Who Is Ron Klain - US New Chief of Staff: Biography, Life and Political Career
|Ron Klain (L) was named White House chief of staff,. (Photo: Getty)|
President-elect Joe Biden has named his longtime aide Ron Klain to be White House chief of staff, the campaign announced Wednesday evening. The chief of staff is one of the most significant White House appointments.
Who Is Ron Klain?
Early Life and Education of Ron Klain
Ronald A. Klain was born on August 8, 1961, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to dad Stanley, a building contractor, and mom Sarann, a travel agent. Raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ron Klain was well versed in political campaigning by the time he entered Harvard Law School.
He was named associate general counsel and Vice President Al Gore's chief of staff in the Bill Clinton administration, and later became Vice President Joe Biden's top aide and the "Ebola czar" under President Barack Obama. Klain, who has also served as counsel, adviser and board member for numerous organizations, rejoined Biden for the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign and was tapped as the president-elect's chief of staff in November 2020.
His interest in politics sparked by an early meeting with Robert Kennedy, Klain interned for Colorado Senator Floyd Haskell at age 15 and was voted president of the North Central High School graduating class of 1979. He went on to work for Senators Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts) and Birch Bayh (Indiana) while majoring in government at Georgetown University, becoming the first member of his family to finish college when he graduated summa cum laude in 1983.
After managing Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey's 1984 Senate campaign, Klain entered Harvard Law School. He won the Sears Prize for the top grade-point average in 1985 and served as editor of the Harvard Law Review, before earning his J.D. in 1987.
|Ron Klain was also Joe Biden's chief of staff when he was vice president. (Photo: Getty)|
Personal Life and Family of Ron Klain
Klain is married to lawyer and environmentalist Monica Medina, founder of the newsletter Our Daily Planet. They have three children: Hannah, Michael and Daniel.
Ron Klain's political career
Ron Klain had positions at senior levels in all three branches of the federal government. After law school, he clerked for Justice Byron R. White on the Supreme Court; then, as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he helped oversee the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, including the controversial review of Clarence Thomas. Mr. Klain also worked as staff director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees under Mr. Daschle, who was at the time the Senate Democratic leader and who is now the Obama administration’s nominee for secretary of health and human services. In the White House, besides working as chief of staff to Mr. Gore, Mr. Klain was chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno and was the associate White House counsel in charge of judicial nominations, according to NYT.
Klain joined Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign as an adviser and debate coach, the latter a duty he would fulfill for generations of Democratic candidates to come. He became associate counsel to President Clinton, where he was tasked with judicial selections like the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, and then chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno. Klain served as Vice President Gore's chief of staff for nearly four years, until announcing his departure in August 1999. He returned to the then-Democratic presidential candidate's team to lead the heavily contested and ultimately unsuccessful Florida recount in late 2000. After spending the better part of a decade in the private sector, Klain returned to the federal government as Vice President Biden's chief of staff from 2009 into early 2011.
|Biden's choice of Klain points to the team's focus on immediately trying to tackle dual crises: the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery. (Photo: Lincoln Journal)|
Ron Klain's roles in the Obama administration
Klain wore many hats during President Barack Obama's time in office. He became known as an expert in debate preparation and as one of the leaders in the Supreme Court confirmations of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Biden also cited Klain's support with both the 2008 financial crash and the Ebola outbreak as reasons for his new appointment as White House chief of staff.
According to NPR, in 2014, Klain was named Obama's "Ebola czar" during the virus outbreak. There were eleven total Ebola cases in the United States, with only two people contracting Ebola within the U.S. (others traveled with the disease from other countries—neither of the patients who contracted the virus in the U.S. died from it).
Denis McDonough, who served as Obama's chief of staff from 2013 to 2017 said: "None of these decisions is easy, but the way you make hard decisions is that you tee them up transparently, and that really falls on the chief of staff. That happens to play to one of Ron's real strengths."
Klain has been vocally critical of President Donald Trump's COVID-19 response, and frequently tweets about the topic. "The Trump administration's response to this crisis has clearly failed," Klain said in a July Biden campaign video. "Donald Trump has waved the white flag in the fight against coronavirus."
|Klain wore many hats during President Barack Obama's time in office. (Photo: News Republic)|
Close relation with Presiden-elected Joe Biden
"Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014," Biden said in a statement.
