Little Rock Reading the headlines or listening to the news, reporters seem to be grasping at every opportunity to point out a policy difference between Trump nominees and Trump himself. Some go so far as to speculate that there will be contention and chaos in the Cabinet on important policy issues like immigration or spying or Russia or climate change. I would be careful not to get hopes too high, since I suspect we are dealing with the classic situation of a distinction without a difference.
This is not to say that the nominees didn’t tell Trump what they really thought when he interviewed them for the job, but anyone who has ever conducted an job interview knows full well that people work very hard to try and tell you what they think you want to hear. And, for all anyone might want to say or believe about Trump, he certainly has a lot of experience conducting job interviews.
Once these folks have been cleared for the job with the big boss, then they have to get a passing grade from the straw bosses at the Congressional committee on their review. There can’t be anyone who doesn’t understand that these nominees are working with the Trump transition team and role-playing the questions and answers so that they are hitting the right notes to get the votes. In some ways, what we might be hearing from some of the nominees is the last time we’ll hear their real, personal views before they have to toe and tout a party line as part of the new administration.
So when a CIA or State nominee says that they will support and monitor the treaty with Iran, I’m sure that’s what they believe. Or, when the former Exxon CEO says he’s ok with keeping the agreements intact on climate change, I’m sure that’s what he believes, just as I’m sure it is what he has been told to say to get the votes to get across the line into the job. Same for all of their post-Cold War, Russia bashing all of the gang are running with. I’m sure that’s their view. I don’t even know that that view is different from Trump’s own position. He wants Putin to like him personally. He wants to believe he can personally make a deal with Putin. Russia has hardly crossed his mind. Muslim registry, civil rights, torture, hey, say the right things guys, but….
Are the real questions what they believe or what they will do when they are told by the White House, this is the program, make it happen. So, if they don’t believe in a registry or a wall, will they refuse to implement the programs? Will they resign or go public? Or will they be the good corporate and military soldiers who have spent their whole lives riding for those brands? I don’t think there any real question here. I’m not saying they won’t voice their opinions behind closed doors. I’m not saying when they aren’t under orders or the White House’s thumb they won’t follow their best judgements. I’m not saying they won’t have their say when asked.
I’m saying that when it matters, these are good soldiers, and they will toe the bosses’ line. They didn’t get these jobs as rebels with a cause. They got these jobs because they have already agreed to go along to get along.
These so-called policy differences are window dressing. They’ve already signed long term leases at Trump Tower and many may have effectively already written their resignations so that they can be placed on Trump’s new desk.