It’s been over four weeks since I last posted. I have been watching and waiting for things to unfold. The problem is with Donald Trump stuff unfolds like a laundry basket in a hurricane, leaving my thoughts bumping into each other while trying to grab one thing to write about.
I’ve never seen the selection of a cabinet attract so much attention. I’d say it’s because Trump has turned it into a show, like everything else. The best story line is his belated choice for Secretary of State, which prompted much speculation and will remain suspenseful because of nomine Rex Tillerson’s working too closely with Vladimir Putin while head of Exon Mobile. That and CIA assertions that Putin himself directed the hacks of those emails of the Hillary team. A charge which Putin denies and Donald Trump calls “ridiculous.”
So, before he even begins his new job our new president is dismissing the competency of our intelligence services, especially the CIA. And at odds with several Senators in his own party who think both he and Tillerson have been too chummy with a virtual dictator and thug. This is an ongoing story I’ll get back to in a future post.
Today, however, I want to concentrate on something else, the Obama legacy in the hands of Trump’s other cabinet members. After putting the Republican establishment through a series of nightmare scenarios during the election process, President-Elect Trump has given them a cabinet that is basically a conservative Republican’s dream team. The never-Trumper likes of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush (sort of) are nearly drooling over this bunch, and those two are more moderate than many in the party. His win and his selections have turned night into day.
This unity figures to be tested down the road, but the selections show Trump acting like a conservative Republican despite spending most of his life appearing moderate and in the campaign saying all sorts of things. This team figures to roll back government restrictions on business, especially climate change measures, enact a more unsympathetic policy towards immigrants in general, especially the illegal or Middle East kind, and provide greater support for police actions and less sympathy for those who protest mistreatment.
Trump’s foreign policy is fuzzy at best, but the rest of his governing slant seems pretty clear and, I would say, well thought out from a staunchly conservative perspective. His team is made up, for the most part, of impressive people. However, from a liberal point of view, or even that of a moderate conservative, many of the cabinet picks are like hiring arsonists to run your fire department. Try to imagine who Hillary Clinton might have appointed and President Obama would have seconded as defenders of his legacy, and these are definitely not them:
For Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, a senator who has been a staunch opponent of immigration reform and when AG in Alabama prior to that had a debatable record on supporting civil rights.
For Secretary of Housing and Urban development (HUD), Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon whose primary qualification for the job is that he overcame a poor background and became a stalwart supporter of Trump. He seems more likely to stress a pull-yourself-up by the bootstraps approach as opposed to developing programs to aid the poor.
For Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, a billionaire head of two fast food chains who has been against the minimum wage and certainly is against raising it.
For Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, another billionaire who has spent much time and money as a “lobbyist” for charter schools while seeming to give up on public ones.
For Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price, a congressman and former orthopedic surgeon who has been a staunch critic of Obamacare while a steady supporter of laws that favor doctors over patients.
For Secretary of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, a Kansas state AG who has a law suit pending against the EPA and has often been characterized as a climate denier.
For Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, a Montana congressman who frequently votes against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling.
For Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, a former Texas governor who in a 2012 presidential election debate would have said he wanted to cut the Department of Energy, but couldn’t remember its name.
Do you see a pattern here? Sure my one sentence depictions are simplistic, but these are picks I’m sure President Obama finds hard to swallow. While insuring a smooth transition may be a big motive for Obama’s doing all he can to reach out and help Trump, I imagine there is another powerful motive at work and that is the realization that what he has worked so hard on over the past eight years might be torn apart by the Trump administration and all Obama can do at this point is to develop a good relationship with the incomer in hopes he can sway some thinking privately that he could never do publicly.
Obama must have a wry recollection at times of how in 2009, when he and Senator John McCain differed over a policy in a meeting, he told McCain: “Elections have consequences.”
We are just beginning to see some of the latest ones.