And you thought once the race was over, things would return to normal? Hah!
Now we have to worry about which Trump are we going to get – the reasonable fellow who met with the President and gave the gracious acceptance speech after taking Secretary Clinton’s concession? Or the T.V. mogul leering at his women, polishing his brand and promising a Christmas list of changes to everything? Or the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist ranting about Muslim terrorists and Mexican rapists?
The next few weeks will produce some huge signals on what we can expect from a Trump administration – being the individuals that Trump announces for his key cabinet and staff positions. Not the names of the wannabees that keep spewing forth from the hangers-on in the bleachers, but the real list of real McCoys from the Horse’s Mouth himself.
Who he selects and who he leaves out in these appointments will tell mountains about how Trump’s administration will perform substantively. Will he go for ability and skill – as he promised – or merely loyalty? What will be the mix between Washington insiders and those from outside the beltway? Will everyone be a hard right conservatives, or will there be room here for a moderate voice? Will the opposition be acknowledged at all, or totally left out? Where, if at all, will women fit in, and who will they be? Consider, for example, one key appointment: Secretary of State.
Heading up Department of State is a huge job. Foreign policy is not a strong suit with Trump. He has no experience in this area, and his policy declarations to date have been bumper-sticker slogans with no substance. He has wandered all over the place in trying to come up with a consistent set of goals for the Middle East. He has managed to bring into question our commitment to NATO, our role in the defense of the Pacific Rim, the future of the Balkan states, and nuclear proliferation. The rest of the world is up in arms over Trump’s election in light these pronouncements along the way.
One thing Trump needs to do immediately is send a strong message to the rest of the world to calm the fears of foreign leaders that while some changes may be in the offing, drastic change in the relationship with our allies is not contemplated. One way to do that is to name a Secretary of State of international prominence; one that would send a calming message to all.
A truly bold move on Trump’s part to send such a message to the world and also to declare his intention to reunite the country and attempt to bring an end to the crippling divisiveness that has developed, would be to reach across the aisle and appoint a Democrat to this key cabinet post – asking Secretary Kerry to stay on, for example, or drafting Joe Biden for the job. If asked, and if either would accept, this would be a monumental step in demonstrating Trump’s true intent at being a President for everyone and to reconcile and reunite the country.
There is a strong tradition for the appointment of at least one key cabinet post from the opposition party. Every president back through FDR has selected at least one cabinet secretary or other high appointed official from the opposite party. Appointing a moderate Democrat to head State and help guide foreign policy does not denigrate the right wing’s true interest in domestic policy, commerce and taxation, and would be a huge relief to the rest of the world.
If Trump is not persuaded to go that far with this position, the Republican candidates most often mentioned for the job of Secretary of State are John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and Senator Robert Corker. Bolton is a hard right, hawkish ideologue. He could not garner the votes to get confirmed as Bush’s ambassador to the U.N., and has been on the sidelines ever since. Newt Gingrich is an enigma. More to the center than Bolton, Gingrich has been said to be of the “Reagan-John Paul II-Thatcher” strain of aggressive diplomacy developed during the 1980’s. He has been out of anything connected with foreign policy for 30 years. Senator Bob Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is clearly the most current of the three on worldwide problems. Although a conservative Republican, he is the most moderate of the three in his foreign policy, often voicing a more cautious and non-interventionist note than his more hawkish colleagues.
Barring the dramatic step of selecting a Democrat, the selection of Senator Corker would signal an intent to aim at moderation in foreign affairs. It would assuage most of the country and most foreign leaders that reason and common sense will continue to guide U.S. policy.
Selection of John Bolton would signal a toleration for brinksmanship and military intervention everywhere. It would mean a resurrection of American Exceptionalism, a tolerance for nuclear proliferation, and the return of the Ugly American. It would scare the bejesus out of half the country, the rest of the world, and me.
Picking Newt Gingrich as Secretary of State would leave it a mystery for now, until Gingrich’s policies firm up more, and it is clarified whether, on foreign policy, he tends towards the hard right or would tolerate the more moderate center. The delay would not serve to calm the fears of the foreign leaders. Also of Newt is the fact that since he has lived off the dregs of politics for more than 30 years, his appointment would not be viewed as consistent with Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.”
Most of the picks will be conservative Republicans; that is to be expected. There will be some token exceptions, but these will be flagged and well labeled. All of Trump’s appointments should be examined for answers beyond the mere name of the individual involved. It will all come down to one question: does the individual possesses the flexibility to adjust to meet the needs of the entire country, or will all answers only address the demands of the far right?
The answer will be revealing