The Arena: Constructing the cabinet

2/7/16 – Medford/Somerville, MA – Aren Torikian poses for a headshot on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Aristophanes once wrote, “under every stone lurks a politician.” Politicians say and do whatever is necessary to win; oftentimes, these promises mean little. Usually this annoys me, but in the case of President-elect Donald Trump, I was almost rooting for him to break his promises.

In the immediate aftermath of the election two weeks ago, that is just what he did. Trump campaigned heavily on repealing and replacing Obamacare. But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump actually acknowledged keeping parts of the bill. Trump’s team also quietly removed the provision calling for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States from his personal website. It seemed like Trump was following the same path most politicians take.

But over the last 10 days, it has become obvious that these changes were just cosmetic. In picking potential cabinet members, Trump has reverted to rewarding the initial supporters who bought into his inflammatory rhetoric. For instance, the new Attorney General (America’s top lawyer), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was Trump’s first senatorial endorsee. Sessions is one of the Senate’s most vehement opponents of immigration — illegal or (believe it or not) legal.

Trump also tapped Mike Flynn, another early supporter, for the job of National Security Advisor. Flynn, formerly an Obama Administration advisor before being forced out, once referred to Islam as a “malignant cancer,” and has called the fear of Muslims “rational.” His appointment may indicate an alignment with Russia in the Syrian Civil War, focusing on fighting ISIS instead of promoting regime change.

Oh, and Trump picked the overtly anti-Semitic former chairman of an overtly racist and misogynistic news source to be one of his top advisors. There’s that too.

Almost as worrying is the potential role Trump is carving out for friends and family. For example, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly nudged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie out of cabinet consideration. Christie, a former government prosecutor, had put Kushner’s father in jail for criminal tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. Just days after the election, Trump relegated Christie from his position atop the transition team. He then asked for security clearance for Kushner. Federal law prevents family members from being part of the Cabinet, but this would not be too far from that.

We’ll see who else Trump decides to nominate over the course of the next few weeks, but I don’t see him having trouble getting them through the Senate. For Cabinet members, Trump just needs a simple majority in the Senate. Thanks to the Democrats’ dud of a performance on Nov. 8, they probably won’t be able to organize enough bipartisan support to slow Trump down.

For once, I actually wish there were more “establishment” bureaucrats in the administration. As of now, Trump’s administration has filled up with a murderer’s row of ideologues with little experience (aside from Sessions) in political office. Trump met with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Saturday, and will hopefully offer him a position. Actual politicians in the cabinet would give us, Washington and other nations some level of predictability to the president’s actions. As of now, this cabinet’s build quality is like an IKEA product put together by your favorite columnist.


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