Tag Archives: transition

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.