By Pete Zamplas- Donald Trump is steadily building a Team Trump, blending strong conservatives such as immigration-law enforcer Sen. Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general and Tea Party hawk U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA with moderate GOP insider and political peacemaker Reince Priebus as incoming chief of staff.
Trump’s dramatic victory in the presidential election now fuels both serious speculation and fun folly about whom he will surround himself with on his staff, and in the cabinet and other key posts. Many wonder where Trump’s inner circle might have ideological and personality rifts, and where consensus and action best emerges in the Trump Administration.
In an early major move, Pres.-elect Trump last week replaced moderate Chris Christie with solid conservative V.P.-elect Mike Pence as leader of the transition team. Then Trump named GOP National Committee Chr. Reinhold “Reince” Priebus as chief of staff for when Trump takes office Jan. 20. Chief of staff is considered potentially the second most powerful in the country — at least in the executive branch. The chief runs White House political operations and guides other key appointments.
Reports can be dismissed that Trump was misheard at a car rental saying “I’ll go with the (Toyota electric) Prius” bulletproof bus, and instead ending up with 44-year-old Prie-bus smiling at his side. So much for Trump tabbing as chief of staff his elder daughter Ivanka, whom many say is his most trusted adviser of all.
In a jarring move countering polite Priebus’ moderation and caution, Trump anointed bombastic Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon may prove the primary counsel, in any tug of war. Caustic “alt-right” arch conservative Bannon, among Trump’s campaign managers, may follow Karl Rove from election whiz to sharp White House daily strategist and catalyst. Rove, as deputy chief of staff, reportedly wielded the most power in Pres. George W. Bush’s administration. He had Bush’s ear, after masterminding his campaigns.
Rove publicly lashed out at liberals, drawing their ire. Bannon heads the Breitbart website that also ripped GOP establishment leaders as not conservative enough on some issues. They include Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pivotal for replacing Obamacare and other legislative action.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Saturday he was offered a cabinet post, but not one yet that is a good fit for him. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The first Trump choice for a key administrative post is retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. He is “In like Flynn” as national security advisor — which does not need Senate approval. Flynn was Defense Intelligence Agency head, until retiring in 2014. He advised Trump on security matters during the campaign. On a light-hearted note, any new national insecurity adviser could be the ghost of nervous-stammering comic Don Knotts.
Senate approval is needed for cabinet posts such as attorney general (A.G.) and CIA director. The GOP has the votes for the required simple majority, though Democrats are apt to parade their rips of candidates in confirmation hearings.
Trump is going with Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions of Alabama, the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump for president, for A.G. He matches Trump’s age of 70 as of Christmas Eve. Sessions is very strict about enforcing immigration laws, a key tenet of Trump’s campaign.
Pompeo of Kansas, Trump’s choice for CIA director, also has a birthday next month. He turns 53. The Harvard law grad was tops in his class at West Point and is hailed as a sharp tactician.
Rudy Giuliani, familiar as a Fox TV regular, is seen as a shoe-in for a key post. He could fight ISIS and other terror groups, as Homeland Security head or secretary of state. The former New York City mayor and prosecutor was passed over as attorney general. The staunch campaigner for Trump introduced him at a packed rally in Asheville.
John Bolton like Giuliani is very hawkish and outspoken about various threats in the Middle East, and also from Russia and China. The former ambassador to the U.N. in the second Bush presidency is deemed among contenders for State, after losing out to Flynn as security advisor.
In a light-hearted vein, an ideal secretary of State is Téa Leoni. Her title character on CBS’s Madam Secretary is pragmatic and tough as a former CIA analyst, also prudent with conscientious deliberation.
Any secretary of Estate likely goes to Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron (aka Little Donald). If there is ever a secretary of Altered state, consider Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico governor is very candidly for legalizing pot nationwide; his most recent job was as CEO of a cannabis-products firm.
It is a fib that a secretary of Church and State will be created, and filled by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump did meet such bitter rivals as “Lying Ted,” then on Saturday with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who was the GOP’s 2012 presidential candidate. This was at Trump National Golf Club, a resort in Bedminster, N.J. Romney called Trump a “con artist” unfit for the White House, when leading a stop-Trump attempt in primaries.
The session is simply mending fences for greater GOP unity and not as rumored to screen Romney for a cabinet post such as State, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested on Fox News. Romney promptly told media Saturday he and Trump met for over an hour, sharing views “in-depth” on U.S. interests across the globe. They have sharply differed over Russia. Huckabee said bringing in Romney would “insult” Trump voters. He quipped “they need to bury the hatchet — and not necessarily in each other’s brains.”
Huckabee revealed he and Trump discussed a cabinet post Huckabee might fill, but it is not a “good fit.” He left open other roles. Trump also at least consulted another seasoned and eloquent Fox News political commentator in Newt Gingrich of Georgia. The former House speaker said he will not serve in Trump’s administration. Instead, he will do “strategic planning” for the GOP.
Trump did not meet with bitter “low energy” rival Jeb Bush, but instead with both ex-Pres. George Bushes and with less fuss than with Billy Bush. Some see this as a mirage for D.C. newcomer Trump to consult with GOP leaders, to appease moderates and solidify Tea Partiers who preferred Cruz to him. But others applaud Trump for trying to unify the party with a mix of appointees rather than group-think, also as he claims seeking input on issues from various perspectives and likely also insider know-how to navigate Washington.
