Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t yet been officially certified as the winner of the 2020 presidential election and the Trump campaign has launched numerous legal challenges to the results. Nonetheless, Biden is moving ahead with his transition team under the assumption he will be the next president. On Monday, he announced that his coronavirus task force would include Dr Rick Bright, a whistleblower from the Trump administration.
Bright was a high-ranking Health and Human Services official until he was demoted in May of this year. Bright alleged in a whistleblower complaint that he was ousted because he was critical of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 and was resistant to efforts to fast-track the distribution of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus. Later reporting, however, suggested that Bright had greatly exaggerated his claims and was already on thin ice with HHS.
Bright had requested emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine from the FDA in March and had praised the use of anti-malarial drugs in treating coronavirus in internal emails, calling into question the idea that he was removed for opposing the drug. Sources told Politico that the Trump administration had actually been trying to oust Bright for at least a year due to qualms with his leadership and management style.
Biden’s decision to add Bright to his coronavirus task force despite these questions about his credibility suggests the pick was intended more to stick it to Trump than to stack the team with good scientists. And Bright isn’t the only questionable addition to the bench. Biden also tapped Dr Zeke Emanuel, an oncologist and brother of Rahm, who once argued in an Atlantic article that it’s not worth living past the age of 75. ‘By 75, creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us,’ Emanuel wrote in 2014. It’s worth noting that Biden is currently 77.
Trump was repeatedly criticized by fellow Republicans for engaging too much in ‘own the libs’ culture — i.e. getting involved in petty spats to anger the other side over delivering real policy victories. Could Biden be trying to ‘own the conservatives’ with his transition team and, subsequently, his presidential cabinet?
His decision to appoint Cindy McCain to his transition team’s advisory board suggests yes. McCain, who identifies as a Republican, endorsed Biden over Trump because of the President’s feud with her late husband, Sen. John McCain. Biden, it seems, is happy to make room at the inn for the old guard GOP that’s still bitter over being pushed aside under Trump. It was one thing to let John Kasich give a DNC speech to try and court independents, but Biden is going a step further by actually giving them a say in his administration.
Meanwhile, early reports say Sally Yates is in the running for Biden’s attorney general. Yates became a political martyr of sorts in 2017 when she refused to enforce a Trump Executive Order on immigration, even though the DOJ found no issue with its legality. Normally this would be considered insubordination, but the left lionized Yates because she had ‘stood up’ to the evil Trump.
Biden is setting himself up for trouble down the line if he values staff for their opposition to Trump rather than their integrity or ideology. Trump made a similar mistake by filling his cabinet with people who praised him on Fox News but were drastically opposed to his policy priorities (looking at you, John Bolton).
According to NBC exit polls, more than three in 10 Biden voters cast their ballots ‘mainly against Trump’. That wave of opposition is sure to dissipate once voters are satisfied that they’ve defeated Orange Man. In order to have a successful presidency, Biden needs to consider what his legacy will be separate from Trump and staff his administration accordingly.