Who are they and why do they matter?  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

December 2, 2020

Understand more. Argue less.

Good morning. While the vaccine is probably at the forefront of everyone's mind this week, we're waiting for more new information. So, instead of beating a dead horse (apologies to our equestrian readers), let's look at Biden's Presidential cabinet so far. They'll help to accomplish his four top priorities: COVID-19 relief, an economic recovery, racial equality, and climate change.


Cabinet Construction

Katherine Chuang

President-elect Joe Biden has been slowly announcing his intended Cabinet picks as the GSA has authorized the transition process to begin. While Biden has placed a heavy emphasis on a racial and gender diversity, some Democratic lawmakers say there’s still more work to be done in terms of achieving that goal. Beyond race or gender, Biden faces the challenge of appealing to Democratic moderates, progressives, and Republicans. 

To be clear, nobody on the following list has been officially confirmed by the Senate yet. Even if the Democrats win both of the Georgia Senate runoffs in January, their majority will be a narrow one. The timeline for Biden’s confirmation may be a long one; Trump had only two Cabinet picks confirmed on Inauguration Day, even with a Republican Senate majority.

Let's meet Biden's Cabinet nominations so far.

The Cabinet

  • Chief of Staff. Ron Klain was the Ebola Czar (i.e. appointed official) under Obama and Chief of Staff for VP Biden. Klain was also an integral part of the Recovery Act in 2009. (NPR)

  • Sec. of State. Antony Blinken was Deputy Sec. of State and Deputy National Security Advisor under Obama. His nomination is indicative of an American government that may place a higher emphasis on globalization. (NPR)

  • Sec. of Treasury. Janet Yellen is a former Federal Reserve Chair and would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department. Throughout the pandemic, she’s called for more Congressional spending to alleviate Americans’ suffering. (NPR)

  • Sec. of Homeland Security. Alejandro Mayorkas was a Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) under Obama. He’d be the first Latino immigrant to lead the DHS. (NPR)

  • Office of Management & Budget Director. Neera Tanden is an Obama and 2008 Clinton alum. She’s the most controversial nominee so far among Progressives and Republicans, two groups which usually aren’t in agreement at all. (NPR)

  • National Intelligence Director. Avril Haines who served as Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy CIA Director under Obama, would be the first woman to ever lead national intelligence. (NPR)

  • UN Ambassador. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a 35-year veteran of the foreign service and oversaw the Bureau of African Affairs (and much of the Ebola response) during the Obama administration. (NPR)

  • National Security Advisor. Jake Sullivan was VP Biden’s National Security advisor, where he helped open a back channel with Iran (which could come in handy). At 44, he’d be the youngest to serve in that role in decades. (NPR)

  • Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. John Kerry is a former Senator, Secretary of State, and Presidential candidate. He played a large part in negotiating the Paris Climate Accord. (NPR)

  • Communications Director. Kate Bedingfield was Communications Director for VP Biden and his Presidential campaign. (NPR)

  • Press Secretary. Jen Psaki was Communications Director under Obama and currently oversees the confirmation efforts for Biden’s nominees. (NPR)

  • Chair of Council of Economic Advisors. Cecilia Rouse was the Dean of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. She would be the first black woman to serve as Chair. (NPR)


How It's Being Spun

Katherine Chuang

Here are the narratives from both sides, along with supporting headlines and article snippets. These are not necessarily factual, but instead illustrate the news coverage that solidifies each narrative. The bias ratings refer to news outlets as a whole, not a specific article. Read more about them at the end of this email.

If you're reading on mobile, the Right's narrative will appear above the Left's. Next week, we'll switch it up.

Narrative from the Right

Career politicians are exactly what we didn’t want to see. Unless the Senate stops it, these politicians will continue to covertly represent Coastal Elites instead of who really matters - working class Americans. The US isn’t just San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. We need people in charge who understand that.

Headlines & Snippets

Tom Cotton Slams Biden's 'unity' Platform, Points To Administration's Picks

“But he’s picked a national security team that is weak on China, a DHS nominee who sold visas for powerful political friends, and a partisan hack who called Susan Collins ‘the worst’ for OMB. So much for unity." (Fox News)

Biden Pick For OMB Director Will Push Globalist Policies That Cost US Jobs

“If people want to go back to a time when Americans were losing jobs to China, to Mexico, to Canada, and other countries of the world, they’re going to love Neera Tanden,” he added. “She will be just what the doctor ordered.” (Fox News)

Biden’s Handpicked Administration May Have A Host Of Potential Ethics Issues

Biden spokesman said that all members of the administration with ties to WestExec and Pine Island would sell any ownership stake and file client disclosure forms. Such clients may be protected by non-disclosure agreements with the firms, and it is unclear whether Biden’s nominees and appointees will be required to disclose all former clients. (Daily Wire)

Narrative from the Left

Finally, experience and diversity are returning to the West Wing. We’re almost on the other side of the revolving door of Trump’s yes-men and nepotism. Our nation will soon be represented by those with our best interests at heart. His picks haven’t all been perfect, but balancing the desires of a very diverse Democratic Party isn’t easy.

