Progressives’ bete noire Neera Tanden named White House staff secretary to chorus of raised eyebrows

Former Hillary Clinton adviser Neera Tanden, a controversial figure loathed by many progressive Democrats, has been promoted to White House staff secretary, finally securing a job in President Joe Biden’s inner circle.

Tanden succeeded in attaining a senior White House position after Biden’s attempt to appoint her as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ran aground on her history of controversial social media posts. 

Tanden was promoted on Friday, according to a White House official who spoke to the Washington Post, confirming that the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, made the announcement during a morning staff call.

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The White House was forced to withdraw Tanden’s nomination as director of OMB in March after several senators, including Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), made it clear they would not vote to confirm her, pointing to harsh comments she had made on social media and in leaked emails. While Tanden went on a Twitter scrubbing spree, removing over 1,000 tweets in the hope of sanitizing her public image for the Senate, it was too little and too late for the sharp-tongued Democratic fixture.

Klain was able to usher Tanden into the White House in May as a senior adviser – despite her having infamously mocked President Biden in an email to then-Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. 

Biden’s bumbling, she argued in the missive, made Clinton look comparatively good as a candidate. She has also disparaged fans of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), particularly during the 2016 presidential primaries, when it seemed the self-described democratic socialist actually had a chance at becoming the Democrats’ nominee. 

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Before her White House appointment, Tanden served as head of the Center for American Progress, a centrist Democratic think tank. She also worked as a senior adviser within the Department of Health and Human Services under former president Barack Obama. Tanden has been a long-time supporter of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, having worked as an associate director for domestic policy focused on healthcare during Bill Clinton’s presidency while also serving as an adviser to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady. 

In keeping with the Biden administration’s obsession with creating the “most diverse” White House ever, Tanden, who is of Indian ancestry, will be the first woman of color to serve as White House staff secretary. 

Tanden’s appointment elicited a predictable flood of vitriol on Twitter, where she has made legions of enemies among the progressive left.

Pointing to Biden’s flagging approval ratings, many wondered what the purpose of naming such a polarizing figure to such a visible role might be –  other than to open the door to even more controversial names.

Tanden will remain a White House senior adviser and takes over in her new role from Jessica Hertz, a former Obama administration lawyer who also worked for Facebook in its government affairs division. Hertz is set to leave the post on Friday, leaving Tanden to take over on Monday. She will report to Klain.

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