Trump fills out a conservative Cabinet ...
Donald Trump named a series of nominees for major Cabinet posts this week, stocking his administration with a mix of hard-line conservatives, Wall Street veterans, and GOP establishment figures. To head the Department of Health and Human Services, the president-elect chose Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia doctor who has authored a 242-page plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and who advocates overhauling Medicare and other entitlement programs. Trump tapped Hollywood financier and former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and selected billionaire Betsy DeVos, a major Republican donor, to lead the Department of Education. Mnuchin, who served as finance chair of Trump’s presidential campaign, says his chief priority is lowering corporate and personal tax rates. DeVos is a longtime foe of teacher’s unions and a staunch proponent of school choice and voucher programs. Praised by many conservatives, the nominations drew fire from leading Democrats. “This isn’t draining the swamp,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. “It’s stocking it with alligators.”
For his Commerce secretary, Trump nominated billionaire investor Wilbur Ross—a 79-year-old “turnaround specialist” known for buying troubled companies and restructuring them, often with substantial layoffs. The president-elect also drew on Washington insiders. His choice for Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, served as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Trump nominated Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina as ambassador to the United Nations. A Ted Cruz backer in the GOP presidential primary, Haley once called Trump “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president.”
Speculation swirled around Trump’s possible secretary of state. Among the names under consideration were retired general and former CIA Director David Petraeus, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. But the most intense debate was over former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a possibility that divided the president-elect’s own team. Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president-elect’s supporters would feel “betrayed” if he chose Romney, who attacked Trump as “a phony” and “a fraud” during the campaign. After the two men dined together in Manhattan this week, Romney said he had “increasing hope” that Trump would lead the nation to “a better future.”
What the editorials said
Trump is confounding naysayers who assumed he’d bear grudges “all the way to the crack of doom,” said the Washington Examiner. Instead of exacting revenge, the president-elect is choosing “from among the ranks of his fiercest critics and most stalwart opponents.” It’s heartening to see Trump “displaying such equanimity and broad-mindedness.” “Trump just tapped two smart, tough women to help lead his administration,” said the New York Post. In selecting Haley, the president-elect is helping a rising Republican star—“letting her gain crucial experience en route, presumably, to yet higher office.” DeVos, meanwhile, “has been fighting for education reform for decades.” Charter schools will have “a potent friend in Washington.”
Price is “a radical choice for Health secretary,” said The New York Times. His plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would, among other things, roll back the federally financed expansion of Medicaid in 31 states, taking coverage away from 14 million poor people. It would slash subsidies that have helped millions of people afford coverage since Obamacare went into effect. And it “would no longer require insurers to cover addiction treatment, birth control, maternity care, prescription drugs, and other essential medical services.”
What the columnists said
“Get ready for an epic showdown over the fate of Medicare,” said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. Trump promised to protect the entitlement on the campaign trail, but Price wants to gut the popular program and offer seniors a voucher toward private insurance. Critics say that would inevitably result in higher costs for elderly recipients, because their fixed benefit from the government would fall behind rising health-care costs. Price’s confirmation hearing is sure to be explosive as progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hammer home “the true radicalism” of Trump’s agenda.
Trump’s secretary of state drama has overshadowed “a more important story,” said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. All the contenders for the post—Romney, Giuliani, Bolton, Petraeus—support the sort of internationalist foreign policy that Trump opposed as a candidate. No matter who gets the nod, it seems his administration “will have far more in common with his Republican predecessors’ on foreign policy than anyone might have imagined.” That he’s even considering Petraeus is shocking, said Bryan Bender in Politico.com. Trump insisted Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for State Department emails “made her unfit for high office.” Yet Petraeus pleaded guilty to leaking reams of classified information to his biographer-mistress and was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000.
“Let’s not jinx it, but this incoming Cabinet looks pretty darn good so far,” said Jim Geraghty in NationalReview.com. Considering the “limited circle of connections and talent” that surrounded Trump during the campaign, this group is solidly conservative, “sufficiently experienced, professional, knowledgeable, and prepared.” They could be stunningly effective, quietly repealing regulations and executive orders and pushing through legislation, while “the political world froths at the mouth about the president’s latest tweet.”
Illustration by Howard McWilliam. Cover photos from AP, NASA, Newscom
Trump is still mulling his options for two crucial national security posts. He tweeted that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a favorite to head the Defense Department, is “a true general’s general.” But Mattis’ appointment “would require a congressional waiver from the requirement that the Pentagon chief be out of uniform for at least seven years,” said Susan Page in USAToday.com. Trump also met this week with hard-line Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, a potential secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke called anti-Trump protests after the election “temper tantrums” that needed to be “quelled,” and has predicted that Black Lives Matter “will join forces with ISIS.”