Avengers over Biden: why the US won’t see its new president’s No 2 yet

Donald Trump probably won’t be asked to leave office, but he is up against the same decision-making problem Joe Biden faced. With Cabinet decisions already a major issue and the media obsessed with Trump’s…

Avengers over Biden: why the US won't see its new president's No 2 yet

Donald Trump probably won’t be asked to leave office, but he is up against the same decision-making problem Joe Biden faced.

With Cabinet decisions already a major issue and the media obsessed with Trump’s first two months in office, many pundits have pointed to the question of how Joe Biden will fill the empty No 2 spot at the State Department. That’s been his pet issue since January, when he opened the question with a tweet. “This is why we need new leadership in the State Department!” he wrote. (He followed up with a few Tweets – fewer – about it.)

In his latest calls to fill the position, the former vice-president, who is 73, stressed his commitment to doing so. “I’m committed to be the senior adviser to secretary Pompeo,” he told CNN Monday. “I need to discuss that with the president, but that’s what I intend to do.”

Biden has experience at the highest level – he spent more than three decades working in Washington after university – but neither his stint as vice-president nor the more than a decade spent as Delaware’s attorney general or senator give him significant diplomatic experience.

The UN and other offices will almost certainly remain unfilled by the incumbent president, who seems unlikely to stop tweeting under his own control for a while yet.

In spite of this, the White House’s view on whether Biden should be in the No 2 role is all-or-nothing. The two men have a relationship more adversarial than anything Biden or Trump have, with the two feuding over everything from tariffs to tax cuts. They rarely share a public platform, rarely grace the same stage and often spar verbally in the media. Trump gave Biden one of his most high-profile media appearances, during the 2016 presidential campaign, by questioning his service in Vietnam and questioning whether he would return as vice-president from the hellhole of a prison where he had done time.

There was even speculation in July that Trump’s chief of staff would ask Biden to take the appointment. On Monday, a second meeting took place between Trump and the former vice-president at the White House, just one of several – but less substantive – meetings that have taken place in recent months.

It’s not much different from the disagreements inside the White House that’s left virtually no space for loyalists and doubters to chime in publicly. How long that will last remains to be seen.

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