Presidents typically fill their administration with members of their own party, mostly because they need allies in key positions who share their goals and values. It is also, admittedly, a way to repay the legions of individuals who have campaigned with and for them.
But while it remains the exception rather than the rule, there also is a longstanding tradition, stretching back to the republic's earlier days, of occasionally appointing members of the opposing party even to important, highly influential positions. Few outdid Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in this regard. His appointments included Republicans to head the Navy, Treasury, the War Department and the Federal Reserve.
It's encouraging to see President Joe Biden take a similar path with his most recent appointments. He named former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey and Cindy McCain, widow of the late Sen. John McCain, as representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. Both were quickly confirmed by a closely divided Senate.
Flake wrote earlier that his nomination by a Democratic president "reaffirms the best tradition of American foreign policy and diplomacy: the credo that partisan politics should stop at the water's edge." Flake added that "U.S. foreign policy should be bipartisan. That is my belief as well and my commitment."
Flake and McCain are solid Republicans, though deeply disaffected by their party's domination by former President Donald Trump. Both served as key Biden surrogates who sought to broaden his appeal to more moderate Republicans during the 2020 campaign.
More startling was Biden's decision to nominate a Republican to one of the most sensitive posts in his administration. Biden named Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman to lead election protection efforts at the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Though a lifelong Republican, Wyman was an outspoken critic of Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, a drumbeat the former president has maintained since losing to Biden.
"The threats to our country's election system continue each day, and they must be met with a combined effort by IT and cybersecurity experts alongside election professionals at the local, state and federal levels," Wyman said in a statement.
Trump made CISA a particular source of his post-election ire. He attacked its leaders for contradicting his fictional narrative of widespread security breaches and rampant voter fraud, neither of which has ever been backed up by any evidence despite numerous audits.
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs paid the ultimate price for his refusal to compromise election security, standing by his principles and affirming publicly that the 2020 election was run fairly. He was fired by Trump.
Recently, Krebs praised Wyman as "the real deal and a true professional," calling her appointment a solid addition to the CISA team "as they continue to play a key role in defending democracy."
Biden is smart to seek out individuals who have demonstrated the courage to stand their ground against a tidal wave of pressure from those around them. In Wyman's case, he also tapped someone with a national reputation for voting and election security, as well as deep experience in voting by mail. Washington is among a very few states with years of experience conducting secure mail voting.
CISA Director Jen Easterly said in a statement that Wyman's "decades of experience, unparalleled expertise and unimpeachable integrity have earned her bipartisan respect at every level of government."
These are appointees who can act in a true bipartisan manner, and Biden's administration will be better for it.