A Dilemma With No Easy Answer

As Talking Points Memo and the Daily Beast have both recently reported

The Trump campaign is apparently having lots of trouble finding first tier people to fill scores of national security jobs.

Here’s a new piece from The Daily Beast saying this continues ..

Team Trump is struggling to fill numerous key slots or even attract many candidates because hundreds have either sworn they’d never work in a Trump administration or have directly turned down requests to join, multiple current and former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the transition efforts told The Daily Beast.

As the DB suggests, this isn’t terribly surprising since numerous Republican national security experts have already signed public letters saying they would never serve a President Trump.

As the article pointed out, however, someone will eventually fill those positions, and the reluctance of people who actually have the necessary skills to work for a Trump/Pence Administration means that the jobs will not be filled with competent public managers.

Since the TPM article, we have learned the identities of several people on Trump’s list of potential cabinet appointments, and he has announced that Rance Priebus and Steve Bannon will have important roles in his White House. The choice of Bannon was greeted with cheers by the KKK and the Nazis–and with shock from decent Republicans and Democrats alike.

So here’s the dilemma: if you are a responsible conservative Republican with skills relevant to and needed by the new administration, do you swallow hard and figure that you are really working for the American people, not the Orange Buffoon? Do you hope–against all evidence–that Trump will listen to your knowledgable advice, that you can prevent him from taking actions you know will be detrimental to the country and the world?

Eliot Cohen, a national security expert who served in George W. Bush’s State Department, initially counseled that approach. After conversations with Trump’s “team,” he has changed his mind.

The tenor of the Trump team, from everything I see, read and hear, is such that, for a garden-variety Republican policy specialist, service in the early phase of the administration would carry a high risk of compromising one’s integrity and reputation.

In a normal transition to a normal administration, there’s always disorder. There are the presidential friends and second cousins, the flacks and the hangers-on who flame out in the first year or two. There are the bad choices — the abusive bosses, the angry ideologues and the sheer dullards. You accept the good with the bad and know that there will be stupid stuff going on, particularly at the beginning. Things shake out. Even if you are just blocking errors, it is a contribution.

This time may be different. Trump was not a normal candidate, the transition is not a normal transition, and this will probably not be a normal administration. The president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty. He gets credit for becoming a statesman when he says something any newly elected president might say (“I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future”) — and then reverts to tweeting against demonstrators and the New York Times. By all accounts, his ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless. It’s not even clear that he accepts that he should live in the White House rather than in his gilt-smeared penthouse in New York.

After noting the implications of Bannon’s hiring, Cohen concludes that conservative politicians and policymakers “should not volunteer to serve in this administration, at least for now. They would probably have to make excuses for things that are inexcusable and defend people who are indefensible.”

In the past few days, several media outlets have reported that Trump’s team was astonished to learn that the White House staff leaves when a Presidential term is over, and that they would have to hire people to fill those positions. Other reports suggest a transition team with a striking resemblance to the Keystone Kops.

If the likely consequences of Trump’s monumental ignorance weren’t so dire, this exhibition of gross incompetence would actually be funny.


  1. It’s a sad sign that my best-case scenario for this administration is that it be wildly incompetent, and second-best is that it be horribly corrupt, because after that, we have the possibility that it will be effective and efficient in its stated goals.

  2. The is probably no dilemma, at least for a left-leaning Democrat like me. No cooperation with Trump will come away untainted, or worse. I agree with the George Packer piece in the latest New Yorker. We need to develop opposition to the president and to take back the Democratic Party from the well-heeled people who run it now (all of them, not just the Clinton’s). The party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, which will be a long arduous process, because it is the easiest path to political opposition. But, it is not the only path. These must be sought out and pursued in earnest. This will not be a fight for the stay-at-home-citizen.

  3. If the appointment of Jefferson Sessions as Trump’s Attorney General doesn’t grab attention of voting Americans, what will? I keep posting the web site AskTheElectors.org and asking people to E-mail their electors NOW. I added another open letter on my Facebook post this morning; I have joked the past few years that the government is going to confiscate my computer system – these posts may bring that about.

    I woke up sometime during the night with MSNBC on my bedroom TV to see New York Mayor DeBasio (sp?) mid-report regarding the very serious problems providing protection for Trump, Trump Plaza, the protesters (last I read, the Mayor urged them to continue protesting), NYC residents and workers trying to go about their daily routine, rerouting traffic, adding dozens of officers to every shift to deal with the escalating problems. He announced he intends to bill the government for these additional costs and rightly so; what will happen if Trump acts on his refusal to live in the White House where these protections and security are already in place. Millions of our tax dollars, which could be put to better use, will be wasted protecting this spoiled 70 year old orange pile of ego. Donald Trump does what Donald Trump wants to do and, as he has so eloquently stated his views, “…fuck them…” regarding those who do not agree. Secret Service has also had to upgrade their protection of Trump and the city of New York.

