President Biden on Wednesday hosted an official transition event to kick off Jeff Zients’s role as chief of staff and to thank former chief of staff Ron Klain for his service since the beginning of the Biden administration.
“I look forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024,” he said to applause from the dozens of White House aides at the event.
Klain rattled off work out of the White House over the last two years. Not bad, he said, for a 2020 presidential candidate who was “written off for dead.”
“It is never a good bet to bet against Joe Biden and this team,” he said, getting emotional.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Klain said. “I take solace in knowing I’m leaving you in best of hands.”
Klain joked that Zients pledged to buy everyone in the White House a bagel every day, “so I will soon be forgotten.” (Zients was the original investor in the popular Call Your Mother bagel chain in Washington, D.C.)
Klain added that he learned everything about being a father from Biden, and that Biden has also taught him a thing or two about politics and policy.
Biden, in turn, praised Klain, his longtime confidant — 36 years — who is known as a tireless political junkie often seen by the public on Twitter and cable television. The president described him as the guy willing to jump in front of a bus for you.
“When you’re president of the United States and you’ve got to make some pretty tough calls… I’m extremely lucky and grateful to have such a team lead by Ron,” Biden said, adding that he’s confident Zients can fill the role.
Biden said Klain is a once-in-a-generation talent. He joked Klain has “a heart as big as his head” and is beloved by White House staff, known as Klain-iacs.
“Most of all, he has enormous, enormous integrity,” Biden said. “With Ron’s leadership, look at what we got here over the years, over the last two years alone.”
Zients, the former COVID-19 czar to the Biden administration, starts his new role as the White House will be juggling a host of GOP-led congressional investigations, critical negotiations over the debt ceiling and the start of Biden’s likely 2024 reelection bid.
He is widely praised as a manager who can oversee complex operations with exceptional leadership skills.
After leaving his role advising the pandemic response effort in April, he returned this fall ahead of the midterm elections to assist Klain with preparations for staff turnover as well as other projects.
Progressives have been skeptical of Zients as chief of staff after Klain worked to ease the Democratic Party’s divide and was a connection between progressives and establishment figures.
Zients previously was chief executive officer of an investment firm, Cranemere, and was on the board of directors of Facebook. Some see that work with the social media company as an issue.
Before those private sector roles, Zients was director of the National Economic Council under former President Obama. He was also acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, experience that could help him when dealing with the debt ceiling.
Source: The Hill