Klain first began working for Biden in the late 1980s. Biden was then a senator from Delaware, while Klain was a recent Harvard Law School graduate—and former editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. This early job began Klain's long run in Democratic politics, and with future President Biden. As a political tactician, Mr. Klain is well versed in the levers of power in both the executive and legislative branches of government. But he will quickly come under pressure to assemble a White House staff that extends beyond the moderate members of the Democratic establishment with whom Mr. Biden has surrounded himself over four decades in politics, said NYT.
Klain served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which, at that time, Biden led (and also included the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas). He then moved on to work for Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts and later became staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee. Klain was Biden’s top legal adviser on the committee during the racially charged and sexually explicit collision with the Bush administration over the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Many of Biden’s allies saw his handling of the confirmation — managed in large part by Mr. Klain and his team of committee lawyers — as one of the stains on his record in the Senate.
In 1992, Klain joined the Clinton administration. He led the team that won confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and eventually worked his way up to becoming chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore. During the 2000 election, Klain led Gore's unsuccessful vote recount effort in Florida.
In between the Clinton and Obama administrations, Klain worked in lobbying and venture capital, helping grow the firm Revolution, run by former AOL chief executive Steve Case. But, Klain and Biden remained close over the years, and, in 2009, Klain reprised the role he played for Gore, becoming then-Vice President Biden's chief of staff. This job was just one among many he took on over the course of the Obama administration, according to Town & County.
Throughout the 2020 campaign, Klain was a top adviser to Biden and was deeply trusted by a candidate known for maintaining a tight-knit inner circle. He was not especially involved in logistical, day-to-day decisions, but along with Anita Dunn, a senior Biden adviser, he played a central role in guiding Biden’s debate preparations and message.
|Biden called Klain an “invaluable” adviser. (Photo: Stat)|
Klain once credited his political involvement to Robert F. Kennedy
In a 2008 New York Times op-ed, Klain told a story from his childhood, revolving around Robert Kennedy's 1968 visit to Indianapolis. Kennedy was supposed to give a campaign speech there when he learned the news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Instead, Kennedy told the crowd about the tragedy and gave one of the most beautiful, impactful speeches of his life. This story was personal to Klain, who grew up in Indianapolis and met Kennedy a few weeks prior to that speech. He attributes the lack of riots or violence in Indianapolis on that night to Kennedy's powerful words.
Klain wrote, "Forty years later, whenever I hear people say that a politician’s speeches don’t matter, that campaigns are a waste and that the sort of conflict we have in the 2008 Democratic primary is 'destructive,' I think of Robert Kennedy’s words in Indianapolis that night—a speech that would have never happened but for the hard-fought, highly competitive 1968 primary campaign—and the millions of people like me who were inspired by them and their impact on that city."
|The chief of staff is one of the most significant White House appointments. (Photo: NBC)|
What does it mean with the choice of Klain?
Biden's choice of Klain points to the cabinet's focus on immediately trying to tackle dual crises: the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed about 240,000 people in the United States so far, as well as the economic recovery. Klain helped shepherd the 2009 Recovery Act as Biden's chief of staff, and then in 2014, he was appointed the Obama administration's Ebola czar.
In a statement, Biden called Klain an “invaluable” adviser, noting, in particular, the work they did together during the economic crisis in 2009 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014. "His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum are precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again," Biden added in the statement.
Klain’s experience confronting the Ebola outbreak during the Obama administration was newly relevant this year as the coronavirus pandemic upended American life and became Biden’s central message during the presidential race. Biden has repeatedly accused President Trump of fumbling the nation's pandemic response and has vowed to lead the country with a scientific approach to slowing the virus's spread. Klain, as a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, was particularly instrumental in its coronavirus messaging. He recorded an explanatory video in front of a whiteboard that ended up being one of the campaign's most popular videos on social media platforms as it transitioned to a mostly digital operation during the early days of the pandemic.
*Check out Full List of Biden's Cabinet HERE!
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