BuzzFeed has it. Normally a president-elect has to balance two interests in filling a cabinet, patronage for his most loyal political allies and competent oversight for each department. Jared Kushner may be a trusted Trump aide but that doesn’t mean he should head Homeland Security. Trump’s task is harder than most presidents’, though, because he needs to please another constituency, his anti-establishment base. He can’t staff up with nothing but GOP retreads or else he’ll be signaling early that it’s business as usual in Washington. He needs an outside-the-box choice or two to show that he intends to do things differently.
In a handful of instances there is only one candidate listed — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is the only name listed for chief of staff, EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic is listed for secretary of labor, Rep. Jeff Miller as veterans affairs administrator, Sen. Jeff Sessions as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Donald McGahn, who has served as counsel to Trump’s campaign, to be White House counsel.
In some cases, it appears the transition team is looking to find a home for a particularly loyal ally — Ben Carson, for instance, is listed as a potential candidate to be the secretary of education and secretary of health and human services, while Sen. Jeff Sessions is listed as a possible attorney general, head of the Office of Management and Budget, or secretary of defense.
Likewise, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is heading up the transition team, has his chips spread across the board, listed as a candidate for AG, commerce secretary, and homeland security secretary. Christie may face unusual scrutiny after the guilty verdicts handed down to two of his former advisers in the trial over the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
Click for the full BuzzFeed list, which may be incomplete in capturing Trump’s intentions. The Journal is reporting that Bobby Jindal, who’s not on the list, is also under consideration for Health and Human Services, a position he’s been touted for since he was a young whiz-kid health-care bureaucrat in Louisiana. But Jindal was a sharp early critic of Trump when he ran for president briefly last year (and a sometimes petty one too) before becoming a supporter after he dropped out. If he ends up at HHS, it’ll be an encouraging sign that Trump intends to let bygones be bygones and prioritize competence. As for Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, the latter of whom told the Journal he wasn’t much interested in a government position (sure), it looked earlier this year like Trump was eyeing Christie for Attorney General — or VP, before rescinding the offer — and Rudy for Homeland Security per his 9/11 pedigree. Now, thanks to the convictions in the Bridgegate case, it seems like those roles might flip. Giuliani, who started as a federal prosecutor, may end up at the DOJ while Christie might get a shot at DHS on the theory, I guess, that the Senate would be less forgiving about Bridgegate if Christie’s up for chief law enforcement officer. I saw a headline last night that having him and Giuliani in the cabinet would make for a “very conservative” administration. Uh, no. It would make for a very authoritarian one.
As for Newt Gingrich, his name has been circulating for Secretary of State although BuzzFeed’s list also puts him as a possibility for HHS. He told Sean Hannity yesterday, for what it’s worth, that he was more interested in helping to restructure the government and that a cabinet position would interfere with that. The real mystery of the list is whether some of the more “crowd-pleasing” names, familiar to Republicans from their frequent liberal-bashing appearances on Fox News, are really in contention for plum spots or if they’ve been included for PR reasons, to assure grassroots right-wingers that Trump has some of their favorites in mind even if he doesn’t end up appointing them. Sarah Palin’s named as a contender for the Department of the Interior, along with Jan Brewer and Mary Fallin. Ben Carson is listed for the Department of Education. John Bolton is a contender for State alongside Newt and Sen. Bob Corker. And Mike Flynn, one of Putin’s favorite Trumpers, is in consideration for Defense — along with former Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. “We will know a lot about how this is going to go if it’s Hadley and Corker, as opposed to Flynn and Bolton,” said Ross Douthat, and that’s exactly right. If Trump gives the big jobs to “establishment” guys notwithstanding the grumbling that’ll generate, it’ll suggest that he’s willing to spend some of his political capital with populists in the name of having guys around him who are more comfortable negotiating the system, which should make governing smoother in some ways. There’s evidence already, of course, that Trump is willing to defy his own impulses and accept the counsel of those around him on making politically smart appointments. That’s how we ended up with Mike Pence as VP instead of Chris Christie. Picking Pence was a goodwill gesture to the conservatives and evangelicals in his party. Picking Christie would have been a goodwill gesture to … Springsteen fans, maybe? I don’t know. It would have annoyed everyone.
Oh, one other name that’s supposedly up for DHS: Milwaukee County Sheriff and Fox News mainstay David Clarke. If he ends up heading Homeland Security instead of a governor or longtime natsec bureaucrat then, per Douthat, we’ll really know a lot about how this is going to go. I’ll leave you with these two tweets as an exit quotation, one from a few weeks ago before the election and one from last night during the left-wing protests of Trump’s victory.
It's incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time pic.twitter.com/8G5G0daGVN
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) October 15, 2016
These temper tantrums from these radical anarchists must be quelled. There is no legitimate reason to protest the will of the people. pic.twitter.com/G502pwNSN9
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) November 10, 2016
Update: An oversight — I forgot to note who’s being considered for Treasury. Recently Trump’s finance chair, Steve Mnuchin, had been mentioned for that job, which is understandable but also … interesting, in that Mnuchin’s a Goldman Sachs alum. (As is Steve Bannon, by the way.) Ask a populist what they mean by “draining the swamp” of elite political, media, and financial ties and Goldman will usually come up quickly. Here’s an alternative to Mnuchin, but one that’s no further out of the “swamp” than he is. Jamie Dimon, head of J.P. Morgan Chase, for Mr Populist’s Treasury Department?
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) November 10, 2016