Thursday, December 29, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Appointments

Listed below (distilled from NPR's listing) are the top appointments made thus far by President-elect Donald Trump. My hunch is that these choices will be particularly important since Trump is likely to leave policy development largely in their hands. 

What do you think? Are there particularly good picks or bad ones in here? Are there any that you would call either inspired or dangerous?

Chief Strategist And Senior Counselor  NO SENATE CONFIRMATION NEEDED
A key adviser for the president in crafting messaging, an agenda and employing political tactics to see it through.
Stephen Bannon
Bannon is a 62-year-old former executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing news website. Bannon has bragged that the site is the "platform for the alt-right," a movement associated with white nationalism, racism and misogyny. He served as Trump's campaign "CEO" for the final months of the campaign and is credited with getting Trump to attack Hillary Clinton with false conspiracy theories about her health and bringing forward women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. Bannon had a stint in the U.S. Navy, worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, became a Hollywood investor who made a fortune off Seinfeld reruns, and ran the secretive experimental community Biosphere 2 outside Tucson, Ariz. Bannon faced a domestic abuse charge in 1996 and financial difficulty through the 1990s with multiple federal and state tax liens against him at the time.
Announced Nov. 13, 2016

Advises the president and works with senior leadership to further the administration’s goals, with a focus on strategic planning and messaging.
Kellyanne Conway
Kellyanne Conway is a longtime Republican pollster and strategist. She served as Donald Trump’s third and last campaign manager and was credited with bringing discipline to Trump’s messaging and campaign, according to NPR’s Scott Horsley. Conway is the president and CEO of The Polling Company, a small polling firm based in Washington, D.C., that she founded in the mid-1990s. Conway has worked for several prominent Republicans throughout her career, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. She has a reputation of being brought on board to serve socially conservative clients who are having trouble connecting with female voters, according to The New Yorker. Before joining the Trump campaign, Conway ran a superPAC that supported Texas senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. In a statement announcing Conway’s position as counselor to the president, Trump called her “a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda.”
Announced Dec. 22, 2016

National Security Adviser 
Principal adviser to the president on national security affairs, leading White House national security staff.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
Prior to advising Donald Trump during the campaign, Flynn, a registered Democrat from Rhode Island, ran the Defense Intelligence Agency. Within military circles, Flynn had been a highly respected intelligence officer serving as the top aide to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. But he was a controversial, hard-charging figure, and was forced out of his job after less than two years at DIA. At Trump's national security briefings, Flynn reportedly challenged the information the candidate was being given by his briefers. He's been critical of Russia geopolitically in the past, he has also been criticized for financial ties to Russia after leaving DIA. He also served as a lobbyist for a firm with ties Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Announced Nov. 18, 2016

Informs the press and public about the activities of the president and the administration.
Sean Spicer
Sean Spicer is the Republican National Committee’s communications director and chief strategist. Over his nearly six-year tenure as communications director, Spicer has overseen the expansion of the RNC’s social media efforts, outreach to minority media and led the effort to improve the primary debate process, the RNC said. A longtime Washington insider, he served as assistant United States trade representative for media and public affairs under George W. Bush and as communications director for the House Republican Conference. Despite some policy differences, Spicer’s desire to win kept him in the president-elect’s good graces, the Washington Post reported in August. In the fall, he was virtually embedded at Trump Tower in an effort to help the campaign. He appears regularly on TV as a spokesman for Trump and can be combative (See past spats with Politico and most recently CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.) He has a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, a master’s degree from the Naval War College and was once featured as Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s “Moment of Zen.”
Announced Dec. 22, 2016

Provides principal legal advice to the president and the administration.
Donald McGahn
McGahn served as counsel for both Trump's campaign and transition. McGahn is a partner at the Jones Day law firm in Washington, D.C., where he's long represented candidates and elected officials. Unlike many people in Trump's inner circle, McGahn has deep roots in the nation's capital. He served as the top lawyer for the National Republican Congressional Committee and led the FEC, where he helped usher in looser regulations for campaign spending. Like his most famous client, the president-elect, McGahn embraces the role of disrupter, telling the Center for Public Integrity that he served on the FEC "to change how the place thinks."
Announced Nov. 25, 2016

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Advises the president on homeland security, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, as well as coordinating policy work by the Cabinet on those issues.
Thomas Bossert
Bossert is coming into an elevated position, as Trump has decided to make this position co-equal with the National Security Advisor, who will focus on "international security challenges." Bossert previously served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy homland security advisor, where among other duties he worked on reviewing the response to Hurricane Katrina and developing cybersecurity policy. Bossert got attention for an oped written in late 2015 critiquing Barack Obama's approach to the use of force, in which he defended the invasion of Iraq. "To be clear, the use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan was and remains just," Bossert wrote. He currently leads a risk management consulting firm and serves as a cyber policy fellow with the Atlantic Council.
Announced Dec. 27, 2016

