Sunday, January 29, 2017

How Trump will whitewash the White House

Through tweets, statements and misstatements, the nature of the forthcoming Trump presidency is slowly revealing itself.But perhaps the best way of assessing the next US administration as of now, is to look at the selections that Trump has made for the Cabinet and the White House. 

So far he has appointed 22 people and it is no surprise that of 17 of them are white males, some of them older like himself; while the women in the team have relatively unimportant portfolios.
The other feature is that they are mainly rich executives and businessmen with little or no experience in the portfolios they will handle.
Among these are Rex Tillerson the former boss of Exxon Mobil, now Secretary of State designate, or Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for the Department of Treasury who is a former Goldman Sachs executive, Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross who is a billionaire investor or Dr Ben Carson, Secretary for Housing and Urban Development designate, who is a neurosurgeon. 
Just what kind of a government Trump intends to run is evident from the fact that many of the appointees are known critics of the very departments they have now been chosen to head.Of course, there is still the matter of Senate confirmations in the coming year.
The New York Times has categorised the cabinet as comprising of disruptors like Scott Prutt, Oklahoma state attorney and climate change denier who has been chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Or former Texas governor Rick Perry who once wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, the outfit he has been asked to head. In choosing them, Trump wants them to change things, not run them as they were.
In other words, disruption is expected from them, though just how much disruption the huge and complex bureaucracy can take is a matter of conjecture.
The next category are deal makers like Tillerson and Mnuchin, who have never worked with government before, but are leaders in their respective field and have proven executive ability and should, over a period of time, master their respective departments.
With business and finance backgrounds, they know how to cut a deal in a complex environment and understand the importance of gain and loss.

Whether this presages a period in which the US reaches out to potential opponents like Russia, China and Iran and works out ways of getting along with them, or not, is something that remains to be seen.
In foreign policy there is only so much that is under your control - some variables are under the control of your adversaries, existing and potential.
In any case given the present situation, deals will not be easy for everyone to stomach.
Western Europe will not be particularly happy with a deal that get Putin off their backs, in exchange for accepting that Ukraine, Belarus and Syria are part of his sphere of influence.
Then, there are loyalists like former Republican party head Reince Priebus and the incoming NSA, Lt General Michael Flynn who stuck with Trump through the thick and thin.
There is the category of establishment persons who are close to the right-wing of the Republicans and have ties with the US Congress.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a thank you rally in Ladd-Peebles Stadium
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a thank you rally in Ladd-Peebles Stadium

Among these are Nikki Haley, Michael Pompeo the incoming CIA chief and Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Finally, there is the category of former military personnel who can prove to problematic - Flynn, defence secretary designate, Lt General James Mattis and Marine General John Kelly to head Homeland Security.
As it is, the generals who are well-known figures will tend to overshadow the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff who is the principal military adviser to the President. 

Presidents in the past often sought out technocrats or people with substantive experience in the field they were dealing with, but now we have retired generals, top executives and leaders in the world of finance.
Such people also have notoriously big egos and you can be sure that they will clash. 
To some extent this is by design as it will enable Trump to control them.
Further, we need to pay attention as well to sub-cabinet appointees who will run the powerful divisions of the various departments.

Trump has put in transition or 'landing' teams into the departments which clearly indicate that his goal is to live up to his promise of providing an administration which in is opinion will not be influenced by the 'special interests' in Washington.
In other words, a combination of disruptors, deal-makers, loyalists and establishment personnel.However, many of these figures will come from a very different pool of people i.e. not the Washington establishment which Trump shuns, but further afield. 
Mail Today December 19, 2016

No comments: