The good, the bad, and the ugly of Trump’s cabinet picks

Nice post from (Big) Steve Saideman practicing a bit o Kremlinology with Trump’s picks.  Makes a lot of sense.  First, the bad:

So, what can we make of this?  For those who want to focus on Trump’s meetings, it shows that meetings matter very little for reading Trump’s intentions.  Meet with Gore and then pick Pruitt for EPA?  Pretty sure this does not mean a serious pursuit of climate change targets.  For those who want to emphasize Ivanka Trump as a key influencer, again the EPA decision is revealing as her apparent priority is climate change and her father chooses a guy who considers the EPA to be essentially his mortal enemy.

Who in the Trump inner circle wants to burn down the US government and create chaos?

Yeah, Steve Bannon, who has been quoted:

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Hard to see what else could explain the pattern of Trump appointments.  Yes, Trump probably correlates billions with brains so he thinks that appointing billionaires means appointing the best people, but many of these choices are the worst possible billionaires for each spot.  The guy who runs Carl’s Jr/Hardees for Secretary of Labor?  Either Trump is the troll or Bannon is.

Yep.  So, what could possibly be the good in all of this?  The fact that none of these guys have any experience in government, thereby making it harder for them to accomplish their malicious ends:

The only silver lining here is that few of these awful picks have any experience governing.  Which means that they will have a hard time inflicting their will on the bureaucracy.  In principal-agency theory, where the boss has less information than the underlings, the underlings can do more or less than the boss wants (shirking is what it is called, but it can mean doing more, not just goofing off).  There are always information asymmetries, but when the principals (the bosses) are amateurs, the agents can resist more deeply and for longer than if the principals know what they are doing.  So, as these guys try to burn down these agencies, expect much resistance and not just through leaks.  The resistance will come via implementation of policies that actually don’t implement the intent of the principals.  Of course, this might serve Bannon’s purposes–showing that the bureaucrats aren’t doing their jobs, but that is probably better than their following through on the worst impulses of the awful men (and a woman or two) chosen by Trump/Bannon.

The ugly?  Makes a good title for a post.  Also, fair enough to describe Michael Flynn that way.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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