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Trump’s Disruptive Cabinet

Written by John Feehery

In 1974, Patty Hearst was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small group of radical left-wingers, dedicated to fighting “racism, sexism, ageism, fascism, individualism, competitiveness, possessiveness and all other institutions that have made or sustained capitalism.”

Hearst was the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and she would later decide to join the group as a fellow anti-capitalist terrorist.   She would later be convicted of her crimes committed as part of the group, despite being defended by F. Lee Bailey.

Hearst was a victim of so-called Stockholm Syndrome, the concept that hostages become sympathetic to their kidnappers and then join them in their nefarious activities.  For movie buffs, think Colonel Nicholson in “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

Donald Trump has picked his cabinet precisely because he doesn’t want them to become victims of the government’s version of the Stockholm Syndrome.  He wants strong personalities that will disrupt the bureaucracy and change the status quo.

There is a long history of political appointees becoming captive of the bureaucracy – of going native.  Christine Todd Wittman became an advocate for her agency when she headed the EPA. Colin Powell became the Diplomat’s Diplomat when he ran the State Department.  Despite the implementation of No Child Left Behind, Margaret Spellings became an advocate for the Department of Education in her time as Secretary.

President-elect Trump is not picking characters who will go along to get along. He is choosing to go with strong leaders who know the subject matter but have little patience for either the bureaucracy or its stated goals.

Andrew Puzder, a fast-food CEO, is an opponent of minimum wage laws that kill opportunities for younger Americans to get into the work force.  He also believes that the administration’s new regulations that rapidly expand the number of employees eligible for overtime benefits will hurt small businesses.  Puzder’s appointment drew sharp criticism from Labor leaders who see the Department as their own personal fiefdom. 

Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who made millions turning around dying American companies, is the new head of the Commerce Department, which houses the International Trade Commission, which has been slow to stop the dumping of Chinese steel.  The Department is due for an overhaul.  It includes twelve disparate agencies as far ranging as NOAA and the Patent and Trade Office and spends close to ten billion dollars. 

Scott Pruitt is not a businessman, per se, but he will bring an outsider’s sensibility to the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Oklahoma Attorney General is a skilled attorney who has expressed skepticism for many of the regulations put forward by the EPA that have hampered energy production in this nation.  I don’t agree with his conclusions about climate change, but I think he will force the bureaucracy to challenge their basic assumptions before allowing job-killing regulations for going forth. 

It has been reported that Rex Tillerson, the Exxon-Mobil CEO, is in line to be the next Secretary of State.  Tillerson doesn’t have government experience to bring to the world of diplomacy, but he has plenty of real world experience, cutting deals and establishing important relationships.   He can be a tough negotiator who is used to getting his way.  If appointed, he will shake up the State Department and bring a more aggressive approach to our diplomatic corps.

None of this should be surprising to anybody who witnessed the presidential campaign.  Donald Trump was the most disruptive candidate in our nation’s history.   He didn’t use a pollster for most of his campaign, he spent relatively little on ads, he didn’t have much of a ground game.  The liberal establishment was horrified by him; the Republican establishment was opposed to him; the conservative establishment was confounded by him.

Imagine Trump as Uber and then Washington, D.C., as one giant taxicab commission.   That’s why the District voted 95 to 5 against him.

Trump wants to continue the great disruption as he governs.  He doesn’t want his Cabinet appointees to become hostage to the bureaucracies they oversee.  With these Cabinet appointments, its hard to see any of them becoming hostage to the Washington bureaucracy.

 

John Feehery is President of Communications and Director of Government Affairs for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Washington, D.C.’s top public affairs firm. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a columnist for The Hill and writes a column for Political Storm.

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About the author

John Feehery

John Feehery is President of Communications and Director of Government Affairs for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Washington, D.C.’s top public affairs firm. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a columnist for The Hill.

Feehery has worked for almost two decades in a variety of influential positions both as a staffer for three prominent members of the United States House of Representatives Republican leadership and a legislative strategist in the private sector.