Trump’s Cabinet Is Designed to Sow Chaos

As we watched the Trump transition team roll out its slate of Cabinet nominees, this became a common refrain:

Former Texas governor Rick Perry has advocated shuttering the Department of Energy he’s slated to lead. Betsy DeVos, who would head the Education Department, is a leading proponent of voucher programs that divert taxpayer funds from public schools. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency and, in his official biography, describes himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Ben Carson has criticized Housing and Urban Development rules designed to combat segregation in housing. Puzder has fought labor rules intended to protect workers.

“It really is unprecedented, not just the degree to which some of these nominees despise the mission of the agencies or departments they’re tapped to head, but the sheer number of them,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Last week Michael Kruse interviewed three Trump biographers. The transcript is full of interesting tidbits about what we can learn from this president’s past. When it comes to his Cabinet nominees, here’s an insight from Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President:

The cabinet appointments seem to me to be people who have been successful in some realm, so he takes that as proof of their abilities. But he’s also looking for people that will be in conflict with everyone in that department. Down the line, it’s the same kind of sowing-conflict mode that he’s used throughout his career of setting people against each other so that they’re not going to be loyal to each other and they’re going to be loyal to him.

Once you begin looking at this administration’s actions through the lens of sowing chaos as both a product of Trump’s personality and a strategy for his political operatives, much of what is happening becomes clear. Not only will Trump’s cabinet nominees create chaos in the departments they are assigned to oversee, we’ll see a lot of chaos between cabinet members and other advisors. According to the Wall Street Journal, some of that is already happening.

His pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has long clashed with the intelligence-community establishment over the U.S. fight against global terrorism, and is now butting heads with members of Mr. Trump’s team, including Rex Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Gen. Mattis and Mr. Pompeo…

“He’s pushing a lot of people” at State and Defense, one of the people said about Mr. Flynn. “His influence he’s trying to amass will get rolled back the moment [cabinet secretaries] get confirmed.”

This is likely what we can expect on an ongoing basis from this administration. As Greg Dworkin said, “There is no security with a disruptor, no stability.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.