by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Trump transition has been generating shock in the Washington establishment by appointments of outsiders: “Wait, he can’t be the secretary of that department; he’s against the existence of that department.”
This amuses Trump’s supporters, who delight in saying, “Of course he’s against the existence of that department; that’s why he got the job.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been against the Energy Department, although its identity slipped his mind during a 2012 debate. His critics now declare that he just doesn’t understand how important the department is, what with its national laboratories and its responsibilities to build and care for nuclear weapons. (That’s a bureaucratic accident handed down from the 1940s. Such grave responsibilities belong in the Department of Defense.)
The designated administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued to overturn some of the agency’s decisions, and, like Perry, he is at least underwhelmed by the case for dramatic efforts to reduce climate change. (In and near the Obama administration, concern for the consequences of such efforts is often called “climate denial,” though nobody questions the existence of climate.)
The presumptive secretary of labor, Andy Puzder, is a fast-food executive who opposes many of the regulatory dreams of organized labor, such as a big boost in the national minimum wage and expanding eligibility for overtime.
The parade of upset activists has been very large in protest of Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman of Exxon Mobil, whom Trump said he will nominate to be secretary of state. With acute grasp of the obvious, a front-page headline in one national newspaper declared, “As Exxon Head, Tillerson Put Company’s Needs Over U.S. Interests.” …
… We are more than curious about President-elect Trump’s nominees who hold clear public views different than his. Will Trump run meetings with a mailed fist, telling subordinates to stay subordinated, or will he hold wonk sessions to hear proposals and distill them into a coherent, effective compromise?
In the Reagan White House, for example, the president had at least three power centers contending about nearly everything, and nobody was quite sure who had the power on what issue, because the president seemed only mildly interested in the details that consumed his staffs. Negotiations were carried on via leaks to the major newspapers, and decisions emerged the same way.
There will be plenty of room for debate in the new administration: The new president has a bedrock desire for tax cuts and spending increases, but he has picked a budget director who has opposed raising the debt ceiling. He insists on getting tough with trading partners, but several of his nominees—for the Commerce and Defense departments, for example—backed trade deals he dismisses with contempt. The designated director of the EPA has opposed biofuels mandates, which Trump favored with “100% support” during the Iowa caucuses.