Like President Bill Clinton, Joe Biden is outgoing, empathetic, and has a wide network of friends. Like President George W. Bush, he maintains strict personal discipline (for Biden, this year, that involved cycling and protein shakes to offset his habit of eating ice cream).
Like President George HW Bush, he respects American political traditions, and with President Barack Obama he shares eight years of history, experiences, and some war wounds in Washington.
However, when Biden arrives at the White House in January, after four turbulent years of the Trump presidency and a chaotic period of transition, he will bring with him his own set of skills.
Through 36 years as a senator and eight as vice president, he has honed the techniques for operating in Washington. Based on his actions and positions during the past 18 months as a candidate for president, these are four essential elements of how Biden could approach the government in January, 48 years after his arrival in Washington.
Consult with specialists, elected officials and your circle of associates
This year, Biden drew on a combination of expert opinion and conversations with elected officials from across the country to craft his plans for tackling today’s tremendous public health and economic crises, and gave us insight into the kinds of input that can help. to make decisions as president.
When the pandemic hit, Biden’s reaction was to get in touch by phone.
Despite not having the authority to enact policies, Biden found it important to stay in touch with mayors, senators and governors; He called them frequently and referred to what he had learned from their experiences in his public addresses. It was like continuing with the role he had as vice president, where he was almost always the Obama administration’s best link to the Capitol, and it showed the respect he has for other elected officials.
At the same time, a critical part of Biden’s message during the general election was that, as president, he would listen to specialists as he faced the country’s most important challenges.
However, despite all the recommendations of the experts that you will have at your disposal in the White House, in general terms, a primary circle of close collaborators and advisers and some family members also participate in their positions – specifically his wife and sister. who have advised you for decades.
Last week, he appointed Ron Klain, a political adviser who began working with Biden in the 1980s, as chief of staff. But he has also vowed to form an inclusive government.
“We want the stability, the experience and the confidence of the veterans,” said former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the prospects for the Biden administration. “But we also want new blood, new ideas, new faces to contribute to them. They are the next generation. I think that’s the way Joe will see it. “
Can be flexible with deadlines
At major turning points throughout his campaign, Biden wanted to gather as much information as possible.
And then I waited.
His allies say that Biden is ultimately bold, saying he is not the type to hesitate or fail to keep a promise when he has reached an agreement in a negotiation. But you’ve shown that you can’t be rushed when it comes to important personal or political decisions.
This was more than evident during the vice president’s appointment process, when Biden pushed back the self-imposed deadlines for naming his running mate, before settling on Senator Kamala Harris. In it he found someone to trust as a faithful ally, a leader who shares his ideas on how to govern and who possesses political skills that he does not have.
That juncture could be representative of how announcements by his Cabinet members and other appointments on his team will play out in the coming weeks as Biden thoroughly assesses his options and also faces the political constraints of a prospective Republican-controlled Senate.
Biden has hinted that he might name a few cabinet members around Thanksgiving, which is an initial test as to whether his deadlines are any more precise as president-elect than they were when he was a candidate.
He is a man who carries the Senate in his heart, but it remains to be seen if the Senate wants him to return.
Biden has been vice president of the United States, a veteran politician of his party and, now, president-elect.
Yet in many respects, he is still a Delaware senator at heart, who at times delved into the jargon of speeches (last year, in the debating phase, he referred to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as her “distinguished friend”) and that in the campaign of the entire 2020 contest, she cited Senate mentors from decades ago.
His experience in the Senate defined his political stances – which consider that consensus, civility and bipartisanship are essential to any progress – and helps explain why he will come to the White House with great respect for Congress. His insistence that he could “lower the spirits” politically was a central part of his speech throughout the race, and he indulged in sidelining Democrats who viewed those positions as naive.
The question is whether Biden’s positions will be rewarded by Republicans on Capitol Hill, some of whom refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of his election.
He has a mission to be himself
After four years with President Donald Trump in the White House, Biden, in many ways, promises a return to the earlier norms and traditions that have broadly defined the position.
Don’t expect Biden to use his Twitter account to fire his cabinet members, participate in television news coverage, or suddenly announce policies. In fact, his campaign team argued that he rejected Twitter because it was not a good way to gauge the opinions of the majority of Americans.
But do expect to see a president who takes on the traditional role of acting as a pivotal comfort in tragic moments. Biden’s ability to empathize with suffering people is one of his most characteristic qualities as a politician, after the car accident where, in 1972, his first wife and baby died, and the death of his eldest son, Beau Biden, in 2015.
Last week, on Veterans Day, he visited the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia and is determined to show respect for those who wear the uniform.
Rarely did Biden show his anger more clearly on the campaign trail than when he cited comments Trump reportedly made about downed soldiers. Biden carries in his sack a card that, among other things, contains the exact number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and systematically ends his comments by saying “May God protect our soldiers.”
But for all the respect Biden has for American institutions – the courts, Congress, the military – he is also a colorful character in American politics with a strong personality that Americans and the leaders of the world will now see closely.
He’s known for his empathy, but he can also get so defensive that, apparently, during a heated dialogue, he once called a voter “fat” (which his campaign team denied) and launched a sit-up challenge. . He is brimming with “Bidenisms” and a varied wisdom that he attributes to various long-deceased family members and colleagues, and is also very proud of his Irish Catholic roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
“Watch me,” Biden has recommended to voters over the years. “If you like what you see, collaborate. If not, vote for the other one ”.
This time, enough American voters liked him. Now they, and the rest of the world, are about to take a closer look at it.