President-elect Donald Trump seems to be enjoying assembling his administration, giving it all a reality TV-like flair by parading candidates around Twitter, taking them to fancy restaurants, and calling them "finalists" -- the only thing missing is a rose for his selections.
After his first five appointments, Trump received criticism for selecting nothing but white men, but in the time since he’s shaken things up, from an identity politics standpoint. He’s named some females! Who aren’t white! And also, a whole slew of military generals and billionaires.
Overall, Trump’s putting together an administration with some connection to traditional Republican values and personnel, along with some highly rich people with aggressive investment techniques. (Indeed, should all of his appointments be confirmed and approved, Trump's would be the wealthiest administration in American history.) So Trump's not quite "draining the swamp," but he’s not quite retaining the swamp, either. Not in full, anyway: He’s putting together a team of people he knows, with people he knows can get the job done.
But what, ultimately, is the job Trump wants to get done? His administration choices tell us this: He’s serious about repealing Obamacare, about tax cuts, and about infrastructure, and it looks like he might overhaul the way our schools are funded.
Now about these administration picks.
We’ve already discussed his first five (Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, Attorney General selection Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and NSA Director Mike Flynn). Now for a quick line on his newest appointments, so you have talking points for your next political cypher.
Ambassador to the United Nations - Nikki Haley:
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Trump's highest profile appointment since his first batch, and from a diversity standpoint, is Nikki Haley. The Indian-American South Carolina Governor achieved national standing with her response to the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in her home state, and the confederate flag. Her international experience is limited going in (just some trips overseas to drum up investment in her home state), but coming out of it, she’ll be primed for a Presidential run of her own. It’s Trump’s most interesting appointment so far, too, in that she was a vocal critic of his campaign during primary season. And also that she’d be the first Indian-American cabinet member in American history.
Secretary of Education - Betsy DeVos:
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Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos
A Michigan billionaire activist whose family owns the Orlando Magic and founded Amway, DeVos favors shifting funding from public schools to private and religious ones. The bottom line: She’s the most conservative pick we’ve seen for this position in a long time, and this could mean some radical changes to the way our education system works.
Secretary of Transportation - Elaine Chao
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Elaine was labor secretary under Bush 43 and also worked in Bush 41’s administration, so she has experience. She’s married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, so she’s a political lifer. She was director of the Peace Corps, so she has passport stamps. She’ll be Trump’s point person in trying to get his big infrastructure building through Congress.
Health and Human Services - Tom Price:
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Five-term Georgia Congressman Tom Price is a surgeon, and also extremely anti-Obamacare, so he checks the boxes many Republicans would seek in a person helping shape medical policy for the country. In other words: The Affordable Care Act, for all its blemishes and beauty, probably isn’t long for this world. The issue comes down to this: Trump’s promised a complete repeal of the law, but he’s softened his language since winning the election. Can Price help him repeal and replace?
Treasury Secretary - Steven Mnuchin:
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Donald Trump, Heather Mnuchin, Steven Mnuchin
As Trump’s campaign finance secretary, Mnuchin was always the odds-on pick for this slot. Mnuchin has deep experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood (probably produced a movie or two that you’ve seen lately) but no real government experience. He’s an interesting pick because he’s spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, the very investment bank that Trump ran against, in a sense, by calling into question Hillary Clinton’s Goldman relationship and speeches. (Otherwise, the fact that Mnuchin worked for Goldman before being appointed to Treasury Secretary is not surprising; he’d be the third person to shift from that bank to this role.) As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin will be encharged with overseeing the banks, the currency, managing government debt, and generally maintaining a strong economy. The Wall Street Journal says his resume is "at odds" with Trump’s campaign rhetoric, for the way he foreclosed on some howeowners in ways that may have been unfair, enriching himself in the process (keyword: IndyMac). These Senate confirmation hearings will be interesting. (So far he's promised big tax cuts for the middle class, and the top earners, with less deductions all around.)
Commerce Secretary - Wilbur Ross:
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Wilbur Ross, Kay Gilman
Another administration position, another billionaire investor. They call him the "king of bankruptcy" for his streak of buying companies on the cheap and then flipping them for massive profits. As Commerce Secretary, he’ll be entrusted with international trade negotiations. He’ll be talking a lot with Trump’s favorite economic boogeyman of China, and trying to keep jobs from going there.
And all of this, of course, is a prelude to the big prize: Secretary Of State. Right now the shortlist is Rudy Giuliani, former CIA Director David Petreus, retired General John Kelly, Senator Bob Corker, and former Governor and outspoken Trump critic Mitt Romney. So far Mitt's the only one who has had a fancy dinner at Jean Georges with Trump about it. And the photo of their faces in that moment is priceless.
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