Donald Trump’s cabinet choices form an anti-government of sorts. A climate change skeptic as head of the EPA who’s involved in suing the EPA. A head of the Energy department who previously said he wanted to eliminate that department. A head of Education who’s a fervid proponent of charter schools and further privatization. A head of housing and urban development with no background in government and no apparent sympathy for the poor. A head of Labor who’s a fast-food mogul, an opponent of a higher minimum wage, and a proponent of robots replacing humans because the former don’t get sick or need health care or strike for higher pay. And, let’s not forget, a gaggle of retired generals in civilian security positions at the Pentagon and within the White House.
You have to hand it to Trump and the Republicans: when they select cabinet members, they’re not trying to triangulate; they’re not trying to reach out to the Democrats or rule in a bipartisan fashion. Their attitude is “We won — and we’re taking no prisoners.”
Remember how newly elected President Obama triangulated in 2008? He kept on Republican Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. He selected retired Marine Corps General James Jones to be his National Security Adviser, which drew high praise from John McCain. He appointed Tim Geithner at Treasury, a former member of the Kissinger Associates and advocate of the TARP (the Wall Street bailout). He tried to appoint other Republicans to his cabinet, such as Judd Gregg at Commerce. Despite Obama’s huge mandate and his message of “change,” most of his cabinet appointees were conventional Washington insiders, more than acceptable to Republicans.
Of course, this is just further proof (if more is needed) that Democrats like Obama and the Clintons are just another business party, a Republican-lite party. I’d say establishment Democrats don’t have the courage of their convictions, except I’m not sure they have convictions.
Well, Trump has convictions. And he’s unafraid to act on them with his cabinet choices. You think the Democrats might learn something from this?
At Informed Comment, Juan Cole has an excellent column on this whole issue, “Why do GOP Presidents get to go Hard Right, and Dems are just GOP Lite?” Here’s how Cole begins his column:
After it was confirmed that Donald J. Trump will appoint former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson Secretary of State, the shape of the Trump cabinet and team has become clear. Neofascist Steve Bannon is White House Strategist. Openly racist Jeff Sessions is Attorney General (guess how many civil rights actions he is going to initiate). General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is Secretary of War (call it what it is). Notorious Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist, who denies that Islam is a religion, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is National Security adviser.
But Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, when they came to power (and both were very popular and had real mandates) did not go left in the way that George W. Bush and now Trump have gone right.
In fact, the anecdote is told that in 1993 Clinton and his cabinet looked around the room at each other and observed, “Here we are, Eisenhower Republicans.” Why?
Why, indeed? Just imagine if a true liberal Democrat won the White House. And let’s imagine he or she is casting about for a suitable Secretary of Defense, someone who thinks outside of the pentagonal box. How about Ralph Nader or Noam Chomsky? (Cole mentions Frida Berrigan, another provocative choice.)
Call it spine, call it stones, call it sand, call it whatever you want, but Trump’s Republicans have it and the spineless Democrats don’t. Just wait until January, when we start to hear about a few Democrats crossing the aisle to work with Trump in the spirit of “bipartisanship” and “putting government back to work.” It makes me think of another saying of my parents: Trump and his cabinet of billionaires and millionaires “will be laughing all the way to the bank.” The rest of us? We may be laughing, but only to hide the tears.
Note: Revised on 12/19 to add retired Marine Corps General Jones as another example of Obama’s ill-fated effort to “move to the center” and to appease Republicans.