Trump rounds out conservative, pro-business Cabinet
Donald Trump this week picked a series of Cabinet nominees, primarily wealthy business figures and Republican politicians who share a belief in small government and a desire to slash regulations. Along with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (see Controversy), the president-elect tapped Andrew Puzder, the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants, as Labor Secretary. Puzder opposes significant increases to the minimum wage, wants the Affordable Care Act repealed, and has argued that increased automation of jobs would be beneficial, because robots “never take a vacation.” To run the Department of Energy, Trump picked former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom he called “one of the most successful governors in modern history.” The nomination elicited surprise, as Perry last year called Trump’s presidential bid a “cancer on conservatism,” once advocated scrapping the very department he could soon lead, and yet infamously forgot the agency’s name during a 2011 presidential debate.
The Department of Energy became a flash point this week after Trump’s transition team asked for a list of staffers who have worked on climate change. Worried that the civil servants could be targeted for that work—Trump has questioned whether human activities are causing global warming—the agency rejected the unprecedented request. In other Cabinet moves, the president-elect tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, for secretary of the interior, and billionaire former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon to run the Small Business Administration. Like several other Trump picks, she was a major donor to his presidential bid. Federal filings show at least six nominees and their families contributed $11.6 million to his campaign or allied groups.
What the editorials said
Sure, Perry’s 2011 gaffe makes his appointment “ironic and good for a laugh,” said Investor’s Business Daily. But as the former governor of an oil-rich state, he’s actually “a terrific pick who’ll need very little on-the-job training about what plentiful energy means to real people in the real economy.” Hopefully, Perry will help deregulate an overly burdened industry and “free up federal land for more energy exploration and drilling.”
Face it: Perry simply doesn’t have the experience needed to head the Energy Department, said The New York Times. About 60 percent of the agency’s budget is dedicated to managing the nation’s nuclear arsenal and programs that help stop the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Perry was ignorant about the agency’s “critical national security role” in 2011. What makes him qualified to lead it now?
What the columnists said
Trump campaigned on populism—anti–free trade, immigration, and Wall Street, said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. In practice, “he’s about as populist as the guy with the top hat on the Monopoly box.” He’s stuffed his Cabinet with “billionaires and a few struggling millionaires,” and rewarded his most generous donors with prize posts. “It is almost like Trump snookered millions of voters into thinking he was going to end the gravy train for the rich and powerful.”
It’s disturbing that many Trump nominees “do not believe in the core missions of the agencies they are being asked to run,” said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. Instead of a “team of rivals,” Trump seems to be going for “a team of saboteurs.” Perry wanted to ax his department, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA, and unions and liberals fear Puzder may gut many workplace protections. Puzder “has also raised hackles on the right,” said Jeet Heer in NewRepublic.com. The fast-food exec has vocally championed immigration reform efforts, called for the legalization of undocumented workers, and praised the “hardworking,” low-skilled immigrants who staff many of his restaurants. All of which is troubling to Trump’s supporters who backed “his signature campaign issue: immigration restriction.”
The biggest surprise about Trump “is just how conservative a Cabinet he is putting together,” said John Fund in NationalReview.com. After all, he was a registered Democrat until 2009. So why has Trump shifted right? Close advisers say that the campaign taught him just how much the country’s economic vitality and international standing had “eroded during the Obama years.” The vicious attacks by Hillary Clinton’s liberal allies also showed him who his real enemies are. “He won’t be forgetting that either he defangs them,” a Trump aide told me, “or they will defang him.”
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