Let’s Not Jinx It, But This Incoming Cabinet Looks Pretty Darn Good So Far
Let’s take a look at this Trump administration cabinet so far:
Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions.
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Representative Tom Price.
Secretary of Transportation: Former secretary of labor Elaine Chao.
Secretary of Education: Philanthropist Betsy DeVos.
Ambassador to the United Nations: Governor Nikki Haley.
White House Chief of Staff: RNC chair Reince Priebus.
National Security Adviser: Former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.
CIA Director: Representative Mike Pompeo.
Treasury Secretary: Banker Steven Mnunchin.
Secretary of Commerce: Financier Wilbur Ross.
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Indiana health-policy consultant Seema Verma.
We may quibble with a few here and there, but overall it’s a really good group, particularly considering the perceived limited circle of connections and talent around Trump during the campaign. By and large, this is a pretty darn conservative cabinet, and one that’s sufficiently experienced, professional, knowledgeable, and prepared for the massive tasks before them. In fact, if any of the other 16 Republican presidential candidates had won, it’s easy to picture some of these same names appearing in those alternative Republican cabinets.
What’s more, there’s still quite a bit of experienced managerial and legislative talent walking through the lobby of Trump Tower these days: Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rick Perry, retired general James Mattis, Representative Marsha Blackburn, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin.
Perhaps most surprising is that some of the figures most loyal and visible during the campaign haven’t been named to any cabinet positions yet: Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie. (There’s the rumor, not yet officially announced, that Ben Carson will run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.)
During the campaign, quite a few conservatives uncomfortable with Trump noted that they would feel better if Mike Pence was the guy really handling the details. We might be getting something akin to that scenario:
Trump’s choices so far have reflected Pence’s politics — potentially proving helpful on Capitol Hill, where the Indiana governor and former House Republican leader has long been expected to help Trump most. Pence’s devotion to conservative principles — and his relationships with powerful groups, including the Heritage Foundation — have allowed him to help Trump navigate a Washington terrain that is unfamiliar to the billionaire business mogul who just ran his first campaign for any office.
A top Pence aide said Tuesday that Trump and Pence consult on all Cabinet picks — Pence even got a close friend, Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) into the mix for Treasury secretary, though that nod ultimately went to Steven Mnuchin — and that they communicate throughout the transition.
As for the relationship, the aide said they can look like something of an “odd couple” — but the balancing works. Pence, the aide said, was the only person who would have had the discipline to make it through a gauntlet like that campaign and not lose faith.
Do you recall the Obama administration’s “stray voltage” theory? The gist was, “the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy… Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.” Part of it was a cynical calculation to let an argument about a presidential statement ensure a topic stayed front and center in the public’s mind; there’s also the side effect of ensuring that a brouhaha about a presidential statement overshadowed actual policy decisions – decisions that may be more consequential, but are less dramatic and interesting to the news media.
Almost like, say, a president-elect declaring he wants to strip away the citizenship of those burning the flag.
If the incoming Trump administration really is using a variation of the “stray voltage” approach, and Democrats really have an uncontrollable impulse to focus on the controversial statement du jour, the Trump administration could end up being stunningly effective in policymaking. A lot of seemingly dry and boring regulations can be repealed, executive orders withdrawn, rewritten, and issued, legislation passed by GOP majorities in Congress and signed, all while the political world froths at the mouth about the president’s latest Tweet or denunciation of the media, or theater performers, or anything else that comes to mind.
You can enact sweeping, dramatic changes to Americans’ lives under the radar. As our friends at the Weekly Standard noted, the charter school movement grew enormously over the past 25 years, in large part because it wasn’t a big, Washington-focused political battle. Today, “43 states have charter-school laws, and approximately 3 million kids attend almost 7,000 charters across the country.” This happened without any giant federal legislation or heated governmental clashes in the national spotlight.
Could this really happen? Could the next four (eight?) years really turn out to be a golden era for conservative policy?
KSM: Hey, How Was I Supposed to Know George W. Bush Was a Cowboy?
A stunning anecdote that suggests President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks was exactly what was needed at that time, and saved countless lives:
James E. Mitchell knows.
In his gripping new memoir, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell describes the day he was questioning Khalid Sheik Mohammed, when the 9/11 mastermind announced he had something important to say. “KSM then launched into a gory and detailed description of how he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl,” Mitchell writes. Up to that moment, the CIA did not know KSM had personally carried out the murder. When asked whether it was “hard to do” (meaning emotionally difficult), KSM misunderstood the question. “Oh, no, no problem,” KSM said, “I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep.”
To confirm his story, the CIA had KSM reenact the beheading so that it could compare the features of his hands and forearms to those in the video of Pearl’s murder. “Throughout the reenactment, KSM smiled and mugged for the cameras. Sometimes he preened,” Mitchell writes. When informed that the CIA had confirmed that he was telling the truth, KSM smiled…
But perhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States — and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen — arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.
“Then he looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”
But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”
Leftist Activists Furiously Attempt to Steal ‘the Stupid Party’ Mantle from GOP
What I wrote at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday:
The big question in the coming days and weeks will be whether anti-Trump protesters have the self-control and self-awareness to realize that burning any American flags will play directly into Trump’s hands. As Charles pointed out, a ban on flag-burning is extremely popular, and most Americans instinctively detest the sight of the flag being burned. That’s the sort of provocation that raging anti-American mobs in foreign countries embrace. Of course, it’s likely that the most passionate – some would say unhinged – activists opposed to Trump are more interested in their own emotional catharsis than persuading the public about policy decisions.
Regardless of how they would justify their incendiary actions, any flag-burning anti-Trump protesters might as well hold up signs saying “we hate America,” because it will have the same effect on public opinion.
News from Reuters, 10 p.m. Tuesday:
A small group of hard-left activists burned foot-long U.S. flags outside the Trump International Hotel in New York on Tuesday, in an angry response to a tweet by President-elect Donald Trump that flag-burners should face legal consequences.
These people are stupid. I mean, really, really stupid.
ADDENDA: David French with an important observation: “We don’t have as many terrorist immigrants from Indonesia, India, or Malaysia as we do from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, or from the conflict zones in the Middle East. It’s much less risky to bring into the country a cardiologist from Jakarta than a refugee from Kandahar.”