A Disturbing Glimpse into the Trump Transition

Eliot Cohen writing in WaPo:  I told conservatives to work for Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind.

In a normal transition to a normal administration, there’s always disorder. There are the presidential friends and second cousins, the flacks and the hangers-on who flame out in the first year or two. There are the bad choices — the abusive bosses, the angry ideologues and the sheer dullards. You accept the good with the bad and know that there will be stupid stuff going on, particularly at the beginning. Things shake out. Even if you are just blocking errors, it is a contribution.

This time may be different. Trump was not a normal candidate, the transition is not a normal transition, and this will probably not be a normal administration. The president-elect is surrounding himself with mediocrities whose chief qualification seems to be unquestioning loyalty. He gets credit for becoming a statesman when he says something any newly elected president might say (“I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future“) — and then reverts to tweeting against demonstrators and the New York Times.By all accounts, his ignorance, and that of his entourage, about the executive branch is fathomless. It’s not even clear that he accepts that he should live in the White House rather than in his gilt-smeared penthouse in New York.

Emphasis mine.

I can’t say I am surprised.  I can say that this is all very, very disturbing.

One bad boss can be endured. A gaggle of them will poison all decision-making. They will turn on each other. No band of brothers this: rather the permanent campaign as waged by triumphalist rabble-rousers and demagogues, abetted by people out of their depth and unfit for the jobs they will hold, gripped by grievance, resentment and lurking insecurity. Their mistakes — because there will be mistakes — will be exceptional.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’ve always been fascinated by Andrew Jackson. Now we’ll get to find out how Jackson would function in the 21st century, albeit without any of the executive competence. Or charm.

  2. Ray says:

    Yes but look at the real benefit that Trump has brought America. According to Speaker Ryan Trump has united the GOP. Yes all GOP members of Congress received their official “Make America Great Again” hat. How appropriate that all the hats are RED, You know the color of Trump and the GOP true country of choice RUSSIA. I wonder how much longer it will take before the name of the party changes as well to Grand Old Putin Party.

    Yes I know you are shaking your head but actually ask yourself this one question. Putin ordered Russia to hack and do all it could to ensure a GOPP victory right, Why? It has to mean without a doubt that Putin is supporting what he considers allies. Putin has never in the past done anything for anyone unless it was for his benefit. SO roll that in your mind all of you Trump supporters and wait with high anticipation for the Russian flag to be next to the American flag in the White House. It will be there have no doubt maybe not out in the open but through the choices of legislation that is pushed that ultimately will benefit Putin. Good job GOPP

  3. Jen says:

    This whole mess is either terrifying or hilarious, or both. I can’t decide. On the one hand if they are having this kind of trouble just getting things staffed, they can hardly have time to really mess things up. On the other hand, this level of disarray probably empowers Congressional Republicans to an almost ridiculous extent.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats, according to Politico, are forming their own circular firing squad and are looking to purge all “DINOs” from their ranks, thus pulling the party further to the left which is decidedly the wrong way to go.

  4. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Steven – I don’t have time to flesh this out, but I think we are about to see a real world compare and contrast between what happens when the Loyal Opposition finally takes power in a Parliamentary system after a long time in the desert versus what happens when an outsider President takes power and is forced by circumstance to assume that all of the entrenched Powers That Be are on his team just because they belong to the same party.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    I’m starting to have serious concerns about whether the Executive Branch can continue to function during a Trump presidency. I expect to see an endless array of idiotic appointments (or idiots appointed) to run every agency. Normally, there’s a deep pool of party spear-carriers available to take those jobs, but Trump won’t want them. Try to imagine what the third and fourth tiers of his cronies will be like.

    …at which point, the career civil servants will start doing their best “rats from sinking ship” impersonation, because who wants to work for a moron? There’s a dangerous bubble of near-retirement senior talent with no backups in most agencies to begin with, thanks to the Reagan evisceration. A hasty departure of those who can get while the getting is good will trash any hopes of maintaining the institutional knowledge that greases the wheels of government.

    It’s going to be immensely ugly.