New York: US President-elect Joe Biden has said America was “back, ready to lead the world” at an event to unveil his new foreign policy team that appears to be custom designed to repudiate President Donald Trump’s nationalistic isolationism.
Speaking in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, alongside his first six cabinet nominees, Biden, a former vice president, insisted that his national security appointments — all of whom held senior roles in Barack Obama’s administration — would usher in a new era of multilateralism, marking a clear break from Trump’s “America first” foreign policy.
“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” he said. “Once again sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand up for our values.”
Biden, speaking the day after the General Services Administration (GSA) certified the election results to officially begin the presidential transition, spotlighted the deep experience of his appointees while also highlighting their diversity.
He emphasized the need for an administration that reflects the U.S. population.
Shortly after Biden unveiled the team, Trump briefly defended his approach to foreign policy during the traditional Thanksgiving turkey-pardoning ceremony at the White House in Washington.
“As I say, ‘America first’ — we shouldn’t go away from that,” the president said.
Trump over four years unsettled many U.S. allies, in Europe and elsewhere, with an antagonistic approach toward the NATO alliance and trade relations, abandonment of international agreements and warm relationships with authoritarian leaders.
Biden said his team would shed what the president-elect described as “old thinking and unchanged habits” in its approach to foreign relations.
Many of the appointees Biden introduced Tuesday have long careers in public service, representing what many have described as a return to normalcy in Washington.
They include Antony Blinken, a longtime senior adviser selected for Secretary of State; Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, picked for Homeland Security secretary; Avril Haines tapped for director of national intelligence; and Linda Thomas-Greenfield selected to serve as the U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, which Biden announced would be elevated to a Cabinet-level position.
During her 35-year service, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield also served in the American Embassy in Islamabad.
In an apparent dig at Trump, Biden said, “They (his team members) will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who has made history as the first woman, African American and South Asian elected to the second highest office, also emphasized a shift from the last four years of the Trump administration.
“When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a Cabinet that looks like America that reflects the best of our nation. And that’s what we have done,” she said.
Ms. Harris remarked that the president-elect will “ask tough questions, demand that we be guided by facts and expect our team to speak the truth.”
The appointment of several women in senior positions and an emphasis on racial diversity also reflects Biden’s promise to address gender and ethnic inequality in the U.S. to better promote those values abroad.
Biden highlighted Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s background growing up in segregated Louisiana, noting she was the eldest of eight children and was the first in her family to graduate from high school and then college.
“I want to hear her voice on all the major foreign policy discussions,” Biden said.
If confirmed, Ms. Haines also would be the first woman to serve as the Director of National Intelligence.
And Biden is making history with Mayorka’s nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
“I am proud that for the first time ever the department will be led by an immigrant, a Latino, who knows that we are a nation of laws and values,” Biden said.
The president-elect also introduced Sullivan as his national security adviser, and former Secretary of State John Kerry to be the climate czar and serve as a principle on the National Security Council.
“For the first time ever, you will have a presidential envoy on climate,” Biden said.
While each appointee made short remarks, no questions were taken from the press.
The announcement of key members of the president-elect’s Cabinet and senior posts follows certification by the GSA on Monday night to officially start the presidential transmission.
President Trump said he gave the green light for the transition to begin despite refusing to concede and that he will continue to challenge the election results in court.
The ascertainment of Biden as the likely winner by the GSA now opens up a slew of resources for the president-elect’s transition team, including beginning the process of security clearances, access to funds to pay staff and permission to speak with Trump administration officials as part of the transition process.
“I’m pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power,” Biden said.
He also said he hopes that the nominees receive a “prompt hearing and that we can work across the aisle in good faith — move forward as a country.”