President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for secretary of state, following the firestorm of criticism leveled at his selection of Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist, could either quiet critics of the chaotic transition process (Trump insists his operation is not chaotic!) or underscore the incoming team’s lack of political acumen and readiness. Many Trump critics would prefer the former; we, however, are not rooting for failure, especially when it comes to foreign relations.
Let’s say his widely discussed first choice Rudy Giuliani’s name goes up to the Senate. Off the bat he will have 48 solid Democrat “no” votes. They need not say anything about ideology. Giuliani’s temperament, his hyper-partisan threats during the campaign (he led the “lock her up!” chants), his cesspool of shady foreign clients, his alleged misuse of funds as mayor, his rotten judgment of character and his lack of actual national-security experience would be more than enough grounds to oppose him. Meanwhile, you can bet some Republicans are going to be awfully nervous about confirming Giuliani. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has already said he would be a no vote. Other wary senators might include everyone from libertarian-ish Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to pro-life, principled conservatives such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who would take issue with Giuliani’s formulation that in war “anything’s legal,” a frightful fallacy that would play into concerns about Trump. Giuliani’s volatile personality and tendency to blather on would make him a difficult nominee to prepare for a confirmation hearing.
The hearing would easily turn into the first must-see TV clash between the White House and Senate. Hours of an aggressive, long-winded Giuliani duking it out over whether he billed New York taxpayers for security for his visits with his mistress and debating just how shady were his list of clients (including Russian oligarchs) would be irresistible. And worst of all from Trump’s perspective, it would divert attention from him and risk an early defeat.
Trump reportedly told Giuliani that he could have his pick of jobs. That’s not how presidents should operate. Unlike his business empire, Trump is not the only decision-maker and if the choice proves faulty, the exec is not hurried out of the office with a reminder he signed a nondisclosure agreement. The Senate gets to vote, and the prospect that his nominee — a blustering, white New York millionaire who is ethically compromised and short on actual experience — would go down in flames might strike a little too close to home.
And, that, by the way brings us to another concern. The people already announced and under serious contention for other top jobs (secretary of state, attorney general, defense secretary, national security adviser) are almost all older, white men. If that’s the final result, Trump would wind up underscoring how insulated and non-inclusive his operation is.
When you consider the diverse picks for senior-level jobs in the past two administrations (e.g. Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Alberto Gonzales, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch), it would be stunning to think that Trump could wind up with no minorities or women in top slots. When the people whom he is considering are not even expert, knowledgeable or temperamentally sound, Trump looks even worse, as though he’s bent on replanting his good-old-boy network from Manhattan. Perhaps that is why talk started about South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for secretary of state (?!), despite a lack of national-security experience.
Maybe Trump feels comfortable only with under-qualified, older, male cronies — people just like him! (But doesn’t he keep saying he has hired so many women in business?) If so, he better get over it and start finding some competent people who better reflect American diversity. I mean, is just one woman or minority above the rank of education secretary too much to expect?