Responsible for day-to-day operations in the West Wing and traditionally controls access to the president.
Reince Priebus
The 44-year-old Republican National Committee chairman oversaw the party apparatus as it shored up the bare-bones Trump campaign and was a rare member of the party establishment to maintain a strong relationship with Trump through the ups and downs of 2016. Priebus has a close relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite. He's a former corporate litigator and Wisconsin state GOP chairman.
Announced Nov. 13, 2016

Secretary Of State
Chief foreign affairs adviser to the president and carries out the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
Rex Tillerson
Transition officials said that President-elect Trump wanted a secretary of state who is good at making deals. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson certainly fits that bill. He also seems to share another goal with his new boss: working more closely with Russia. Tillerson has run ExxonMobil since 2006. The Texas native began his career at Exxon as an engineer in 1975. Though he has no government experience, the 64-year-old oversees a company that has operations in 50 countries around the world and has worked closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson will likely face some tough questions in a Senate hearing as well about his connections with the Kremlin. In 2011, he struck a deal with a Kremlin-controlled oil company to drill in the Arctic, but the project was put on hold after the U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal. There will be some tough questions ahead about how Tillerson can take on the role of America's top diplomat and distance himself from his company's interests and his vast holdings of Exxon shares. According to The Hill, Tillerson believes in man-made climate change and supports the Paris climate agreement that Trump opposes.
Announced Dec. 13, 2016

Oversight of U.S. economic and financial systems.
Steve Mnuchin
Mnuchin was Trump’s campaign finance chairman. He worked at Goldman Sachs for 17 years and was ultimately a partner at the investment firm. After leaving Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin created his own hedge fund and financed movies like the X-Men franchise and Avatar. From 2009 to 2015, Mnuchin was the head of a California bank that has been referred to as a “foreclosure machine.” The bank foreclosed on an estimated 36,000 homeowners, according to NPR’s John Ydstie. Mnuchin does not have any government experience.
Announced Nov. 30, 2016

Principal defense policy adviser, with authority over the U.S. military.
Retired Gen. James Mattis
Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general, famous for both his blunt talk and his engaging leadership in recent U.S. conflicts. He served as the commander of U.S. Central Command, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from 2010 to 2013. Nicknamed "Mad Dog," Mattis is known for an ability to connect with troops, his intellectualism — quoting Roman philosophers at will — and controversial statements, like when he said "it's fun to shoot some people" in a 2005 speech discussing fighting the Taliban. Mattis advocated against isolationism recently, and warned Donald Trump against embracing the use of torture. To serve in this civilian post, Mattis will need a congressional waiver from a federal law that requires a member of the military to wait seven years after leaving the armed forces before serving as secretary of defense.
Announced Dec. 1, 2016

Primary law enforcement officer of the federal government.
Sen. Jeff Sessions
The 69-year-old Republican senator from Alabama was one of the first lawmakers to ally himself with candidate Trump. He embraces a hard-line anti-immigration platform and approach to fighting crime. Sessions is a controversial pick. His appointment to a federal judgeship was denied by the Senate in 1986 after lawyers testified he had used racially charged language, including calling the NAACP "un-American."
Announced Nov. 18, 2016

Oversees public lands, national parks, Native American relations, mineral extraction.
Rep. Ryan Zinke
Ryan Zinke is the sole U.S. representative for Montana. He was elected in 2014 and won a second term this year. Zinke is also a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy SEALS, which he retired from in 2008. His service included a stint as a commander of the elite SEAL Team 6, which is best known for killing Osama bin Laden in 2011. Zinke is currently on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources. A self-proclaimed fifth-generation Montanan, Zinke told The New York Times in a 2015 interview that he resented “regulation being formulated and forced in Washington from bureaucrats that have never been to Montana.” Zinke has been seen as the likely GOP challenger to Sen. Jon Tester, an incumbent Democrat up for re-election in 2018. The seat is a top target for Republicans, and Zinke’s nomination throws into question how the party will proceed in its efforts to defeat Tester.
Announced Dec. 15, 2016

Principally charged with promoting American business and industry.
Wilbur Ross
The 79-year-old billionaire investor is the chairman and chief strategy officer, as well as the founder, of the private equity firm WL Ross and Co. (He later sold the firm to Invesco but is still involved with it.) According to NPR’s Marilyn Geewax, Ross made his name restructuring failing companies using borrowed money. In 1990, he was instrumental in helping Trump’s Taj Mahal casino emerge from bankruptcy. In 2002, Ross joined several troubled U.S. steel companies together to create the International Steel Group. He cut costs and employees and flipped the company, selling it to Mittal Steel in The Netherlands. Shortly after his company purchased the Sago Mine in West Virginia, an explosion there killed 12 miners. A former Democrat, Ross has been a loyal Trump supporter. In a June interview with CNBC, he said that the U.S. needed a “more radical, new approach to government.”
Announced Nov. 30, 2016

