As of now, senior figures in the Democratic party have mostly kept their distance from the calls for recounts and the efforts to influence wavering electors. They have been attacked for looking weak. So said Dahlia Lithwick and David Cohen in the New York Times.
As it happens, the Obama administration has projected nothing but weakness for these past years, so, what did they expect? Even Lithwick and Cohen believe that fighting means taking things to court.
As for the American people, they have been voting for Republicans because they have been voting against weakness. When given the choice between a woman who had accomplished very little and a man who had no political experience but who projected toughness, the American people chose tough. And they chose it even though there was no evidence that Trump knew enough about policy to apply his toughness effectively and wisely.
I would add that if Democrats believed they had any chance at all of overturning the election results they would happily have joined the fray. They are hugging the sidelines because they do not want to fight for yet another losing cause.
Criticism of Trump has been shrill and intemperate. One should not be overly surprised. After all, Trump did not run his campaign on propriety and decorum. For now Democrats seem to be especially concerned that the president-elect has been nominating too many generals and too many CEOs as cabinet secretaries and White House advisers.
Of course, other presidents have done the same and have done it often. Wouldn’t a general be best qualified to manage a large government agency or to formulate and implement policy? That’s what generals do, and they certainly do it better than law professors or even members of Congress.
Victor Davis Hanson lists many of the generals who were appointed to high ranking positions in previous administrations. As he points out, no one blinked when Barack Obama appointed generals to high office:
Did anyone complain when Barack Obama appointed five retired generals and one retired admiral to either Cabinet posts or high-ranking positions in his administration? In fact, Flynn and Petraeus were first appointed to high office by Obama.
Under Obama, Petraeus became CIA director. Flynn served as Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Retired general Eric Shinseki was head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Retired general James Jones was national security adviser. Retired admiral Dennis Blair and retired general James Clapper served as successive directors of national intelligence.
Of course, those who believe that Trump is a fascist militarist insist that his appointments deserve special consideration. When you believe in a narrative you will cherry-pick facts that affirm it and ignore any realities that disprove it.
Those who are trying to make political points against Trump’s generals have been arguing that generals are warmongers and that they are likely to get us into another war. Anti-warism is an article of faith on America’s political left.
One might retort that our current anti-war president indirectly produced the catastrophe that is taking place in Aleppo, Syria today. If you think that anti-war is always a good policy, take a look at what is happening in Aleppo.
As it happened, Hanson points out, most of our unsuccessful wars have been engaged and directed by civilians. One knows that Dwight Eisenhower refused to get involved militarily in Indochina—aka Vietnam—while John Kennedy and the best and the brightest rushed in.
In Hanson’s words:
The chief complaint about Trump’s appointments is that too many generals will mean too great a likelihood of war. Historical evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Generals were not the proverbial “best and brightest” who argued for military intervention in Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, or the bombing of Libya in 2011.
In a famous example of a civilian-military paradox, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, scolded Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell in 1993 for not being more eager to send troops into the Balkans. “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Albright asked Powell.
But, what about the CEOs. They draw special attention and scrutiny because they are supposed to be greedy capitalists, men only care about making money, regardless of who gets hurt. One recalls that when John Kennedy made Robert McNamara the Secretary of Defense, no one complained that he was a greedy capitalist who had no experience in government.
Then again, everyone loves the tech oligarchs of Silicon Valley and they are far wealthier than today’s industrialists. But, they have been notably and ideologically to the left of center. And we know that their clean companies do not produce as much pollution as, say, an oil company.
We will be interested to see whether the tech oligarchs discover the virtues of Republican rule. Could it be that they promoted progressive causes because it gained them access to the Obama White House?
As for the CEOs of major international corporations, they also have considerable management experience. Doesn’t Rex Tillerson have more experience than most in negotiating with foreign governments? Does he know more or less than a foreign policy wonk? Or an American senator? Certainly, he knows the players and has had dealings with them.
Conducting policy involve much more than tossing around big ideas. The same applies to any management job. It involves dealing with human beings, developing relationships with them, earning their respect and attention. The party that touted its "Reset" with Russia is not saying that working with Vladimir Putin makes you deplorable.
Besides, how did anyone imagine that Hillary Clinton was qualified, in any sense of the word, to be Secretary of State or President of the United States?
In some ways the same principle applied to Barack Obama. And one must add that Donald Trump, lacking experience in government, was less than qualified to take over the office of the American presidency.
In regard to Obama, Hanson makes this point:
Far more worrisome is the tired presidential custom of relying on ex-senators and politicians with law degrees to fill important executive positions despite their lack of outside-the-Beltway administrative experience.
In 2008, Obama’s résumé consisted mainly of having been a Harvard Law School grad and, briefly, a U.S. senator. No wonder he looked to people with similar backgrounds for some key appointments — former senator and lawyer Joe Biden as vice president, former senator and lawyer Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and later, former senator and lawyer John Kerry as secretary of state.
Here I would add that generals and the CEOs are not beholden to a political party. Their careers have not been driven by ideology. They, like Trump himself, have views that sometimes lean left and sometimes lean right. They know how to drive a policy but they have not gotten where they are by basing policy on ideology.
As you know, those who oppose Trump believe that he is a lying fascist, someone who has no regard for facts. They believe that he is in it for himself and does not care about the nation or its people. He seemed to have run a campaign on the basis of his oversized personality.
It is not an illegitimate concern. And yet, Trump has been giving high administration jobs to people who are not likely to kowtow to the Donald. Generals and CEOs are not likely to let themselves be pushed around.
Trump has given jobs to competent managers, people with experience, people whose loyalty is not to party of ideology. One hopes that Trump will continue to sound more humble than he did during the campaign.
As for the charge that Trump ignores facts, that is, that he tells lies, we recall the many lies told by Barack Obama, but most people do not want to speak of them. In larger part, politicians and intellectuals and media titans are far more likely to ignore facts than are real estate developers, generals or CEOs.
By definition, ideologues are not in the business of collecting facts and appraising conditions on the ground. They are in the business of persuading you to think the way they think and to vote the way they want you to vote.
With his recent appointments, especially the generals and CEOs, Trump has been putting one kind of loyalty ahead of another. He has valued people who are loyal to their nation or who have shown loyalty to their company. They are not ideologues and have no real party affiliation.
If you are committed to an ideology, this is very bad news indeed. The same applies if you define yourself in terms of party affiliation and party loyalty. Some time ago Harvard Law Professor and former Obama administration czar Cass Sunstein bemoaned the fact that America was more divided by party than on racial or ethnic grounds. People now tend to hate members of the other political party with a fury that knows no bounds.
It’s obviously very tribal behavior. Partyism disparages national pride in favor of winning or losing in the struggle against the other party. It does not see us all as Americans, but it sees us as Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. We do not have honest disagreements and do not respect the loyal opposition. We prefer to believe that our opponents are destroying the nation and the world. We affirm our identity by treating them with the utmost contempt and by doing everything in our power to destroy them.
Party loyalty, Sunstein was suggesting, has replaced national loyalty. This makes it nearly impossible for the government to get anything done. After all, if one party will gain credit for a policy then the other party will be hurt.
Some politicians pay lip service to the idea that they want the president to succeed. Yet, people who identify with one party want the opposing party to fail because it will advance their cause. The notion of what’s good for America has long since been sacrificed on the bonfire of the ideological vanities. Many people voted for Donald Trump because they wanted to vote for national unity and against factionalism.
If one were to prescribe a treatment for partyism, one would start with an administration whose most powerful figures were not beholden to a political party or to an ideology.