Trump’s Cabinet taking shape
Donald Trump continued to form his administration this week, nominating three staunch conservatives for senior national security positions and unveiling his plans for his first acts as president. The presidentelect named Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his attorney general, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas as CIA chief, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as White House national security adviser. Congressional Republicans praised the nominations, but Democrats voiced objections to Flynn, who has said Islam is not a religion but “a political ideology,” and Sessions, who was once denied a federal judgeship after being accused of making racist comments. (See Talking Points.) In a surprise move, Trump met with one of his fiercest Republican critics, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as a potential pick for secretary of state. He was also considering retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense secretary, and investment banker Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a candidate for Homeland Security chief, was photographed holding a plan that included restarting a controversial registry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
In a YouTube video, Trump promised to take several executive actions on his first day as president, including withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, removing limits on domestic energy production, and introducing new restrictions on government officials moving into lobbying. The president-elect also gave a wide-ranging interview to The New York Times, in which he disavowed his alt-right supporters and suggested he was disinclined to launch a criminal investigation into his former opponent, Hillary Clinton, saying it would be “very, very divisive for the country.”
What the editorials said
President-elect Trump is making some “dangerous appointments,” said The Washington Post. Pompeo was “one of the more fanatical purveyors of conspiracy theories” about the terrorist attacks on Benghazi. Flynn is a respected military tactician with “considerable experience fighting al Qaida” in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he has worrying links to Russia—he sat next to President Vladimir Putin at an event for RT, the country’s propaganda outlet—and was sacked as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for “bad management.” Flynn has tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His influence in the White House could “presage a harsh and counterproductive U.S. approach to the Muslim world.”
What’s encouraging is that Trump “appears to be looking for figures of stature outside his inner circle,” said The Wall Street Journal. Pompeo, a talented Army veteran and Harvard law graduate, is the president-elect’s “most impressive appointment” yet. And although Trump may not make Romney his secretary of state—South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are also under consideration—“ the outreach to a former antagonist shows a willingness to expand his governing coalition and unify the GOP.”
What the columnists said
Back in April, Trump promised he’d become “so presidential” if elected, said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. We’re still waiting. The president-elect’s tweets are as angry and petty as ever, and he refuses to address concerns over his conflicts of interest and nepotism. (See Controversy.) His nominations of angry, white male conservatives indicate that his “election night promise to ‘bind the wounds of division’ was empty rhetoric.”
There’s one thread that runs through these appointments: white nationalism, said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com. Sessions, Flynn, and chief strategist Steve Bannon have all made it clear they believe “in the political and cultural dominance of white Americans.” With them in charge, we can expect the Trump administration to “pursue discriminatory policy on voting, to empower local police departments to operate with impunity against communities of color,” and to curtail the rights and freedoms of innocent Muslims.
Sorry, but the media’s “incessant scaremongering” is way out of proportion, said Kyle Smith in the New York Post. Every move by the Trump transition team is greeted with hysteria. By keeping “the outrage meter up to 11 at all times,” the media risks desensitizing people so much that they’ll “shrug off any genuine White House scandals” that do arise. The media should at least wait until Inauguration Day “before it declares the end of the world.”