In 2000, when Bill Clinton turned the Oval Office over to George W. Bush, he was effectively just passing it back to the same political cohort, and family, that he’d taken it from eight years prior. W’s cabinet even included Nixon’s Chief of Staff from 1970, Donald Rumsfield.
As corrupt and violent as Bush was, the Republican machine that he was a part of knew how to run the government and had deep roots in Washington, enabling them to zoom in and quickly set up shop.
Trump has none of that.
He ran his campaign on the premise that he wasn’t a beltway insider, but now he’s in charge of one of the largest organizations in human history, and he doesn’t seem to know the first thing about how to run it. To date, several key agencies including the Justice and Defense Departments have yet to even hear from him.
Trump doesn’t play squash with high ranking diplomats. I guarantee you he couldn’t name all the countries on a blank map of the world. I doubt he’s ever even followed a bill all the way through Congress.
He’s never claimed to be a politician, and that appears to be one of the few places where he was telling the truth. He’s a TV salesman – the Billy Mays of White Nationalism, selling the kind of comforting and inspiring narrative that folks living in our country’s bleeding red middle were starving for.
Yes, my fellow Americans, he said, your lives suck. But it’s not your fault. It’s the Mexicans, the Muslims and the corrupt politicians in DC. You don’t even have to eat your vegetables or stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Just vote for me, and I’ll make America great again!
During his campaign, Trump was, at best, a shiny two dimensional cardboard cut out of a politician, but disgusted by the current face of modern government, the American people still happily chose him over a DC veteran with decades of experience sitting in the epicenter of our empire.
At least Trump was different, an outsider, they thought, independent and unafraid, that alone made him inherently trustworthy. Even if he was a scumbag whose every word was outlandish hyperbole, he was still far better than any insider.
But it’s impossible to be a rogue outsider and the Commander in Chief simultaneously.
While it remains to be seen exactly who will end up in Trump’s cabinet, so far, it doesn’t look good. The people Trump is inviting all seem to be ideologues and thugs. Tough guys eager to use the authority of the federal government to protect their private interests and suppress their opposition. Newt Gingrich even wants to bring back the “House Un-American Activities Committee” to go after dissidents.
This is a moment of great uncertainty, to say the least, made all the more so because the rest of American politics is also in such disarray.
Within the next few months, we’ll inevitably witness the emergence of a new inside. Trump will probably find at least a few people to serve with him who truly are competent, however atrocious their values may be, and hard as it may be to imagine, Trump will grow into the role of being our President.
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s going to be a long time before we hear him crack another joke about Rosie O’Donnell.