Chris Coons was flying back from Ethiopia to Washington this week when a staffer showed him a revealing picture on the plane's radar: His aircraft and Secretary of State Antony Blinken's were about to cross paths over the Atlantic Ocean.
The moment was a metaphor of sorts for Coons’ current role for President Joe Biden. The Delaware Democrat’s close friendship with Biden has already made Coons an unofficial White House envoy in the Senate, but he is now expanding his reach overseas, with the president dispatching the senator to Ethiopia over the weekend for an urgent diplomatic mission.
The move showed that despite Coons’ dashed hopes to serve as Biden’s chief diplomat, he’s emerging as what some sources called a "shadow" secretary of state for a president beset with foreign-policy challenges. He's a senior member of the Foreign Relations Commitee, but it's highly unusual for a senator who doesn't chair a panel to travel internationally on the president's behalf.