Headlines & Snippets

Jennifer Psaki to Be Press Secretary as Biden Names All-Female Communications Team

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Sunday announced an all-female White House communications staff, with Jennifer Psaki, a veteran of the Obama administration, in the most visible role as White House press secretary. (NYT)

Republican Resistance to Tanden Illustrates Trouble Ahead for Joe Biden

The swift and bitter pushback to President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to lead his budget office left some wondering if the incoming administration recognizes the depth of polarization it is confronting on Capitol Hill. (NYT)

Biden Names Senior Members Of Economic Team, Bringing More Diversity To Cabinet

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced his senior economic team, including his plans to nominate the first woman to head the Treasury Department as well as a slew of liberal economists and policy specialists who established their credentials during the previous two Democratic administrations. (HuffPost)

But, It's Not All Bias 

Sometimes, the news gets it right. Here are two instances of biased outlets that reported with civility by conceding a point to the other side's narrative.

Joe Biden Ahead of Donald Trump, Obama In Naming Key Cabinet Posts

President-elect Joe Biden has named key members of his cabinet more rapidly than the past two administrations, despite a delay in election results and his complaints about a slow start to the formal transition. (New York Post)

Biden Faces Balancing Act in Choosing Top Aides With Business Ties

The pre-emptive resistance to Mr. Zients (pronounced ZYE-ents) from the left is the latest indication of how the Democratic Party has shifted in the dozen years since former President Barack Obama took office amid the financial crisis. (NYT)


What Does It All Mean?

Biden is putting together a team of career politicians for his Cabinet to try and calm the seas. That’s not to say that the first 100 days of a Biden administration will be relaxed. His immediate priorities are daunting: COVID-19, an economic recovery, climate change, and racial inequality. (NPR)

  • If your news outlets lean left, you’re excited to see what a Biden Presidency will look like now that he’s beaten Trump.You’re relieved, albeit slightly skeptical about Biden’s current nominations. He has chosen one of the most diverse Cabinets our country has ever seen, but their policies are what will ultimately matter most. You are optimistic that Trump’s mistakes can be undone, but the proof will be in the pudding.

  • If your news outlets lean right, you may feel Biden’s picks are out of touch with what America really needs; politicians who haven’t been in Washington so long that they’ve forgotten who they represent.You’ll see Biden’s appointments of ex-Obama and Clinton operatives as simply refilling the swamp that Trump spent four years draining. You also might be angry that the Left is so readily glossing over potential conflicts of interest after Trump endured years of criticism for the same thing.

In the near term, Biden’s Cabinet is gearing up to attack his —and the majority of Americans— most pressing goals: COVID-19 and the economy.

In a time of economic turmoil, Biden’s Cabinet picks have their work cut out for them. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen has a history of defending large stimulus injections into the economy, as she did in 2013. As head of the Federal Reserve, she was noted for significant job and wage growth while maintaining low interest rates. Nominee for the Council of Economic Advisors Chair (a mouthful, we know) Cecilia Rouse primarily focused on the economic studies of labor forces and education during her time working for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. 

As for his COVID-19 response, Biden has yet to pick a Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. However, his nomination for Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, has extensive experience in the handling of the Ebola outbreak. Regardless of who Biden’s HHS Secretary is, his COVID-19 plan could certainly lead to some combination of lockdowns, curfews and mask-mandates. It’ll be a delicate balancing act: minimizing cost to the economy and maximizing health to the American people. 

Joe Biden’s first day in the White House will be a busy one. He’s prioritized many of the pressing issues facing our country, but how well he’ll execute those solutions remains to be seen. One of the more moderate candidates throughout the Democratic Primary, his ability to truly reach across the aisle is about to be put to the ultimate test.

Let's Argue Less

Now that you understand more about Biden's potential cabinet, you're ready to take the next step.

Weekly Civility Challenge

Try and have a conversation with a friend about something you disagree on that isn't politics. Was it easier or harder? Why do you think so?

Reply to this email with your response and we’ll feature the winner next week!

Last Week's Winner

Here's the best Thanksgiving response we received. Thank you Tom A. from Chicago, IL!

"This Thanksgiving started out like many I can remember growing up, with my parents arguing with my aunts and uncles. We're a Democratic family, which isn't exactly a popular opinion where I'm from, especially these days. 

What was different this year was that I was tired of the arguing and I actually had an idea of how to stop it. In the middle of a particularly heated exchange about the election results, I asked everyone to stop. For whatever reason, I got a chance to speak. I asked everyone to ask themselves what arguing would really accomplish, aside from making everyone less happy. Most of us actually came to the conclusion that while we may not be able to come to an agreement, we don't have to argue about what's really happening. Instead, everyone laid out their respective views, asked some questions, and then moved to a less divided topic.

It was such a refreshing change. I might just have to try it again!"

Want to Learn More About Civil?

Until next Wednesday, that's all from us. Thank you!