Oversees the welfare, working conditions and opportunities for workers, job seekers and retirees.
Andrew Puzder
Andrew Puzder is the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which is the parent company of several fast-food restaurants including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Puzder began his career as a lawyer in St. Louis and, according to CKE’s website, helped the founder of Carl’s Jr. avoid bankruptcy. He eventually relocated to California, where he became the general counsel for CKE and later its CEO. Puzder is a strong advocate for deregulating government involvement in businesses. He has strongly opposed minimum wage increases, has said that government benefits discourage workers from seeking higher paying jobs, and that regulating overtime pay will cause companies to cut corners elsewhere. Puzder has also said that machines, rather than workers, are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” according to Business Insider. Puzder later wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he further explained his views saying, “having access to a person is important to assure smooth experiences for everyone.”
Announced Dec. 8, 2016

Secretary Of Health And Human Services  PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Charged with enhancing the health and well-being of Americans, including medicine, public health and social services.
Rep. Tom Price
Before being elected to Congress in 2004, the 62-year-old Georgia Republican was an orthopedic surgeon for more than 20 years. He currently serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Price has been a leading Obamacare critic and has offered several detailed plans to repeal and replace the health care law.
Announced Nov. 29, 2016

Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Oversees policy on home ownership, housing assistance, fair housing practices, addressing homelessness and housing development.
Dr. Ben Carson
Former 2016 presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson endorsed Trump less than a week after he dropped out of the presidential race in early March. Throughout the general election, Carson was an avid Trump defender. When a tape of Trump bragging about groping women came out, Carson urged Republicans not to be “distracted” by the revelation. Originally from Detroit, Carson was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., for nearly 30 years. He initially pulled himself out of the running for a position in Trump’s Cabinet; A Carson adviser told The Hill that he did so because he didn’t have government experience and didn’t want to “take a position that could cripple the presidency." But Carson has cited his own personal story as the son of a single mother who grew up in Detroit as experience he would bring to the agency that oversees affordable housing in inner cities.
Announced Dec. 5, 2016

Secretary Of Transportation
Responsible for national transportation policy and promotes transportation of and among various modes.
Elaine Chao
Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao served as secretary of labor under the George W. Bush administration and the deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush. In the 2016 election, Chao threw her full support behind Trump, endorsing the then-candidate ahead of the first presidential debate along with 50 other Bush administration alums. She also served as a member of his Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee. Chao, a Taiwanese immigrant, was the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a presidential Cabinet position. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Announced Nov. 29, 2016

Secretary Of Energy
Oversees national energy, nuclear and environmental issues, and science and technology to address them.
Rick Perry
Rick Perry was the governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015. He also ran for the Republican presidential nomination twice, in 2012 and 2016, but was unsuccessful in both bids. In 2011, during a Republican debate during his first presidential campaign, Perry famously couldn’t recall one of three government departments he said he would abolish if president. It was the Department of Energy, which he is now picked to run. Though Texas is an oil state and Perry has advocated for fewer restrictions in that industry, the majority of the Department of Energy’s resources are actually devoted to managing the country’s nuclear weapons, according to The New York Times. After dropping out of the 2016 election, Perry initially endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and called Trump a “cancer on conservatism” and a “barking carnival act.” Trump responded on Twitter, saying Perry “should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.” After suspending his second presidential campaign, Perry had a brief stint on the reality competition show Dancing with the Stars.
Announced Dec. 14, 2016

Addresses national education issues, equal access to education, federal aid and research on the nation's school systems.
Betsy DeVos
The 58-year-old is a longtime GOP donor from Michigan and a proponent of school choice. A charter school advocate, she chairs the American Federation for Children, which also supports school choice. She and her husband, the billionaire heir to the Amway fortune and former president of the company, unsuccessfully led an effort in Michigan to amend the state's Constitution to provide vouchers for private schools.
Announced Nov. 23, 2016

Secretary Of Homeland Security  PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Responsible for protecting the nation from terrorism and cyberattacks, recovery from natural disasters and border protection.
Retired Gen. John Kelly
John Kelly was most recently head of the U.S. Southern Command. The four-star general retired from the Marine Corps earlier this year after a 45-year military career. As head of the Southern Command, he oversaw military operations in Central and Southern America, and the Guantanamo Bay prison. He disagreed with President Obama's desire to close the facility, saying "there are no innocent men down there." He also opposed Obama's decision to open combat positions to women. Kelly served in the Middle East, where he led combat forces in Iraq's Anbar Province. Kelly lost a son, Marine Lt. Robert Kelly in combat in Afghanistan. Kelly, 66 at the time of his retirement, was the nation's longest serving general. He is a native of Boston.
Announced Dec. 12, 2016