    How much of this will we tolerate; I get no response to my E-mails or my Facebook posts. I will say again as I stated in my last comment yesterday; I tried, please help me.

  4. Who wants to sign up for a position with a celebrity President that got fame and fortune for FIRING PEOPLE?
    And to those whiny conservatives that are mad at the demonstrators…how about that guy that shut down the government reading “Green Eggs and Ham?” I know that our country needs knowledgeable people working but if the whole government shut down via a walk-out, would that not send a message?

    Just throwing those things out there because I doubt I could work for that orange clown. Sorry, I think I woke up in a bad mood because we have dinner plans with a couple from Denmark and I know that we will have to discuss Trump with them and I am sick of him already.

  5. And it is also reported that Obama is GOING OUT OF HIS WAY to make sure the transition process is as smooth as possible. Well, good luck with that. I hope he realizes that a bully sees cooperation, respect, civil discourse etc. as weaknesses, to be exploited. Any problem early in the Trump administration will be blamed on LACK OF COOPERATION by the Obama administration.

  6. And the sycophants are coming out of the woodwork (swamp). See Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and especially Chris Christie.

  7. Alphos;; I believe President Obama’s caution and urging a smooth transition is well advised. I also believe he will join us and go into action if that transfer of power happens; at that time no repercussions against the presidency or abuse of his power (what little we have learned he has), he will again be a private citizen and within is Constitutional rights to use freedom of speech and the “…right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Possibly he will begin with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…” regarding such laws as Pence’s RFRA and his stringent anti-abortion law, both of which Pence has promised to take to the federal level.

    There seems to be no way to get around our “freedom of speech, or of the press” Constitutional rights which have no limitations and requires no truth or facts to relay “information”.

  8. I have concerns about voting rights under Jeff Sessions, waterboarding under Mike Pompeo, and God knows what under Mike Flynn. I think of Flynn as Trump’s “precious bodily fluids” general. Although I don’t think he’ll send Slim Picken’s to go “toe to toe with the Russki’s”, he might just advocate dropping a bomb somewhere in the Middle East.

    These are some very scary times. I only hope that we make it through this and learn a lesson as a nation. We should never strive to H.L. Mencken right.

  9. Aimee Yermish, that is as pithy and succinct a description of a liberal’s dilemma as I have seen. May I quote you?

  10. Sheila: I knew after listening for a week to Trump surrogates like Guliani during the campaign that he would have trouble finding appointees. Who would want to leave a comfortable and safe position in academia, public service, or the private sector to go work in an environment in which even a hint of disagreement results in immediate termination? Trump is the classic boss who does not want to be told what he does not want to hear. He is a strongman bully who expects his subordinates to adhere to the message, even when the message is absurd. We all know that we are going to have a President (Emperor) who “has no clothes.”

  11. JoAnn: I hope you’re right. I agree there should be a courteous transfer of power. I just wished Obama would have kept himself at arm’s length during the process.

  12. Toxic political attack ads have become common currency now on TV. Whether the ads are sponsored by a candidate or run by some Pac, or Super Pac supporting them they all have the common theme of attacking an opponent. A grain of truth is surrounded by a ticket of weeds of innuendo. Trump brought these attacks to a lower level as examples Little Marco, Lying Ted, etc. There was no doubt Trump was the bully on the playground. The corporate press ever on the outlook to turn tragedy, or man bites dog into profit breathlessly reported on Trumps tweets, and padded the bottom line with billions of advertising profits from campaign ads.

    Trump cultivated his own exclusive Frat House. Well now the drunken frat rats have taken over the University. Chris Christi and Rudy Giuliani loyal surrogates for Trump have been apparently tossed aside. There will be places in the Cabinet for “experienced” people in politics as distasteful as they will be.

    What I can envision in a Trump Presidency is chaos. There will be those who will be able to make the quick buck during the anarchy. Crony-Capitalism kept hidden in past will spring out like a giant jack-in-the box, along with it’s traveler Theocracy. The political and corporate scavengers will be circling the White House or Trump Tower eager to serve their new master.

    The Gilded Age never left American Politics it hid behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. Given the near total control of our political system by the 1%, I suspect the Corporate Establishment Democrats will roll over. Sadly for right now there is no trust busting force like Teddy Roosevelt.

  13. The Orange Oaf has said that he knows more about things than all the generals and admirals combined and that he is the only one in the world who can fix this or that. If so, why is he in need of any advisers at all since he knows everything there is to know about anything and everything? So why should we waste the money on advisers whose advice will not be taken by a boss with narcissistic impulses which call for governing decisions based upon gut reactions rather than somber discussions of the real facts in our real world, and not his world of illusion and fantasy?

  14. Ohh, how funny Pence was booed while attending the play Hamilton in NYC. Donald Trump invoked his do as I say not as do – “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

    He also demanded an apology: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

  15. Like Hitler, Trump is a power broker selling it in exchange for loyalty which he desperately needs because he’s a con man. He needs to insure that he’s surrounded by people who will look the other way at every crime he commits and propagandize his every utterance.

