Blinken pledges 'humility and confidence' as secretary of StateJanuary 19, 2021
Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken outlined his vision for a revitalized foreign service and diplomatic corps in his opening statement on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, breaking with outgoing President Donald Trump’s “America First” mantra and promising to reengage with global partners in pursuit of “the greater good.”
In his prepared remarks for the confirmation hearing, Blinken, 58, recounted his late stepfather’s escape from a concentration camp during the Holocaust and subsequent rescue by an American GI — a testament, Blinken has often said, to how America can and should lead “not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and was the Democratic staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when President-elect Joe Biden was chair — a fact he mentioned in his opening remarks. He later served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State in the Obama administration.
Drawing an implicit contrast with the foreign policy of the Trump era, which saw key allies alienated as the president repeatedly expressed admiration for U.S. adversaries and strongmen, Blinken cited the U.S.’ “core alliances” as the best way “to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.”
“Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin,” he said. “Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad. And humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone — even one as powerful as the U.S.”
Blinken, who has good relationships on both sides of the aisle, has not encountered much partisan resistance to his nomination. Indeed, a group of former foreign policy and national security officials — all Republicans who said they did not endorse Biden for president — urged the Republican chair Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho to confirm Blinken swiftly in a letter obtained by POLITICO.
“As Republicans, we certainly understand the temptation of some in your conference to accord President Biden’s nominees for high office the same treatment that was routinely accorded to President Trump’s nominees,” reads the letter, signed by more than two dozen Republican former officials including Steve Hadley, the former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, and Kurt Volker, former Ukraine special envoy under Trump. “The ‘resistance’ culture is a corrosive one, however, and we urge the Senate not to succumb to it, particularly when the president puts forward a highly qualified nominee like Mr. Blinken, who we know is committed to working across the aisle to advance American values and interests.”
While at the State Department under Obama, Blinken played an important role in crafting the Iran nuclear deal. The plan was met with withering criticism by Senate Republicans, and Blinken will likely be questioned about the incoming administration’s plans to rejoin the agreement. How to confront an increasingly emboldened Russia and China will also be front and center in the hearing, especially on the heels of the discovery of a massive cyber espionage campaign that the U.S. government recently attributed to Russian government hackers.
Blinken closed his opening statement by addressing the committee directly. “President-elect Biden believes — and I share his conviction — that no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people,” he said. “You are the representatives of the American people. You provide that advice and consent. We can only tackle the most urgent problems our country faces if we work together, and I am dedicated to doing that.”