Donald Trump has named Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, as his White House chief of staff, NBC News has learned.Trump's transition team confirmed the appointment Sunday afternoon, but sources said that the decision was finalized Saturday night.
In recent history, there have been some striking combinations of powerful White House staffers helping guide their respective presidents. Reagan had Baker and Meese; Obama had Emanuel and Axlerod; Bush had Card and Rove.And Donald Trump will have Priebus and Bannon.
Up until now, Priebus' claim to fame is championing a "Growth & Opportunity Project" report, unveiled after his party failed spectacularly after the 2012 elections, which Republican officials completely ignored. As recently as April, Trump accused Priebus' RNC of creating a presidential nominating system that was deliberately "stacked against" him. The then-candidate added that the RNC "should be ashamed" for creating a process that was a "scam" and a "disgrace."Now, Priebus will nevertheless be one of the most powerful officials in Washington, D.C.He'll be partnered with Bannon, the CEO of Trump's campaign, who led an extremist website, notorious for having espoused anti-Semitic and nationalist views.In a less ridiculous political environment, politicians seeking national office would probably avoid even speaking to a website like Breitbart. Nevertheless, in our current environment, Republicans not only consider Breitbart credible, its former leader will now have a key office in the West Wing, guiding the direction of the president of the United States.Whether one finds these hires terrifying or not, this is a major announcement for the incoming administration, with multiple angles. Let's unwrap the news a little further:* Experience: Donald Trump will be the first president in American history to have no experience in government or public service at any level. He'll be joined by a chief of staff with no governing experience and a chief strategist with no governing experience.If you're one of those voters who values competence from the nation's executive branch, start lowering your expectations.* Intra-party tensions: For all of Trump's rhetoric about his disgust for the entrenched and corrupt establishment and its elite insiders, five days after Election Day, he nevertheless picked an establishment insider to be his chief of staff -- which is pretty much the opposite of what many of his die-hard followers expected.At the same time, Bannon, with a cringe-worthy professional and personal background, represents an entirely different and more radicalized Republican faction -- which is pretty much the opposite of what many party insiders wanted to see in the president-elect's new chief strategist.There will be some who see this as a sort of right-wing "team of rivals," with Trump receiving guidance from different wings of his increasingly extremist political party, but don't expect a Lincoln-esque governing dynamic. Before the election, the Trump campaign's warring factions created a haphazard mess and a team that struggled to complete even basic tasks. Voters, evidently, didn't care about the campaign's rampant incompetence, but governing with these divisions will be vastly more difficult.There are already reports of bitter infighting within Trump's transition operation, and with these new hires, it's a safe bet this will intensify after the inauguration.* Women: During the campaign, a recording emerged of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, which was soon followed by a series of women, each of whom accused him of sexual misconduct. Bannon, meanwhile, has faced controversies of his own: as Rachel noted on the show in August, Bannon was arrested and charged with domestic violence 20 years ago – though prosecutors ultimately had to drop the charges when Bannon's then-wife failed to show up to testify.BuzzFeed reported soon after that Bannon and a former colleague were also "accused of sexual harassment in a 1990s court case."* The Breitbartization of America's executive branch: Bannon's role in the Trump campaign was alarming enough. The fact that he's now moving into the West Wing to help guide the direction of the nation's executive branch is, without a doubt, is a stark-raving-mad development.As NBC News' report noted, "Under Bannon, Breitbart.com has embraced racist conspiracy theories and become what Bannon termed 'a platform for the alt-right.'" Those who've accused Bannon's enterprise of anti-Semitism and racism have done so with cause.There's a school of thought, which I've never found persuasive, that says Trump isn't a racist; he simply used racism as a tool, exploiting foolish voters' hatreds to advance his ambitions. If this argument were true, Trump would've used Bannon's extremism during the campaign, only to discard him once the votes were counted.Except, Trump's done the opposite. He not only allowed Bannon to guide some of the most jaw-dropping nonsense from his campaign messaging, he's now invited this extremist to be a senior counselor -- with nearly unparalleled access -- to a U.S. president.If you're not worried, you're not paying close enough attention.