U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with a supporter during a campaign rally at the USS Wisconsin battleship in Norfolk, Va., Oct. 31, 2015.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

In picking cabinet, Trump values wealth, inexperience

The week after the election, Donald Trump’s transition team started falling apart, with internal divisions forcing some members to resign, while others were “purged” from the operation altogether. It looked like it might be a while before the president-elect’s cabinet would come together.

Two weeks later, however, the cabinet announcements are starting to come together a little more quickly, and as of this morning, roughly half of the Republican administration’s top posts are no longer blank:

Vice President: Gov. Mike Pence

Chief of Staff: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Chief Strategist: Steve Bannon

Attorney General: Sen. Jeff Sessions

Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson (probably)

Ambassador to the United Nations: Gov. Nikki Haley

Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos

Health and Human Services Secretary: Rep. Tom Price

Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao

Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin

Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross

With this list in mind, we can start to draw some conclusions about the kinds of qualities Donald Trump considers important.

1. Wealth matters. Politico reported the other day, “Donald Trump campaigned as a champion of the ‘forgotten man’ and won the White House on the strength of his support among the white working class. So far, he’s stacking his administration with masters of the universe.” It’s obviously a fair point: Trump’s cabinet is already stacked with billionaires (DeVos and Ross) and millionaires (Mnuchin and Chao).

With folks like Mitt Romney also under consideration, the Conservative Country Club Crowd may soon grow bigger.

2. Experience doesn’t matter. The Huffington Post recently noted, “Trump’s roster of key White House advisers and Cabinet officials could, in the end, rank among the least experienced in recent presidential history.” That’s true: most of the folks on the incoming administration’s list – including the president-elect, by the way – have no governing experience, no experience in the subject area they’ll oversee, no experience managing a large agency, or all of the above.

Norman Eisen, a former ambassador who worked on President Obama’s transition team in 2008, told the Huffington Post, “Government is like any other profession – it requires expertise. I don’t think you’d want that gang, if they had a similar lack of expertise in surgery, operating on you with that level of comparable medical experience. And the same is true in government.” Trump, evidently, disagrees.

3. The swamp apparently doesn’t need draining. For all of Trump’s pre-election talk about “draining the swamp” in Washington, many of his cabinet selections suggest he didn’t mean it.

Elaine Chao, for example, is probably the single most qualified nominee on Trump’s roster, but she’s also a classic Washington insider and corporate board member. Chao is exactly the kind of person the president-elect ran against as a candidate, and yet, here we are.

4. Let’s all drop the “populist” nonsense. I realize some of the political world is still preoccupied with the idea that Trump is a populist, ready to serve as The People’s champion, but one of these days, the charade should end. The president-elect is choosing wealthy far-right donors and far-right insiders for his cabinet because … wait for it … the populist shtick was never real.