Office Of Management And Budget Director
Oversees the president's budget, assesses agency practices and coordinates interagency programs.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney
First elected in 2010, Mick Mulvaney is a congressman from South Carolina. He is a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that has fought with establishment Republicans and helped push out former Speaker John Boehner. Mulvaney told The Washington Post in September 2015 that “we’re either going to figure out how to save this party or the establishment is going to drive it to irrelevance." In the 2016 presidential election, Mulvaney initially endorsed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Announced Dec. 17, 2016

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Oversees federal regulations, distributing grants and conducting studies to ensure that environmental risk is addressed in public policy.
Scott Pruitt
Pruitt has served as attorney general of Oklahoma since 2010. His official biography calls Pruitt "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda" and as a proponent of the oil and gas industry he has fought hard against Obama administration regulations. Pruitt co-authored an article in May 2016 saying the debate over climate change is "far from settled." As Oklahoma AG, Pruitt set up a "Federalism Unit" within his office aimed at combating, particularly in court, what he saw as federal overreach on a host of issues. Before being elected in 2010, he served in the Oklahoma Senate for eight years.
Announced Dec. 8, 2016

Ambassador To The United Nations PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Principal U.S. representative at the United Nations.
Gov. Nikki Haley
The 44-year-old Indian-American is the first female and minority governor of South Carolina, but doesn't have much diplomatic experience. Initially a supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, she ultimately supported Trump close to Election Day but had earlier argued that he should be careful about the things he says when it comes to foreign policy. She called his early suggestion for a travel ban on Muslims "an embarrassment to the Republican Party."
Announced Nov. 23, 2016

Administrator Of Small Business Administration 
Charged with providing assistance, guidance and benefits to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Linda McMahon
Linda McMahon co-founded the pro-wrestling enterprise World Wrestling Entertainment. McMahon has never held elective office, though she ran for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut twice. In a March interview with Yahoo News, she did not hold back on criticizing Trump’s “objectionable” comments toward women. Later reports showed McMahon donated to a pro-Trump superPAC in August and September.
Announced Dec. 7, 2016

Central Intelligence Agency Director  PENDING SENATE CONFIRMATION
Oversees the federal government's civilian foreign intelligence gathering service.
Rep. Mike Pompeo
The 52-year-old congressman from Kansas was a visible member of the House investigation into Benghazi. He graduated from West Point, served as an Army officer and attended Harvard Law School before working as an executive in aerospace manufacturing and the oil industry.
Announced Nov. 18, 2016

In four to eight years, this group will likely make this country greatly less hospitable to the poor, homeless, elderly, etc. It will be a place more accepting of racism, xenophobia, etc. It will be a great place for the wealthy and those who get rich off the misery of others.
Wow! That was a lot of info. I wanted to at least acknowledge the effort of putting this remarkable post together. Well done.

As for this list, befitting PEOTUS Trump, it is a cast of players like no other.

For the record, I think Congress already approved the waiver for Mattis in an appropriations bill. I would also add that Jeff Sessions was a courageous friend to sentencing reform and Kellyanne Conway made the history books as the first woman to run a successful campaign for the presidency.

I would add also that Rex Tillerson represents perhaps the most unorthodox nominee on this whole list. Recommended by Robert Gates and Condi Rice, in addition to his belief in climate change as a challenge worth tackling, he supports same-sex marriage and is reportedly pro-choice. He is intriguing to me--but I wonder if his "close ties" to Russia might alienate him with Graham and McCain and their ilk, and his social liberalism might chill conservatives who ordinarily could be counted on to rabidly support a GOP presidential nominee, which combined, of course, with 48 Dems looking for a scalp might make Tillerson Trump's most vulnerable nominee. We'll see.

Let the confirmation reality show begin.

My Error. The House and Senate did not waive the proscription in the NSA 1947 in the spending bill, but, evidently, they fashioned special rules to make the impending waiver considerably easier.
I look forward to watching the confirmation hearings on CSPAN sometime in the future. I will keep this as a handy guide to the lunacy facing our nation.

I think Tillerson is there exclusively because of his ties to Russia and oil. His more liberal beliefs are secondary. Remember Trump was once a card caring member of the Democrat party.

I honestly have no idea why one would think a Neurosurgeon is remotely capable of running any cabinet division of our Government.

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