By TALIA POLICELLI As President Joe Biden rejects the toxic mythmaking of the Trump era and reinstates fact-based governance, Rhode Island will be doing its part. Washington is about to receive a double dose of old-fashioned Rhode Island common sense.
As President Joe Biden rejects the toxic mythmaking of the Trump era and reinstates fact-based governance, Rhode Island will be doing its part. Washington is about to receive a double dose of old-fashioned Rhode Island common sense.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, known for her pragmatic leadership approach, will be taking her place in the Biden administration as Secretary of Commerce. She will oversee a department that plays a critical role in everything from technology policy to climate change to promoting American industry.
With less fanfare but of equal importance, Sen. Jack Reed has assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees a $740 billion defense budget. Based on his decades of public service, Sen. Reed’s ascension promises a no-nonsense, fact-based approach to protecting the nation’s security.
Reed is pure Rhode Island: grounded, informed, and anything but a show horse. The son of a Cranston public school custodian, Reed graduated from La Salle Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He served for eight years as a U.S. Army officer and later as a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly, a United States congressman and, since 1996, as a United States senator.
In Congress, Reed has been known for getting results, if not headlines, through preparation, attention to detail, persistence and civil dealings with adversaries. He is highly respected on both sides of the aisle for his understated manner and overwhelming national security expertise.
“It’s not wrong to be skeptical,” Reed said of his vote against the invasion of Iraq in 2002. “I voted against the resolution because I was skeptical of the intelligence. But that was based on looking at the facts, analyzing the case in as rational and as a logical way as you can, not simply concluding or dismissing facts.”
During the Obama administration, Reed turned down the president’s offer of appointment as Secretary of Defense, saying he preferred to serve the people of Rhode Island in the Senate.
On Jan. 6, when a violent mob invaded the Capitol at the instigation of President Trump, he condemned the rioters as “thugs.” But characteristically, he balanced that with a note of hope, saying he expected Biden would begin to bridge the partisan divide in the years ahead.
Why will bringing his level-headed common sense to leadership of the Armed Services Committee be so important in the months to come?
The United States faces serious threats from an emboldened China, an aggressive Russia, and an unpredictable North Korea, among others. The committee must deal with the pressures of keeping the nation safe while contending with the lobbyists and political spending of a well-resourced defense industry.
The most immediate threat to good governance, in the Senate Armed Services Committee and throughout Congress, has been the rise of what Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway once described as “alternative facts,” or what others might simply describe as falsehoods.
Unfortunately, under the former chair’s leadership, the Armed Services Committee had started to prioritize special interest over public interest and fear-mongering over policy. Sen. Reed has an opportunity to restore the practice of making national security decisions that serve the interests of the American people.
Crucially, Sen. Reed will ensure that decisions are made based on an objective analysis of the facts, and not to serve a predetermined, politically-motivated outcome.
Washington needs the leadership of pragmatic and even-tempered straight shooters, and that’s the kind of leadership the Ocean State is now providing to the nation.
Talia Policelli is a Rhode Island native who graduated from the University of Rhode Island and worked for the Raimondo administration until 2015. She left to obtain a master’s degree in policy management from Georgetown University and now resides in Washington, D.C.