With Neera Tanden’s nomination in serious trouble, the knives are out for Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff. How do we know? Because of the leaking that drives this Washington Post article called “Biden’s chief of staff at center of controversy over White House budget pick.”
Leaking can be a subtle art, but not in this case. One of the leakers told the Post that the Tanden play “was Ron, Ron, Ron, Ron.”
It’s normal for one or two initial high profile presidential nominees to fail. By this time in the Trump administration, Andy Puzder’s nomination for Secretary of Labor had already gone up in flames (a tragedy, in my view), even though the Republicans had greater representation in the Senate than the Democrats enjoy now.
But Klain’s enemies and rivals aren’t going to let historical perspective stand in the way of a chance to discredit him. Thus, the Post duly reports:
If Tanden’s nomination is withdrawn, Klain’s handling of it may face scrutiny. Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders was not given a heads-up about Tanden’s nomination, although Sanders and Tanden have often been at odds. Critics also contend that Klain and other White House officials should have known Tanden faced a difficult path to Senate approval, based on her reputation among GOP lawmakers, and that they should have reached out to Republicans earlier.
The first line is rebutted by the Post’s article itself. Clearly, Klain’s critics aren’t waiting for the nomination to be withdrawn. They are already “scrutinizing.”
No one should be surprised that infighting in the Biden White House has commenced. Certainly, no one who has read Tevi Troy’s Fight House, a history of White House infighting, will be.
Based on my reading of that book, I wrote this last September:
Fight House, Tevi Troy’s excellent book about infighting at the White House from the Truman presidency on, shows that ideological disagreement is, in fact, one of the best predictors of how fierce the fighting within an administration will be. On this basis alone, we can expect considerable White House tumult, if Biden wins.
Ron Klain is considered less of a radical leftist than others who have found their way into the Biden orbit. Like Tanden herself, Klain has strong connections with the establishment wing of the Democratic party, and to the Clintons.
Thus, the ideological basis for infighting is present here, along, of course, with factors like jealousy and the quest for power.
I also wrote this:
Tevi didn’t have occasion to discuss infighting under a president with diminished mental capacity. One has to go back to Woodrow Wilson’s second term to find such a president. But Biden’s mental capacity seems somewhat diminished already, and will likely decline as he approaches his 80th birthday. Thus, there might well be something like a void in the Oval Office in the event of a Biden presidency.
The sense of a void at the top of any organization will likely make infighting all the more intense — especially if that organization happens to be a high stakes operation like, say, the government of the United States.
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