that might have helped readers evaluate the veracity of those statements.

“It’s an important point, because understanding Democrats’ lackluster performance should help guide their platform and messaging moving forward. But these articles aren’t shedding light on the data — perhaps because it would thoroughly undermine the anti-progressive framing.

“As the New York Times’ Jim Tankersley (10/14/20) reported just last month in an unusually frank assessment of the popularity of left-wing ideas, the right’s wall-to-wall attempts to bring down Democrats with the ‘socialist’ label haven’t been very effective, despite  [CNN’s Chris] Cillizza’s suggestion to the contrary. That’s in part because Biden and other centrists deny them so forcefully, but in part because ‘many of the plans favored by the most liberal wing of Democratic leaders remain popular with wide groups of voters, polling shows.’ Tankersley pointed to a recent Times poll that found 2 in 3 respondents support a wealth tax, 3 in 5 favor Medicare for All (including 2 of 3 independent voters), and even higher numbers support free college tuition.”

Lessons from Electoral History: Corrupt Deals and Supreme Court Subversion

ALAN HIRSCH, ahirsch@williams.edu
Hirsch is author of A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (And How to Prevent the Next One), published in March of this year.

He said today: “As the 2020 post-election crisis unfolds, we must learn from history — specifically the presidential election chaos in 1876 and 2000. In each of these three elections, the outcome came down to one or more disputed states. Most history books claim the 1876 election was resolved by a fifteen-man commission that voted along party lines. In truth, Democrats were prepared to ignore the commission’s determinations, and the threat of duel inaugurations and another civil war loomed ominously. The resolution came only when Republicans assured Democrats in Congress that, if they went along with Rutherford B. Hayes’s election, they would cease implementing Reconstruction. The nation paid a terrible price for the backroom dealing. In 2000, the election was resolved by the Supreme Court” with five right wing members “intervening to assure the election of George W. Bush.”

Hirsch continued: “Today, both of these threats are present — political deal-making and/or a partisan Supreme Court could determine the outcome. There are additional parallels to 1876 and 2000 that need to be explored. In both 1876 and 2000, as in 2020, the election took place against the backdrop of voter suppression. In 1876 and 2000, like today, there were calls for state legislatures to intervene and nullify the results of their state’s popular vote. In 1876, states sent competing slates of electors that Congress had to choose between. Today, the possibility of competing slates of electors cannot be ruled out. Ditto the threat of the conservatives on the Supreme Court intervening.

“To prevent these destructive outcomes, we need to understand how things unfolded during the prior election crises.”

Hirsch is an instructor in the humanities and chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College, and received a J.D. from Yale Law School and B.A. from Amherst College. His work has appeared in the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesWashington TimesNewsday, and the Village Voice. Hirsch also serves as a trial consultant and expert witness on interrogations and criminal confessions, testifying around the nation. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Is Mitch McConnell President?

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net, @revolvingdoorDC
Moran is a research assistant at the Revolving Door Project and just wrote the piece “We Don’t Have to Live in Mitch McConnell’s World” for The American Prospect.

Moran writes: “Early reports indicate that Biden’s transition team is already readying its white flag of surrender due to opposition by one profoundly unpopular man — probable Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. …

“The transition team is leaking that they’re resigned to putting forward corporate lobbyists and bland centrists, in the desperate hope that this will appease McConnell into doing his damn job. This argument is also more than a little convenient for the corporate lobbyists and bland centrists desperate for some good reason why they should be considered for jobs. In fact, most of the names floated in Axios’s coverage of ‘fallback’ candidates were already seen as leading choices for various jobs: Lael Brainard at Treasury and Tony Blinken at State, for example. In this sense, the Biden team is claiming their hands are tied in service to putting forward the nominees they want anyway. …

“It’s important to recognize that the idea of hopelessness around a Biden Cabinet is nonsense. Biden has several tools available to him to circumvent McConnell’s Senate and still appoint the Cabinet secretaries he needs. And to have any hope of Democratic victory in 2022 and 2024, Biden must not only build a functional, Rooseveltian government, but he must take public credit for it — and publicly jeer those who would stand in his way.

“Biden has at least two paths to building a Cabinet without running through the Senate. First, he can aggressively use the Vacancies Act, which allows presidents to temporarily fill the leadership of an executive agency while waiting for a permanent nominee’s confirmation. Biden can either direct someone sitting in a different Senate-confirmed job to fill the duties of a Cabinet secretary, or pick a senior staffer at the agency and temporarily make them the boss.

“You know all of those Trump officials with the word ‘acting’ in their job titles? They got those acting jobs thanks to the Vacancies Act. In other words, Republicans have cheered aggressive use of this law for four years, even when they controlled the chamber needed for full confirmation of these appointees. They are in no position to complain about Biden using it, and when they inevitably complain anyway, they should immediately be discounted as the hypocrites they are. …

“Biden’s second option for circumventing McConnell is to make appointments in recess. Here, according to legal expert Sy Damle, Biden would need the Speaker of the House to set up a disagreement with McConnell over adjourning, which President Biden can then settle using the Presidential Adjournment Clause in the Constitution. While Congress stands in recess, the president can make temporary appointments which last until the end of the next congressional session.”

The Revolving Door Project is a project of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Cockburn on Biden

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn@gmail.com@andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn wrote the cover article “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” in March 2019.

Cockburn said today: “Obviously the final result isn’t known and the voting should proceed in an orderly manner, but one thing that is clear is that Biden’s nomination, like that of Hillary Clinton four years ago, has failed to deliver a resounding rejection of Trump.

“This is largely because of Biden’s inability to provide a positive message. This isn’t a tactical failure. It’s a result of his record, and the ongoing, desperate yearning of the Democratic establishment he represents to recreate the Democratic coalition that started to vanish with Reagan. He may eke out a threadbare victory in Wisconsin and Michigan, but this does not excuse his failure to mobilise the growing minority electorate — most obviously Hispanic voters. He will be easy meat for Mitch McConnell.”

Also, see: “Biden: A War Cabinet?” by Mariamne Everett.

Tying the Hands of Postal Workers and Democracy

Washington Monthly magazine reports in “Louis DeJoy’s October Surprise” that: “A ban on postal workers’ ability to co-sign absentee ballots could determine the election.”

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com@chris_w_shaw
Shaw is author of the book Preserving the People’s Post Office and recently wrote the piece “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs.

He said today: “In an unprecedented move, this summer the U.S. Postal Service forbade on-duty postal workers from acting as witnesses for mail-in ballots. A number of states — including the important swing states North Carolina and Wisconsin — require that mail-in ballots be co-signed. Enforcement of this policy began during the same period that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented a series of changes that disrupted mail collection, processing, and delivery. Tens of millions of Americans are voting by mail due to COVID-19, and forbidding postal workers from co-signing ballots only hinders the democratic process. Although the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Rural Letter Carriers Association, and National Postal Mail Handlers Union have protested directly to senior postal management, this ill-advised policy remains in place. Promotion of democracy has been a central role of the Postal Service since the eighteenth century. This irresponsible policy conflicts with the historic mission of the Postal Service and further reveals a disturbing unwillingness among its current leadership to serve the public interest.”

Shaw recently had an op-ed in the Washington Post: “Postal banking is making a comeback. Here’s how to ensure it becomes a reality.”