When a reporter was trying to cull some information from Mike Huckabee on Friday morning, the always canny and sagacious former Arkansas governor quipped, “Those who know don’t tell and those who tell don’t know.” Those who have been telling us just who was going to get what job in President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet certainly don’t seem to know.
A lot of people were in line for attorney general; but today we learned that Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is Trump’s choice. The Yankee from the Big Apple couldn’t have selected a more Southern take on solid conservative values. This is an attorney general who is going to actually enforce the law instead of finding reasons to ignore it or use his office to appease political obsessions.
Eric Holder held the office for most of President Barack Obama’s term and was certainly an activist member of the cabinet – except when it came to enforcing any laws relating to voter fraud because that might have adversely affected the Democratic Party’ s electoral success. Holder never restrained his enthusiasm for invoking the threat of civil rights charges against white police officers who were just doing their jobs. But I really think that Loretta Lynch came to symbolize the politicization of the Obama justice department when she and former president Bill Clinton had their legendary meeting on the Phoenix, AZ runway where they said they talked about golf and the grandkids, even though Hillary Clinton’s e-mail investigation was the elephant in the airplane.
But doesn’t that all seem like old news with the Clinton’s being banished to the category of political has-beens overseeing a foundation that is teetering on the brink of financial and legal implosion?
So does all that talk that Trump was going to take Republicans down a dangerous populist path that repudiated the party’s conservative principles. With the selection Friday of Sessions for AG, Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA director and retired lieutenant-general Mike Flynn as national security adviser, Trump is again demonstrating that his commitment to conservative values is not just a random impulse that occurs whenever he has to confront a ideologically-motivated audience. He’s also illustrating how populism and conservatism do not have to exist in opposition to each other but in harmony.
Of course the mainstream media can still not be accused of cheerleading the Trump transition process. There’s dissension in the ranks, Trump is moving with sufficient speed, valued advisors have been sidelined.
But this meeting with Mitt Romney on Saturday. That one boggles the mind and shatters political assumptions. I don’t know if Trump is just demonstrating a dependence upon photo ops – to the point that anyone is invited over to excite media interest – or if he is genuinely a man of such political magnanimity that he is willing to not only bury the hatchet but offer a cabinet position to a man who once called Trump a phony, a fraud, and someone who would usher in “trickle-down bigotry” – whatever that is. Trump for his part dismissed Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign because he “choked like a dog.”
But there might be something larger at work here. During his successful campaign, Trump frequently said that once elected he was going to be most presidential president since Abraham Lincoln. OK, a lot of us thought the description was just the sort of hyperbole that an expansive personality like Trump instinctively reaches for – especially when attacked by equally exaggerated rhetoric from the left that he was unfit for office and somehow purveyor of hate and division.
Like Lincoln, Trump appears to be crafting a cabinet that is not just replete with political talent but bursting with some degree of political rivalry. This is not the sort of cabinet that a pusillanimous, insecure leader could find any comfort in. It won’t be a rubber stamp board of directors who cower before their principal. But it is one that will surely generate debate, invigorate ideas and provide the maximum level of diverse advice for the new president. That might make Trump a most presidential chief executive indeed.
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