TPM has compiled a list of the fringe-dwelling GOPers who are reputed to be under consideration for posts in a Trump administration, and it’s both as comical and as horrifying as you might expect. Dark days ahead indeed.
Some of the rumored appointees are real head-spinners. Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi, for example, is on the list of possible Attorneys General – which suggests that she may have gotten lots more than a great big campaign donation from Trump in return for backing away from investigating allegations of fraud leveled against him and his Trump University debacle.
Of special interest to Missourians, though, is the presence of Jim Talent, listed as a possible candidate for either Secretary of Defense, or Secretary of Commerce. Talent is the former
Missouri U.S. GOP Senator from Missouri who lost his seat to Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2006. He is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and acts as the director of something called the National Security 2020 Project, which “is working on the formulation and promulgation of a new paradigm for defense policy, planning, and budgeting.”
Talent as Secretary of Defense:
Right Web, a site that tracks “militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy,” notes in its profile of Talent that he has been critical of Trump’s Middle East policies, especially in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Certainly, if Trump insists on lying about his opposition to the Iraq war, he might have some differences with Talent who not only approved of the invasion of Iraq, but declared that “he would still have voted for the Iraq war had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction, because he thought removing Saddam Hussein from power was crucial to the war on terrorism.” Dick Cheney on steroids, in other words. And like neocon Cheney, neocon Talent is unlikely to share Trump’s uncritical Russia love.
However, as those of us who were listening during the campaign quickly noticed, Trump’s most firmly held positions are subject to abrupt change depending on his mood, the nature of his audience, and the latest input he has received – he’s only consistent about denying his past positions. Consequently, the nitty-gritty of Talent’s past policy positions are not likely as important as they would be for a more informed and engaged president.
Like many insecure males, Trump fetishizes masculine strength and Talent’s talk about how Democratic foreign policy has been weakened by Obama, the decline of American influence, and his emphasis on building up the military, both in terms of manpower and toys that go boom, should appeal to Trump. Also in his favor, Talent’s got Trump’s Iran shtick exactly right, and thinks that China is even more of an existential threat than does Trump, for whom China is primarily an economic threat. All in all, If Talent were to become his Secretary of Defense, it’s more than likely he’d fit right in with the cadre of right-wing child-minders who will be required to translate the naive Trump’s “vision” into policy and then tell Trump what his policies really are.
Talent as Secretary of Commerce
TPM and various other sources also suggest that Talent is under consideration for the Secretary of Commerce position, although his name is not included on all lists of possible candidates. It would be interesting to see how Talent, a dedicated free trader, would get along with the currently protectionist Trump if he were, as Commerce Secretary, tasked with representing business interests. But again, the fungibility of Trump’s thinking on policy issues might render the question moot.
Trump’s emphasis on the evils of free trade went over big with lots of his supporters, but based on what we know about him, he would feel little obligation to make good on his promises if there were a conflict with one of his stray whims. Anyway, he’s got nobody but free-trading Republicans to work with, and, in other respects, Talent’s extreme anti-regulation positions fit well with Trump’s economic rhetoric. Additionally, Trump has promised to bring the coal industry back and Talent’s long-term efforts on behalf of Big Coal ought to be simpatico.
Will he or won’t he work for The Donald
Politico has observed that Trump’s administration may have difficulty attracting top-drawer candidates, and based on the list that I have seen, Talent, as abhorrently right-wing as he is, may be among the more qualified for a cabinet position. But that is not saying much when you consider the fact that Sarah Palin’s name is actually being floated as a potential Secretary of the Interior – although TPM also notes that Donnie Jr. may have claimed this spot in daddy’s ensemble team for himself. Phil Plait writes in Slate that:
The list [of potential cabinet picks] is as unsurprising as it is appalling. It’s as if Trump’s transition team made a list of all 300 million Americans, ordered them by competency and ability to not destroy everything they touch, and then skipped right down to the bottom.
Actually, It might be better for Talent if he is skipped over in favor of a bad joke like, say, Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. Nobody’s going to walk away from this mess smelling any too sweet.