One of the conservative movement’s primary concerns about President-elect Donald Trump is that he doesn’t seem to be guided by a clear, definable political philosophy. Some of the things he says are truly conservative, while others seem aligned with big government liberalism.
“At this point, who cares?” he once remarked after conservatives questioned his adherence to our principles.
Now, at this point, everyone should care, because this is when philosophy becomes policy, and the devil is always in the details. Personnel is policy, as the saying goes, so who Trump appoints to his cabinet is currently our only indicator of how he’ll actually govern.
So how’s he doing? Calling the balls and strikes from a conservative standpoint, it’s really a mixed bag.
Starting from the earliest to the most recent picks, we must begin with any president’s first presidential decision – his choice for running mate. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a conservative’s conservative with a stellar reputation within the movement and a rock-solid record. He wasn’t even on many short lists of potential picks because most thought he was too conservative for Trump’s taste. The result: Home run.
Next comes Trump’s choice for U.S. Attorney General – our own Sen. Jeff Sessions. My admiration for the man is well documented, but so is his record on law and order. Trump couldn’t have chosen better. Another home run.
Trump then nominated Betsy DeVos for education secretary. She’s an advocate for school choice and charter schools, but has also been closely affiliated with Common Core. She’s since renounced the standards, and that’s enough to give her a single, but she’ll need to prove herself by eliminating the program before reaching home plate.
Obamacare critic and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., was chosen for the health and human services slot. He’s a creature of Washington, but we’ll need an insider to dismantle that massively complex mess. He safely made it to second.
Mrs. Mitch McConnell, otherwise known as Elaine Chao, was named Secretary of Transportation. This reeks of the establishment. She’ll not only give her husband reach into the administration, but she’ll oversee the disbursement of Trump’s trillion dollar, centrally-planned boondoggle of an infrastructure program. Look for headlines of waste and excess to abound. Strike one.
Next up to bat is Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary. He’s new to politics so the only indicator of his thinking are the candidates he’s donated to: Al Gore, Jon Corzine, Bill Bradley, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, John Edwards, Barrack Obama, Tom Daschle, (pause, take breath) John Kerry, Chris Dodd, and Ned Lamont, among other liberals. This goes beyond the “needing to do business with these people” justification. That last guy, Lamont, is nearly a socialist, and now Mnuchin is in charge of how much in taxes you’ll pay. Strike two.
Wilbur Ross will be in charge of the Commerce Department. He’s a billionaire known as the “King of Bankruptcy” for his ability to restructure companies deep in debt. That sounds like us after the last eight years. Right man in the lineup, and an easy double.
Retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis will lead the defense department. You’ve probably already heard all of the wonderful things said about this Marine, and it’s all true. The man is a true warrior … but is he an accountant? Much like the guy who was hired to run Ford Motor Company a few years ago (he lamented about being hired to run a car company, but spent all of his time dealing with health care and retirement plans), Mattis will be dealing with increasing demands and decreasing resources. His job won’t principally be fighting our enemies – which he can easily do – but getting the president, the Congress, the brass, and the defense industry all to agree on our priorities. He might find Fallujah to be a friendlier place than the Pentagon. Still, his experience and reputation earns him a triple … and a healthy lead off to home.
We’re not even half-way though the lineup, folks, and only at the top of the first inning. We’ve had some crushers and some slushers, but all-in-all it’s been a fairly good game. Stay tuned for next week’s calls.