• The future U.S. President Donald Trump has, up to now, appointed primarily white, rich businesspeople to his cabinet.
• What they all have in common is that they apparently consider politics not to be an all-too-difficult undertaking.
• That could lead to enormous tension with veteran government workers.
Donald Trump gives the impression in recent days that he enjoys everything very much. The future president of the United States sat high up in his Trump Tower and the world lay at his feet. According to Twitter, he let stock prices fall, alienated China because he spoke by telephone with Taiwan, and conducted personnel interviews for his cabinet. “Perhaps he is feeling his full power for the first time,” The New York Times wrote.*
He summoned the individual candidates daily, many men and a few women who got into the elevator past the throng of journalists. Like he did during the election campaign, Trump dictated the entire coverage, spread rumors, ate with Mitt Romney – whom he once considered for secretary of state – in a gourmet restaurant where everyone could see them. The entire staging of events was reminiscent of the reality television that made Trump big. Instead of roses that the bachelor distributed to women, the president-elect distributed cabinet posts. He once said, “No one knows who my new secretary of defense will be. Only I do.”* There he sounded like the moderator of his own show.
Well-Known Columnist Calls Trump’s Selection Process ‘Ignorant and Reckless’
In the meantime, his cabinet is almost complete; the most important posts have been assigned. And it is striking that he decided in many cases upon candidates who have no experience as politicians and who in some cases have at one time liked to generally criticize the politics in Washington. That is not surprising. Trump promised in his election campaign to move through Washington with a wrecking ball and break up fossilized structures. It will now be seen what arises from the rubble.
“Maybe that is a good means to begin anew,” speculated columnist Thomas L. Freidman, who spoke of a breath of anarchy that surrounds Trump’s nominations.* It could be quite sensible to choose a secretary of state who knows more about deals than diplomacy. But to place Scott Pruitt at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, someone who expresses doubts about climate change and would greatly like to do away with the agency that he would lead, would be simply just “ignorant and reckless,” according to Friedman and “extremely dangerous.”
Pruitt is by far not the only contemnor of the agency that he is supposed to lead or at least a fundamental critic of its past work. The professed goal of the new secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is roughly to replace Obama’s health care law. The health reform of the departing president is unsuccessful and unaffordable. “There are too many government regulations in the health system,” Price says, and signals his desire to “clean up” everything.*
Future Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has long been a critic of the public school system and wants to give parents tax breaks to make it possible to redirect their children from public schools to private schools. Designated Labor Secretary Andrew F. Puzder comes from the fast food sector and does not care for unions. He disapproves of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In this line-up, one must also note Ben Carson who ran against Trump in the primaries and now, as a former brain surgeon, is supposed to preside over the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson wants to back the government out of as many areas of social co-existence as possible. He terms the fight of the public against poverty a “disaster.”
It is customary in America that great changes accompany a new presidency. One of the strengths of the country is its will for complete renewal. Barack Obama came into the White House as a young senator, who, like Trump today, spoke of change. But unlike Obama who always sought the advice of political warhorses and appealed to them, Trump is turning his back on experts and the elite. “I have to say it’s really quite shocking … it's unusual to have picks who do not believe in the department itself and the mission of the department,” said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank, Center for American Progress. She proceeds on the assumption that there will be enormous tension within the cabinet posts between longstanding colleagues and their new bosses. Climate specialists at the EPA announced that they did not want to work with their new superior, the climate skeptic Pruitt.
It is striking how many in Trump’s future cabinet not only had great success as businessmen and amassed a billion dollars – or at least fortunes running into the millions. What they apparently also have in common is the estimation that politics can’t be an all- too-difficult undertaking. After their careers in the free market economy, they consider it to be a simple matter to succeed in the public sector as well.
’They Have No idea about the Worries of the Middle Class'
Trump’s choice of Rex Tillerson, chairman of the energy giant Exxon, to be secretary of state is only logical: Trump disapproves of political experience. Romney, whom Trump praised just days ago as a serious contender for the office, was never really under consideration. That’s the word now in the U.S. media. Trump only wanted to make him look like a fool as revenge for Romney having criticized him in the election campaign. One doesn’t know if that is true. Yet many think Trump is capable of it.
At the same time, Romney would have thoroughly fit in Trump’s cabinet. He is white and male like most of the cabinet nominees, but above all, he is filthy rich. The family fortune of Betsy DeVos, for instance, amounts to $5.1 billion, according to Forbes. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is likewise a billionaire. “The Trump team consists of the super-rich who have no idea about the worries of the middle class,” Bernie Sanders said in an interview.* In addition to that, here come bankers from Wall Street and Generals James Mattis (as secretary of defense) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security), men from the military for whom a large part of their lives were “spent in a different world” than average Americans.
Extreme wealth is still no impediment to doing a good job in public service, Sanders says. But Trump built his candidacy on championing the “little man.” “Perhaps that was the biggest lie in an election campaign characterized by lies and power games,” Sanders adds. White, male and predominantly without political experience: Trump has created for himself a cabinet in his own image.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quoted remark could not be verified.