President-elect Biden will inherit a crisis worse than those facing Barack Obama in 2009 or Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The international situation is dominated by a raging nationalism, a climate catastrophe, and a devastating pandemic. At home, we have a dysfunctional Congress, a struggling economy, and social tensions worsened by institutional racism. Biden’s cabinet appointments reveal his recognition of these domestic challenges as he has appointed experts prepared to address a damaged public health system, immigration system, and the environmental program.
I’m assuming that you and your team are still debating the selection of a director for the Central Intelligence Agency. I hope that you don’t think me presumptuous for making some suggestions. I’m doing this on the basis of my 24 years of experience as a CIA intelligence analyst as well as my candid testimony before the Senate intelligence committee several decades ago regarding the confirmation process.
Trump’s inauguration speech in January 2017 was bizarre, particularly the reference to “American Carnage,” which was designed to be descriptive, but turned out to be predictive. Trump has been America’s most shameless president, politicizing the military and intelligence communities; corrupting the legal and judicial communities; and weaponizing various departments and agencies to do his bidding.
Obama needed to pay more attention to Ronald Reagan’s dictum that “personnel is policy.” Instead of appointing serious managers of national security policy who could think outside the box—perhaps audaciously—he filled his national security team with tired veterans of Cold War thinking.