Now that President Joe Biden has announced that his longtime confidante Ron Klain is stepping down from his job as White House Chief of Staff, it’s clear that his successor, former White House Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients may need some newspapers to fill out the proverbial size 24 shoes Mr Klain will leave behind in his West Wing corner office.
In a statement, Mr Biden hailed his outgoing top aide as a “once-in-a-generation talent” with both a “fierce and brilliant intellect” and “a big heart” to match. and described him as “uniquely qualified” for the role he is vacating due to his long record of public service dating back to when Mr Klain first came to work for him as a third-year law student.
The president also described how under Mr Klain’s leadership, the Biden administration has compiled a legislative record that commentators have said is akin to that of Democratic juggernauts such as Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt, in just two years and with razor-thin margins in the House and Senate.
Mr Biden has also seen his veteran adviser navigate his (relatively) young administration through the devastating aftermath of an attack on the Capitol that left him taking the presidential oath of office at a nearly-deserted Capitol ringed by scale-proof fencing and protected by armed National Guard troops, with all of it taking place amid a viral pandemic the likes of which had been unseen since the middle of Woodrow Wilson’s second term.
And to top it off, Mr Biden largely avoided the midterm election blowout that has plagued every president who didn’t suffer an impeachment trial or deadly terrorist attack in the first year of a presidential term.
“Working together, we have made incredible progress fighting COVID, reviving our economy, rebuilding our infrastructure, and winning the confirmation of almost 100 federal judges, including the first Black woman on the United States Supreme Court. We have taken big steps to tackle climate change, advance civil rights, and address student debt. We’ve been reasserting America’s place in the world, and maybe most important of all – restoring faith in our democracy,” the president said.
As one expert on White House staffing put it to The Independent, the administration’s performance under Mr Klain would make the 61-year-old Harvard Law School graduate the chief of staff equivalent of Tom Brady during his years quarterbacking the New England Patriots’ offense.
But does Mr Klain’s Bradyesque record condemn Mr Zients, a veteran business consultant and former National Economic Council director who led the Biden administration’s successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, to being a disappointment in the mould of Brady successor Mac Jones?
Cedric Richmond doesn’t think so.