Neera Tanden, then president and CEO of the CAP Action Fund, speaks at an 'Impeach and Remove' rally at the US Capitol on December 18, 2019, in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP / Larry French / Getty Images for

It has for months been an open secret in Washington that Biden White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain will likely be departing come the November midterm elections. 

The conventional wisdom holds that one of the members of President Joe Biden’s inner circle will take the reins from Klain. That could mean anyone from longtime Biden consigliere and former health-care-industry lobbyist Steve Ricchetti, to current White House policy guru Bruce Reed, or communications veteran Anita Dunn.

Some believe that the top candidate to succeed Klain is Biden’s chief domestic policy adviser, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, with whom Biden has a reportedly close personal rapport. Yet her chances may have been somewhat undermined this past May when a report in the liberal American Prospect surfaced accusing Rice of creating an “abusive and dehumanizing environment” at the White House.

One name that political Washington ought to be keeping its eye on, according to a highly sourced Democratic Party insider, is that of longtime Hillary Clinton confidante and former think-tank executive Neera Tanden. 

Tanden was originally tapped to join the Biden administration as the president’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, but her nomination to run OMB was sunk by her history of insult-tweeting Republican senators and her lack of qualifications for the budget role.

Tanden, like Rice, is alleged to be something of a terror to staffers, but in Washington, the strategy of “kiss up, kick down” rarely fails, and after Tanden’s nomination to run OMB went nowhere, she was rewarded with a position as White House senior adviser and staff secretary where she has, predictably, stepped on a number of toes.

What has been read as something of a trial balloon for Tanden’s possible ascent to chief of staff recently appeared in Politico magazine titled “Neera Tanden takes the wheel.” Politico reports:

“Inside the White House, Neera Tanden has taken a far more assertive role in determining what papers make it to the president’s desk than her predecessor as staff secretary, according to several people familiar with the dynamic.”

And this week the White House announced that Tanden’s longtime benefactor John Podesta will be joining the administration as senior adviser to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation.

Podesta, himself a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, is said to be close to his former protégé. Together, Podesta and Tanden built the Center for American Progress (CAP) into a neoliberal behemoth, with an annual budget of nearly $50 million. During this time, Tanden and Podesta controversially raised millions from the United Arab Emirates and shut down CAP’s liberal blog “Think Progress.”

And as a longtime Clinton partisan, Tanden did more than her share to fan the flames of the years-long Russiagate conspiracy.

A month after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, CAP created an online media outlet called The Moscow Project, a prominent example of the kind of liberal McCarthyism that seemed to infect every single US liberal and mainstream news and opinion outlet for the duration of Trump’s term in office – without exception. 

As the Pulitzer Prize–winning  journalist Glenn Greenwald notes, Tanden was “not only one of the first to push the Steele Dossier’s claim that Russia held blackmail power over Trump but also one of the last to do so – insisting in 2018 that ‘the dossier has been mostly proven to be true’ and claiming as late as 2019 that nothing in this discredited junk report had been disproven.”

Tanden, needless to say, has a long line of detractors among both progressives and conservatives. Yet perhaps this most widely disliked product of ClintonWorld will be what the Biden White House will be looking for should the Republicans take control of Capitol Hill come the November midterms. 

James W Carden is a former adviser to the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the US Department of State. His articles and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Nation, The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, The Spectator, UnHerd, The National Interest, Quartz, the Los Angeles Times and American Affairs.