FBI does not actually get reclassified from Federal Bureau of Investigation to Ferociously Brutal Interrogation. But if so then fitting candidates to lead it include grisly action heroes Raymond Reddington (James Spader, “The Blacklist”), Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise); and vigilante officers Capt. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Chief Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) in Gotham, Lt. Cdr. Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-O and Sgt. “Dirty Harry” Callahan (Clint Eastwood).
The runners-up can be assigned as trouble-shooting or simply-shooting ambassadors to combustible countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea or form a crime-fighting task force. Verbally assessing those posts, Trump sees as fit Carl Lewis for Iran (he sure ran fast), and Bruce Springsteen as Ambassador to I Rock in Iraq.
Steve Hadley was National Security Affairs assistant to Pres. G.W. Bush. Hadley is among insiders for Defense. Defense fits muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger, who modifies Pres. Trump’s Reagan-ish mantra of “Let’s Make America Great Again” to “…Strong Again.” Or try avowed Trump supporter Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. He is known for great schemes in pro football defense.
If the coach helps run Team Trump then it figures a new position of Secretary of Offense goes to his star quarterback, Tom Brady. NFL celebrity Brady also declared support of Trump’s campaign for president. Caustic comic Don Rickles insists, however, that even at age 90 he can be the most offensive of them all.
Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman, is truly touted for Treasury and may be in place by the time this story comes out. Mnuchin is from the Goldman Sachs investment firm pipeline into financial posts (Treasury, Federal Reserve chairman) in recent administrations of both parties. Two of Trump’s wealthy peers — J.P. Morgan banking maverick Jamie Dimon and investor-publisher Steve Forbes — have long been mentioned for Treasury. Longshots are Treasure hunters Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie).
Rest assured that Hillary Clinton will not get a chance at being the first email security adviser. And Bill Clinton will not be White House intern supervisor. But never count out Bill. He might prefer any post dealing with affairs — foreign, domestic, secret or public affairs. He could join the Cabinet heading a revised Veteran of Affairs, or Commerce with his socializing prowess. Or “Slick Willie” might beat out the Trump University chancellor to become Secretary of Education, given aptitude as $16.5 million-a-year honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities in one of his own alleged money-making schemes.
Agriculture secretary could go to country music stars Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert or Dolly Parton. Labor could go to a workaholic entrepreneur like Trump — GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt has said he worked 100 hours weeks for a quarter-century.
More folly with possible cabinet secretaries: funk-pop singer and frenetic-dancing Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter can energize the Energy Department another Carter started. As an open Obama and Clinton backer, she could help forge a coalition regime. Consider newly-retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Transportation), First Lady Melania Trump (revised Department Store of Interior Decorating), Donald Trump Jr. (Non-housing and Manhattan Urban Development).
Cabinet-level posts and their satirical frontrunners include Council of Economic Advisors chairman (Ivanka Trump), and Small Business Administration (son Eric Trump). Eric can oversee the Mexico Wall (and tall LeBron see over it)— if it is ever built, perhaps as part of the stimulus plan. Trump wants an offspring from his real estate and construction empire in charge. He will not tab spendthrift ex-wife Ivana to handle Management and Budget.
The U.S. Trade representative might best be baseball general managers Theo Epstein, or retired Trader Jack” McKeon. Epstein built champions of first Boston now the Chicago Cubs, in both cases breaking jinxes and long title droughts. Champion NBA star LeBron James or retired great Michael Jordan can lead Health and Human Services, or the President’s Council on Physical Fitness while not busy running on a court. The U.N. ambassador leads the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Perhaps Mission Impossible agents Jim Phelps or Ethan Hunt fills the void.
Surgeon general can be neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, presidential candidate on Trump’s transition team; or possibly new film hero Dr. Stephen Strange, or the ghost of 1968 V.P. candidate and nuclear attack-advocate Gen. Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay for a general adept at surgical or massive strikes.
Following his predecessor’s policy of putting opposites in charge of least-desired entities, Trump could shift EPA from Environmental Protection Agency to Everyday Pollution Accelerant, led by the aptly-named comic Ice Follies skaters Frick and Frack.
New Jersey Gov. Chris “Krispy Kreme” Christie and Rolling Stone Keith Richards are seen as co-directors of the Food and Drug Administration. Hefty Christie could head Agriculture, and its inspecting of food quality. The jolly giant is seen as a contender for Commerce, which oversees Economic Analysis and the Census.
Reaching out to Democrats, new posts could be Sen. Bernie Sanders as director of Staged Protests and Finger Scolding and Barack Obama as director of Devilish Grins. Liberal actor Alec Baldwin, SNL’s current Trump impersonator, may be recruited to be the president’s double for trips to terror-gripped countries or high-protest zones.
Reaching out across the pond: British Foreign Sec. “Brexit Boris” Johnson can be White House hair stylist. He relates to Trump’s free-flowing locks, and anti-establishment working class support. Boris beat out Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator with odd, trapezoid-shaped greased flat top. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who rides horses bare-chested, can be the newly-created director of Global Equine Services.
Supreme Court? There is one opening now after the death of Justice Anthony Scalia, and more apt to follow. Three of eight current justices are ages 78-83, and may retire or exit feet-first. Some might want in their place Judge Judy, or ghosts of Judge Wapner or Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis who clamped down on MLB’s game-fixing a century ago. The populist choice among “deplorables” seems Sly Stallone’s futuristic vigilante executioner Judge Joseph Dredd.
Whether dreading or relishing these choices, Pres.-elect Trump and closest advisors are shaping the executive branch and our nation’s future.