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The list of people lined up for Cabinet level positions has become just as important as the positions.

Trump’s Cabinet Full of Crazy: D.C. Musical Chairs, Part II

Steve Russell

Corporate headhunters are looking for what they call KSAs—knowledge, skills and abilities—particular to the job being filled. In Part I of this series, we saw that the Trump Transition team has a list of persons that must be employed in the Trump administration without regard to KSAs. This is not peculiar to Trump, but it is aggravated by his lack of experience in government when he insists on filling key positions with persons close to him—family, friends and political supporters.

RELATED: A Guide to Washington’s Game of Musical Chairs, Part I

The list of people lined up for Cabinet level positions has become just as important as the positions, if not more so. Further complicating Trump’s task is that the large numbers of slots needing to be filled between now and January mean he will have to delegate some of that authority. No POTUS is likely to delegate Cabinet level choices, and so the lists he makes are critical to the functioning of the government.

In Part I, we saw that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains on the list of must hires even after his replacement by Vice President-Elect Mike Pence at the head of the transition.

Another sure thing, assuming he is willing to take the pay cut to work for government, is Trump campaign finance chairman Steve Mnuchin, an investment banker and Goldman, Sachs alum.

The race for White House Chief of Staff, a post of breathtaking power because that person can normally control access to the POTUS, was between another Goldman, Sachs alum, Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Bannon’s last stop before the Trump train was Breitbart News, so the Chief of Staff appointment was handicapped as a contest between the alt-right forces that saw Trump get endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacists and Priebus, representing the GOP establishment and particularly Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, since Priebus and Ryan share home turf in Wisconsin.

The tenor of the Bannon-Priebus decision was caught nicely in a story on Breitbart November 13:  “Michael Savage Warns Donald Trump: ‘Rinse’ Reince; He’s ‘Everything the Voters Rejected.’” Savage is a fixture in the alt-right media as a radio personality and most recently the author of Scorched Earth: Restoring the Country After Obama. In the run up to the election, Savage was accusing President Obama of intending to cancel it.

Later that same day, Trump announced his decision: Priebus. Trump’s choice of an establishment gatekeeper might be the first major clue of what kind of POTUS we have. However, that clue is attenuated by Trump’s simultaneous elevation of Bannon to “chief strategist and chief counselor.” Other clues are in the people believed to be high enough on his must-hire list to be considered for Cabinet level posts, presented here in alphabetical order.

—Dr. Ben Carson, coming off a first career as a talented neurosurgeon, was ridiculed by Trump over stories of his rowdy and mean childhood. After Carson’s candidacy faltered, he quickly made peace with Trump, attracted by the fact that they both have no education or experience in government.

Carson was mentioned for Secretary of Education or Secretary of Health and Human Services, but through spokesman Armstrong Williams he declined a cabinet role because, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency.” The irony that Carson had put himself forward to run the whole shebang went unstated. Carson remains an obvious choice for Surgeon General if he wants the position.

—Former Gen. Mike Flynn has been described by Politico as “America’s angriest general.” He’s angry at being forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency over his aggressive management style. He’s angry that one of the few terrorist fighters he considers his peer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was forced out as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan after giving an interview to Rolling Stone that ripped U.S. civilian leadership in nonprofessional terms.

Despising the Obama administration, Flynn signed on with the Trump campaign and endorsed some of Trump’s outrageous statements about military affairs. Because of his loyalty, Flynn is being mentioned for Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Director of National Intelligence (CIA), or National Security Advisor.


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mike helbert's picture
mike helbert
Submitted by mike helbert on
"The best we can hope for in some political jobs are competent cronies." Yeah, good luck with this group.