What a Biden administration should look like

What a Biden administration should look like
© Getty Images

I think Joe BidenJoe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE will be president next Jan. 20, though the next few weeks could be ugly.

If I’m right, his crucial initial task will be tapping the best people for the most prominent posts, as Washington faces the greatest challenges since World War II.

We can expect a Biden administration, as promised, to be the most diverse in history. There’d be roles for Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Overnight Health Care: Medicaid enrollment reaches new high | White House gives allocation plan for 55M doses | Schumer backs dental, vision, hearing in Medicare Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare MORE-Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden risks break with progressives on infrastructure The Memo: The center strikes back Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE people, important political supporters and campaign aides. There is even talk of a few prominent Republicans, which is dicier than before. One mentioned is former Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE, a principled Arizona anti-Trump conservative, one of the most admirable people in public life — but other than maybe a major immigration post, he would be out of sync with a Biden government.


What matters most when facing domestic and foreign crises is who the president surrounds himself with in the major posts: State, Defense, Treasury, Attorney General and the very top White House staff.

I haven't talked to anyone close to Biden about who would be chosen, so this isn't an insider preview; rather, it’s about suitable choices — I have talked with a number of former top officials, who understand the urgency and stress there simply isn’t the luxury for on-the-job training. 

On national security, China poses the greatest threat, though hardly the only one — and even more than correcting the Trump administration's blatant failures is to fashion a coherent new realistic global strategy.

The most-cited Secretary of State contender is Susan RiceSusan RiceDemocrats control the language of politics and culture — but for how long? The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden faces pressure amid infrastructure negotiations Republicans' 'marriage bonus' is social engineering at its worst MORE, President Obama's national security adviser and a finalist for Joe Biden's running mate. Much of the Democrats' foreign policy establishment would favor a candidate more like one of the Burns boys, Bill and Nick, former Deputy and Under Secretaries of State.

An outside-the-box, superb selection would be Delaware Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsCutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Progressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE, one of the most knowledgeable members of the Senate who enjoys good relations with some Republicans and is close to Biden.


The most accepted consensus, which is sometimes right, is the likely Defense Secretary will be Michele Flournoy, who was under secretary at the Pentagon in the first Obama administration. If that falls through, a good alternative would be Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security chief under Obama.

For Treasury, the chatter is about Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor and former top Treasury official, and Roger Ferguson, who was vice chair of the Fed, a Democrat who won the admiration of Alan Greenspan.

A terrific, if unlikely, choice for Treasury would be Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mary Mathews BurwellThe biggest revelations from Fauci's inbox What a Biden administration should look like Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration MORE, spectacularly successful as Secretary of Health and Human Services, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, as a leading foundation executive, former chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and now president of American University. When in government, and the last several years behind the scenes, no one has been more responsible for saving the Affordable Health Care Act, commanding respect from Republicans as well as Democrats.

This would be the most sensitive Attorney General appointment since President Ford chose Chicago Law School Dean Edward Levi after Watergate. Current polices need to be reversed. Morale at the Justice Department is dreadful. Most daunting will be the issue of whether to criminally prosecute Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE and associates. The next AG has to be tough, above reproach ethically and ideally not seen as a political partisan.

That eliminates one named tossed around: New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoFoo Fighters, Dave Chapelle cover 'Creep' at first MSG show since pandemic Katie Hill says 'it would take a lot' to convince her to run again for House New York City moving thousands of people from hotels back to shelters MORE. Two still in play are Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult MORE, former deputy Attorney General, and Preet BhararaPreet BhararaNew York Times in discussions to acquire The Athletic: report Vox Media acquires podcasting company co-founded by Preet Bharara Reimagining the role of the next SEC chair MORE, who was the U.S. Attorney in New York's Southern District. Both were fired by Trump, a badge of honor, except it could raise unfair questions about motive in any actions against a former president.

Two that should be seriously considered: Seth Waxman, former Solicitor General and acting deputy AG in the Clinton administration; there is no more respected lawyer in Washington. Also U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandAirline groups ask DOJ to help crack down on violent passengers House Judiciary asks DOJ to disclose remaining gag orders The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE, who was cheated out of a Supreme Court seat by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats go down to the wire with Manchin Schumer unloads on GOP over elections bill: 'How despicable of a man is Donald Trump?' This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE; Garland ran the criminal division during the Clinton administration.

Czars were overused by Obama, but an immediate priority for a Biden Administration -- he plans to get a jump  start before taking over --  will be a COVID czar, perhaps co-czars with a take-charge figure like retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and health expert Nancy-Ann DeParle. Longer term, there should be a global climate change czar: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's domestic and global challenges on COVID vaccinations Press: Even Jeff Bezos should pay income taxes What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship MORE  and or John Podesta would be perfect.

Almost a sine qua non of presidential success is the right White House chief of staff and the very top counselors.

The longtime Biden aide and former top White House aide Ron KlainRon Klain'It's still a BFD': Democrats applaud ruling upholding ObamaCare Vermont governor lifts restrictions as state becomes first to reach 80 percent vaccinated Biden's no-drama White House chief MORE is seen as a lock for chief of staff. He'd be better as the influential senior counselor — like Obama's David AxelrodDavid AxelrodPsaki 'likely will stay longer' than year as White House press secretary House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Amash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' MORE or, with apologies, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump discussed sending infected Americans to Guantanamo Bay: book NYC voters set to decide Vance's replacement amid Trump probe Kushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 MORE. Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsWhite House officials won't say if US will meet July vaccine goal Biden meets with UK's Johnson ahead of G-7 Overnight Health Care: White House unveils plan to donate 25M vaccine doses abroad | US COVID-19 cases, deaths fall to lowest levels since March 2020 | Poll: Majority support Medicare negotiations for drug prices MORE, with political and managerial skills, would be an excellent chief of staff. Throw in a troika with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Buttigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE, the Democrats' best communicator.

This list is establishment dominated because of the tough times. It’s also too male. The Democrats, however, have an incredibly strong female bench from Congress, the states, political and policy experts. They will play a big role in shaping the next administration. 

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts 2020 Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.