After reports first emerged on Sunday night that Antony Blinken would be US secretary of state in the Biden administration, one particular interview from his past began circulating on social media.
It was a September 2016 conversation with Grover, a character from Sesame Street, on the subject of refugees, directed at American children who might have new classmates from faraway countries.
“We all have something to learn and gain from one another even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common,” Blinken told the fuzzy blue puppet.
After four years of an administration that has separated migrant children from their parents and kept them in cages, Blinken’s arrival at the state department will mark a dramatic change, to say the least.
While Mike Pompeo has remained a domestic politician throughout his tenure as secretary of state, giving the lion’s share of his interviews to conservative radio stations in the midwest, for example, Blinken is very much a born internationalist.
He went to school in Paris, where he learned to play the guitar and play football (soccer), and harboured dreams of becoming a film-maker. Before entering the White House under Barack Obama, he used to play in a weekly soccer game with US officials, foreign diplomats and journalists, and he has two singles, love songs titled Lip Service and Patience, uploaded on Spotify.
All those contacts and the urbane bilingual charm will be targeted at soothing the frayed nerves of western allies, reassuring them that the US is back as a conventional team player. The foreign policy priorities in the first days of a Biden administration will be rejoining treaties and agreements that Donald Trump left.
Since Biden won the Democratic nomination, Blinken has led an outreach effort to the left of the party, narrowing at least some differences, on Saudi Arabia and climate goals for example. News of his expected nomination was quickly welcomed by Matt Duss, Bernie Sanders’ chief foreign policy adviser.
“This is a good choice. Tony has the strong confidence of the president-elect and the knowledge and experience for the important work of rebuilding US diplomacy,” Duss wrote on Twitter.
“It will also be a new and great thing to have a top diplomat who has regularly engaged with progressive grassroots.” [Continue reading…]