Coons rejects the idea that he should replace Blinken. Nonetheless, he applauds the identity that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Has called the “force multiplier” for the president. As Blinken traverses the world to address a range of diplomatic and national security issues, Biden can rest assured that Coons will get a hit.
“The fact that I’m known to have a close relationship [Biden] helps me get a more haunted message, ”Coons said of his weekend trip to Addis Ababa, where he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
“President Biden felt it was important to send someone to speak for him and convey a message directly for him,” he added, referring to himself as Biden’s “personal envoy” for the mission.
Indeed, Coons did not hesitate to say yes when Biden asked him to make the long road to Africa to address the atrocities in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Coons delivered a letter to Abiy from Biden and returned to Washington with a reply for Biden in hand. Coons spoke to POLITICO two hours after landing in the USA in his voice hoarse with exhaustion and described the trip as “positive and purposeful”. And there is already evidence of it.
On Tuesday, after consistently denying it, Abiy admitted that Eritrean troops had indeed entered the Tigray region, where they are accused of slaughtering and raping civilians. It was a major breakthrough in the longstanding conflict between Eritrea and the regional ruling party in Tigray that tried to overthrow Abiy’s government.
The US has called on Eritrean troops to leave Tigray and take responsibility for protecting all of its citizens – including the region’s ethnic minorities – from Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, after credible reports of cruel human rights violations were published. Blinken described the massacre earlier this month as “ethnic cleansing,” a claim the Ethiopian government denies.
The situation of Coons as deputy for the Biden administration is unique and the senators of both parties said the president should continue to benefit.
“You have members of Congress who are interested in the subject. You can be really helpful,” said Graham. “I think it’s a smart move by President Biden and I know Chris is very capable.”
Despite the potential for territorial Frictions between Coons and Blinken on foreign policy issues have not yet emerged. The senator briefed the secretary on his way back from Ethiopia and stated that Blinken was “incredibly busy” after meeting Chinese officials in Alaska last week before going to Brussels for talks with NATO and European Union officials flew.
“So if I can play a small role in further developing our shared priorities,” said Coons, “I’ll be very happy about it.”
Coons was a natural complement to the mission in Ethiopia, as it maintained close ties to the region in addition to a relationship with the president. The third-term Senator was a humanitarian worker in Kenya before entering law school and was the top Democrat on the Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said Coons, Blinken and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, “have repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian government and other international partners at the highest levels to bring an end to the violence,” Tigray .
Beyond foreign policy, Coons will continue to play an important role as Biden attempts to get his agenda through Congress. The Senate is set to take up some major bills in the coming months that will likely need Republican endorsement, and Coons’ good standing with GOP Senators – though it got him into trouble with Liberals – leaves him well-positioned to strike against a deal to help.
“Diplomacy is important to him – international diplomacy, but he’s also quite a diplomat in the Senate,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). “And he was a good partner.”
This partnership mentality would make Coons an easy choice if Biden later had to find a replacement for Blinken in his administration. The secretary of state would come easily to Coons, other senators have said, and he would likely be confirmed with more than 90 votes.
It helps that Coons is always happy to talk about international affairs, both with reporters and with his colleagues. Senators from both parties questioned Coons about his trip when he returned to the Capitol on Monday. During an evening series of votes asking questions about the situation in Ethiopia, the raccoons stayed on the ground for about 30 minutes.
Despite his grueling travel schedule – Coons suspected he’d only slept six hours total during the three-day trip – he was anxious to stay and chat.
The 57-year-old declined to say if he expects to conduct similar diplomatic efforts for Biden in the future, saying only that it was the President’s business.
“I think it is important that the United States, and President Biden in particular, show commitment, concern and commitment to solving the humanitarian and human rights challenges in Tigray,” Coons said.
But while his Democratic friend stays in the Senate, Cornyn Coons offered a peculiar assignment known to Tom Cruise fans: “The Ambassador of Quan.”
Cornyn jokingly bestowed the title on Coons when they crossed paths at the Capitol this week. It refers to the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, in which Cruises agent shows Cuba Gooding Jr.’s NFL star how to look for more than cash.
In the film, “Quan” means both coin and communal respect, two traits Coons portray as senator-slash globetrotters for the White House these days – which explains why Coons joked back the Republican that his joke was “almost literal” . right.