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November 15, 2016 [LINK / comment]

The Trump transition begins

President-elect Trump has tried to have it both ways by [choosing] a more-or-less "establishment" figure (Reince Priebus, RNC chairman) as his chief of staff, with an "alt-right" figure (Steve Bannon, of Breitbart News) as his "chief strategist." There will be [many] more strained efforts to placate opposing factions within the GOP in the months to come, and given what we know of Trump, there is likely to be a high turnover rate in the White House West Wing.

The choice of Bannon has been deeply disturbing to many people, as he is known as an exponent of harshly nationalistic (especially anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim) rhetoric, which is the bread and butter of Breitbart News. (Breitbart was founded by Andrew Breitbart, who died of a heart attack in March 2012.) I occasionally read articles there, but it's not the kind of source that I rely on.

Depending on which news source you were following today, President-elect Trump's transition team is either operating normally (Fox News) or is in utter disarray, undergoing a "Stalinist purge" (MS-NBC). The Washington Post's senior reporter Karen DeYoung leans toward the latter interpretation, noting that not only has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie been removed from the Trump team, but all of Christie's close associates. That is merely fallout from the recent "Bridgegate" convictions, however, and doesn't itself reflect on Trump. The departure of former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who had been a national security adviser, may be cause for concern however. Aside from Bannon, other members of Trump's inner circle include Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Trump's family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, is expected to play a major role in his decisions, which could lead to major conflict-of-interest problems. Trump must [is obliged to] put his assets into a blind trust while serving as president, and the same legal requirement [basic norm] applies to his immediate family. That could put them all in a severe financial strain, being forced to step aside from, or liquidate, some of their prized business assets. [UPDATE: In the Wednesday Washington Post, Matt O'Brien explains the well-established practice by which sitting presidents put their assets into a blind trust. Contrary to what I originally wrote, it is not required by law.]

The clash between the imperatives of winning elections and those of governing a country is especially sharp in the Trump transition. He won the election by breaking all the rules, ignoring conventional wisdom and outwitting the opposition. It reminds me a little of Germany's blitzkrieg strategy in World War II. But formulating public policy means bargaining and mobilizing a majority of constituents behind various specific proposals, and that will require a much different, much more subtle approach. I was listening to Sean Hannity this afternoon, and noted polemicist Ann Coulter scoffed at the critics of Trump. To me, the Trumpistas are indulging in a foolish end zone dance, oblivious to the harsh realities that will confront their Great Leader on January 20.

And on a more humorous note, Dr. Ben Carson took himself out of consideration for any cabinet position today. (What about surgeon general?)

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 16 Nov 2016, 5: 17 PM

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