Donald Trump is still over two months away from being formally sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, but already is making decisions that will shed light on how he would govern.
He has already named RNC Chair Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. He also named former head of Breitbart News, Steven Bannon, as his chief strategist. Priebus might have been the least bad of a list of bad options for chief of staff, but the Bannon pick has raised some concerns in conservative circles.
Bannon’s history of coddling the alt-right should concern anybody who wants to see Trump govern as a conservative. If Bannon has significant influence in a Trump Administration, Trump will govern less like a limited government conservative and more like a big government nationalist-populist.
As for important cabinet secretaries, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton are reportedly on the list for Secretary of State. Corker is the senator responsible for selling the farm to Obama when the nuclear deal with Iran appeared before Congress. Selecting John Bolton would be a positive sign that President Trump will not necessarily be a useful idiot for Vladimir Putin that some of us fear he is. Trump is also reportedly taking a strong look at Rudy Giuliani to run the State Department.
To run the Pentagon, possibilities include Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. Flynn would need a waiver from Congress. The law requires that retired officers wait at least seven years before becoming the civilian head of the Defense Department. It has also been reported that Trump’s team is looking at recently defeated New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, always seen to be following John McCain and Lindsey Graham, would be an interesting selection for Secretary of Defense, considering Trump spent almost the entire campaign blasting George Bush and the Iraq War. Some have recommended former Democratic candidate for President and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Webb was the Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration and resigned when the Pentagon cut back on the Navy’s 600 ship goal in 1988.
On the policy front, Trump is beginning to buckle already. Trump adviser Walid Phares has indicated that getting an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be a top priority. He said that a relocation of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be done “under consensus.” During the campaign Trump was “100% for” relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem. Trump has also retreated from his position on the nuclear deal with Iran, stating the need to “review” it rather than dismantle it.
Perhaps most concerning is Trump’s Obamacare stance. Despite calling it a “disaster,” Trump has indicated that he is open to keeping parts of Obamacare intact. This will be a good first test if the Republican Congress is going govern as conservatives or as Republican Party loyalists. Congress needs to pass a full repeal and force his hand.
Trump has not even taken the oath, yet there are areas for concern. Trump needs to be prevented from wandering out into left field. Ensuring that he surrounds himself with the right people is a good way to ensure that does not happen. He has already walked back perhaps the most import foreign and domestic policies that every Republican ran on. Eventually, the schadenfreude of Hillary’s loss and certain young people not knowing how to lose with grace and dignity will wear off and Trump will have to govern.