In The New York Times, Michael Shear has a pretty good story about Donald Trump's picks for key positions and the ways they're likely to approach their jobs. Shear's headline is "Outsiders Selected by Trump Aim to Unnerve Washington." It's a good story to read if you want to know precisely what you have to worry about in a Trump presidency. A sample:
Some of those chosen -- 17 picks so far for federal agencies and five for the White House -- are among the most radical selections in recent history.... a number of Mr. Trump’s most important selections have no experience in federal government and a great drive to undo it.
Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma state attorney general who was picked to lead the E.P.A., rejects the established science of human-caused climate change and has built his career on fighting environmental regulations. At the Education Department, Betsy DeVos wants to steer government money away from traditional public schools. Rick Perry was picked to head the Energy Department -- unless he eliminates it, as he once promised.
Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, the conservative Republican who was chosen as White House budget director, refused to back the 2011 deal to raise the federal debt limit and helped to bring the United States to the brink of default.
But there's one utterly wrong note in this story -- or at least there was:
"They are neither all conservative, nor all liberal"? None of them are liberal. Why did Shear write this sentence? Even as he was describing the radicalism of many of Trump's picks, why did he feel the need to say that they're arrayed across the political spectrum??
Someone at the Times noticed the glaring problem here, or maybe it was pointed out by readers. The paragraph above is from the early edition of the print paper; online now, that sentence reads:
They are neither all hard-right conservatives, nor all mainstream conservatives.
Newsdiffs says that the original version was posted at 12:23 yesterday; the revised version replaced it at 4:19.
Left untouched, however, is an assertion by Shear that "a picture is emerging of an administration with little ideological cohesion." If the Trump administration has an ideological range from mainstream conservative to hard-line conservative, how does that distinguish it from the Reagan administration or the George W. Bush administration -- apart from the fact that this one is more consistently conservative?
Also still in the story is this paragraph:
There is “no overarching theory,” said Pete Wehner, who was deputy director of speechwriting for Mr. Bush and a fierce critic of Mr. Trump during the campaign. “He’s not being driven by the usual impulses, which would be policy or ideology or political philosophy.”
I think there are two "overarching theories" in the Trump administration:
1. KA-CHING! Money is meant to flow to the plutocracy, especially Trump family members, Putin fans, and other captains of dirty-fuels industries.
2. What do liberals hate? That's what the Trump administration intends to do.
Over in the opinion section of the Times, James Mann predicts that Trump's foreign policy team will be unstable, because there are very few people on it who know anything about their jobs, and there are policy disagreements among the principals:
... the Trump team differs not only from that of George W. Bush, but also from the teams of Presidents George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan or, for that matter, Gerald Ford, Richard M. Nixon or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Those teams included people with experience at the top or second levels of the cabinet and national-security apparatus in previous administrations. The Trump team has none....
It’s not just their lack of experience that will make for an unstable foreign policy ship. Mr. Trump has, perhaps by design, chosen people who do not know one another, and appear to disagree in personality and worldview....
Strong disagreement seems baked into the team. James N. Mattis, the retired Marine general whom Mr. Trump has chosen as secretary of defense, has voiced support for the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran, while [national security advisor-designate General Mike] Flynn, Mike Pompeo at the C.I.A. and Mr. Trump himself have attacked it. Mr. Pompeo has been a hawk on Russia, in contrast to several of his colleagues.
A foreign policy team that will struggle with internal conflicts? Intriguing thought. Mann's op-ed is worth reading -- but even he slips into "what on earth could the Trumpers' motivations possibly be?" mode:
Given some of Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements about Russia, as well as ties between the Kremlin and Mr. Trump and [secretary of state-designate Rex] Tillerson, it seems likely that the White House will seek improved relations with the country, though they have given no clue as to what shape and strategic goals that relationship will take on.
"They have given no clue as to what shape and strategic goals that relationship will take on"? Let me repeat myself:
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog