One of the most remarkable things about the Trump transition is the amount of military officers up for consideration for positions in his cabinet. Their is a growing fear in some quarters that Donald Trump’s Administration would become a military regime in thinly veiled civilian clothing.
Last month he named General Mike Flynn as his National Security Adviser (NSA), a post that though concerned with national defense, has been traditionally occupied by bipartisan civilian stalwarts from both the Republican and Democratic parties like Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice.
For instance, former NSA Condoleezza Rice was a known protégé of President George Bush Senior , before she even served as a member of the cabinet of the second George Bush. Obama’s NSA, Susan Rice on her own part, was a member of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy team, before being recalled by Barrak Obama to serve several posts, including that of US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Then we have just gotten news that James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, a former Marine General has snatched the post of Secretary of Defense, a post known traditionally as a bastion of civilians in the military dominated Pentagon.
Traditionally the military occupies only the military staff posts in the US cabinet – that is the posts of head of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, as well as the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But with the incoming Trump presidency, the American military is set to expand its sway within American politics. President-Elect Trump is considering appointing serving or retired military officers to at least 4 cabinet posts-that is, excluding the 4 traditionally reserved for the military.
In addition to his nominations of Flynn and Mattis, he seriously considering appointing soldiers to the posts of Secretary of State and Head of National Intelligence.
That’s a lot of warriors that would be sitting at Oval Office meetings, you will agree. Pundits have said Trump is making these appointments because these military types are strongmen who share the same kind of combative psyche he possesses. Yes, that is one of the reasons.
The Real Reason
But there is another deeper reason that comes to mind: Trump is giving the Republican Establishment their F-ck Yous for not supporting him sufficiently during the elections.
Donald Trump nearly lost the election, and it was because the Republican elite didn’t really unite around him. They were very aghast that this businessman would came out of nowhere to snatch their candy. And so, they secretly hoped that he would lose to Hillary Clinton, so that they would take back their candidacy slot in 4 years time.
They erroneously refused to defend Trump from the savage attacks he faced from the liberal media, and in fact relished those attacks openly. An example of what Trump had to face from them is House Republican Leader, Ryan Paul’s refusal to whole heartedly endorse Trump, the elected candidate of his party. He kept dillydallying over the issue that at a point it became quite ridiculous.
So many Republicans said openly that they wouldn’t vote for Trump. They were obviously disappointed that the erstwhile crown prince of the Republican establishment, Jeb Bush didn’t clinch the ticket.
I remember the Never Trump Movement that even tried to see if they could change the Republican Convention rules – after Trump had democratically won the primaries! So many absurd and ridiculous things happened.
The foreign policy think-tank section of the Republican Party didn’t also hide its disdain of the candidate, often refusing to back him and often attacking him, and even supporting Hillary Clinton.
Politics being so strange, these Republicans were ready to see their party’s candidate lose, so that they could put a more acceptable face, a member of their own circle to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2020. Like business people in a pricing war, they were prepared to suffer what they considered to be temporary loses, so that in 4 years time, they could bounce back fully in control. Unfortunately for them, they simply priced themselves out of the market, out of consideration.
I remember asking the Republican establishment in a blog post just after Trump won the primaries not to fight Trump, but instead to negotiate with him, to form a kind of coalition with him, that would ensure that he sees his administration as a joint effort. I advised that they should give him conditions and demand to select some members of his cabinet as a way of retaining a kind of leverage over their candidate.
But they were so blinded by hate that they would not listen. The Bush Dynasty that would have retained a sought of Kennedyesque aura in the Trump Administration felt too proud to bow. They didn’t do what the Clintons did, which was to reconcile with Obama, thus laying the foundation for the great support he showed them in election 2016.
So, now there are complaints that Trump is considering ‘too many’ military men to civilian positions, but the complainers cannot complain too loudly, because they didn’t contribute their fair share to his victory. They shot themselves in the foot.
Apart from Reince Preibus and a few others that saw the light early, most of them were stuck in a Clinton-Bush bubble, and now that bubble has burst, living them hanging dry.
Donald Trump will fill his cabinet with as much military types as he can, because there are not enough conservative politicians and think thank experts who showed him support during the election period.
Apart from the fact that Trump is obviously giving it back to the Republican elite by shunning them is the fact that he doesn’t genuinely know if he can trust them. He is primarily a businessman and is not too used to the scheming and maneuvers in the political sector. So obviously, he doesn’t have the inclination to really act as a normal politician would.
He prefers the straight-talking military. And mind you, the military gave him a lot of support. Remember when 100 of them signed a letter endorsing him? That is probably when they won his heart. He will prefer to stick with them than to forge belated alliances with the Republican elite.
An Igbo proverb says, you don’t beat a child and expect him not to cry. These people beat Trump, so they shouldn’t expect him not to howl in protest, by shunning them.
What he is doing is that he is essentially dinning with a long spoon. To him, while the Republican Party is his party, its elite are not on the same boat with him.
Mind you, Trump still has the Tea Party type grassroots that ensured his electoral success to consider. He won’t want to become tarred with the same brush as the ruling elite as he eyes a second term in 2020. So, he will continue to keep a reasonable distance from the establishment. The Generals on the other hand, are not elected officials. They are not are seen as the Washington insiders Trump has promised to tackle.
Yes, Trump may throw the establishment a post or 2 (think Mitt Romney), but they have already lost very juicy ones they often take for granted.
As the saying goes: One cannot eat one’s cake and still have it.