The Ron Klain Blame Game

Media reports are blaming Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain for the Biden Administration’s missteps.


White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is under attack in the press. Klain is getting blamed for the Biden Administration’s missteps including Build Back Better’s implosion, the voting rights debacle, and their COVID-19 response.

  • The Washington Post published a long profile of Klain on Tuesday. According to the Post, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and White House COVID-19 czar Jeffrey Zients have all criticized Klain’s job performance.
  • Damning him with faint praise, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told the Post, “[Klain]’s making the trains run on time – even though some of the boxcars may seem to be empty some of the time.”
  • One unnamed Congressional Democrat even said Klain had created “monsters” in the form of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A recurring theme in the Klain “briefing wars” (the British term for it) is the belief that he caters to far-left progressives at the expense of the moderates who gave Democrats their majorities.
  • The Washington Post article comes on the heels of two other major articles attacking Klain’s failures. Politico talked to Democratic members of Congress who called Klain “too insular, rigid, and self-assured” and demanded he be fired.
  • NBC News described the “search for a scapegoat” as Biden’s polls hit all-time lows, including a new Gallup poll released Tuesday that found Biden’s job approval to be a mere 41 percent. The report specifically citing his Twitter obsession and micromanaging style.
  • Biden has stated he stands by Klain and expect he will stay through at least the midterms.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Matthew Yglesias in his Slow Boring newsletter has a different scapegoat in mind: Chuck Schumer. Yglesias accuses Schumer of “deploying his prodigious shrewdness to prop up his own personal political standing rather than on behalf of the caucus.”
  • Politico reported on more dissension in the Democratic ranks. Their target? Chuck Schumer. According to these Democrats, his leadership strategy is dividing his caucus and imperiling his most vulnerable senators.
  • The New York Times examined Democrats “search for [a] new message” on COVID as voters yearn for an end to restrictions and a plan to return to normal.



  • National Review explains why Biden can’t “accentuate the positive.” “The problem for the Biden administration is even their areas of relative success are surrounded by counterbalancing problems or crises.”
  • The Washington Examiner dissected Biden’s attempt to pin blame on Republicans for his rough first year.
  • The Commentary Magazine podcast asks which factor is contributing more to the Democrats’ woes: “the Covid or the condescension?” They wonder if or when the Democrats will decide to loosen pandemic restrictions, even if only motivated by self-preservation.

Author’s Take

The Politico article knifing Ron Klain described the job of White House Chief of Staff as the White House’s “spear catcher.” Keep that in mind when reading the Klain coverage. Regardless, it’s significant that this many Democrats are metaphorically calling for the chief of staff’s head on a pike.

Klain, for all his faults, is ultimately just the spear catcher. It’s much safer for Democrats to attack the White House Chief of Staff than the president of their party. This happens in every administration. The president’s partisans blame the staff for failing him to launder their criticisms of the man at the top.

There’s a reason Harry Truman kept a plaque on the Resolute desk saying, “The buck stops here.” Ron Klain can only operate the way he does because his boss lets him.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022