    Unduely harsh? Wait and see.

    This is the face of America now to the rest of the world.

  16. There is not scorn enough for Trump and Pence. Booed in public? Guess the whole country is not like a Trump rally in the rural midwest. I imagine Pence soothed his ruffled feathers by attending the evangelical version of an after theater party at Applebee’s and ordering the special.

  17. I just sent a second E-mail to Indiana’s electoral members; Kelly Mitchell’s address was added to those being invalid.

    In the first message, I listed the many logical and valid reasons Trump should not be president and that Hillary is clearly the winner by popular vote. In this second message I pointed out that there is precedent in this country’s history for electoral members to overturn their original vote. I stressed that the Republicans maintain control over Indiana and full control over the entire legislature. Changing their vote from Trump to Hillary will in no way effect the powers of the GOP and will show other nations that this country is still honorable. Trying to “appeal to the better nature” of Republicans took some deep thought. I just cannot give up when there is the slightest chance that Trump and his Deplorables can be ousted. I saw one news item that he is considering one of his ex-wives, Ivana I think, to be appointed to a position in his ever lengthening list of unqualified people to run this country…while Pence does the work and The Donald goes about “making America great again”.

  18. Damned if you do; Damned if you don’t.

    Unfortunately, that goes not only for those skilled, knowledgeable people with experience and expertise in the areas they might serve in, but also for all the rest of the us in this Country who will have to endure and suffer the harms that are inevitably coming our way from the hacks, ideologues, and downright crazies that have accepted and will accept the nominations.

    Jo Ann, with people of the ilk of Jeff Sessions serving as “our” Attorney General — a thinly veiled racist — and the Tea Party Pompeo guy as CIA Director — an out-spoken advocate for increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens and waterboarding, I personally fear the protections in the Constitution for freedom of the press and speech can and will be easily gotten around by Trump and his Alt.Right allies.

    And frighteningly, I no longer think those fears are unrealistic. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed, if he was elected, to go after Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), who owns the Washington Post, because of the investigative articles critical of Trump published by the Post. Anybody think Trump and Sessions won’t? And yesterday, Pence was reportedly booed by the audience when he attended a performance of Hamilton. Today Trump is demanding an apology from the cast for being “rude” to Pence (apparently no apology is necessary from those in the audience who reportedly cheered for Pence). How long will it take during the Trump administration for it to become a Federal criminal offense to be “rude” to members of Trump’s administration.

    As far as this crowd is concerned, there are only two sacrosanct Amendments to the Constitution: the right to bear whatever weapon you want, and the freedom of religion or as they interpret it, the freedom to hate and discriminate against anyone who doesn’t worship their “Christian God.” The remainder of the Amendments are just suggestions that can be ignored if they don’t fit into their master plan for the country. I know that sounds harsh, and perhaps in normal times and circumstances, even I would think it was a bit “over-the-top.” But as has become increasingly plain, these are neither normal times, circumstances, nor people.

    The road map to doing away with freedom of speech is the declaration of martial law to “quell” the protests and marches; especially if the protests play into their hands by becoming violent (remember in pre-Nazi Germany, Hitler hired thugs to incite violence at opposition rallies) . Under martial law, “civil rights” such as freedom of assembly, the right to go where you want when you want, to publicly protest are “suspended” until the “emergency” is over. But they are the ones who decide if the emergency is over. National Guard units — and if some of them may refuse, then regular Army units — will be called out to patrol the streets with orders to shoot, if their fellow citizens and neighbors don’t comply. Sound unlikely? The Britbart, Alt.Right crowd is already making statements foreshadowing that move.

    The next step will be to shut down the mainstream media outlets on the basis that they are promoting civil unrest and disobedience during a “National Emergency.” As has happened in Russia and Nazi Germany, if the media companies don’t comply, troops will be sent in to take over their facilities and the employees will be jailed. Next would be Gov’t imposed blocking of disfavored internet sites. Perhaps Fox News will be spared, but only if they take back Roger Ailes.

    It’s really not that hard at all to see the path that they can go down. It can be done, because it has all been done before in other countries and societies. Will it happen here? I once would have said it could never, ever happen in the U.S. I don’t say that anymore.

    All of this is undoubtedly why I, once again, didn’t sleep well last night.

  19. It’s easy to forget that the Constitution, which is our consent to be governed but only under certain criteria, is on paper, not etched in stone.

  20. After Mr. Pence was booed at Hamilton, the big discussion was How miffed some were that Mr. Pence was booed, the usual thing that authoritarians get into. They need to talk about its meaning and asking how long it will be before those who are ticked off about the response understand why he was booed and what those people who booed him understand that the ones who are ticked off don’t.

    I’m watching the clock to see how long it will take before people discover that the were conned. That’s when the fun begins. Maybe Mr. Trump will “make America great again”, just not the way he thinks he will. Meanwhile I see no hope for the 25% who are authoritarians. Trump could drop a bomb on them and they would still think he was just great.

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