President-elect Trump has made at least three more selections for top-level jobs. Gen. John Kelly is his pick to head the Department of Homeland Secretary. Trump has also chosen Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and Iowa governor Terry Branstad to be the U.S. ambassador to China.
Pruitt’s selection will cause liberals the most heartburn. As the attorney general of his state, he has led the fight to overturn various EPA regulations. More generally, he established a “Federalism Unit” within his office to, in the words of his online bio, “more effectively combat unwarranted regulation and systematic overreach by federal agencies, boards and offices.”
Pruitt has also challenged liberal orthodoxy on climate change. In an article for NRO, he said that the science on this issue is not settled.
I don’t know enough about that science to opine on the climate change debate. However, I practiced enough environmental law (though not all that much) to know there has been plenty of unwarranted regulation and overreach on the part of the EPA.
The nomination of Gen. Kelly shouldn’t be controversial. According to the Washington Post, he’s widely respected. Moreover, his experience seems tailor-made for the DHS job.
Kelly is familiar with issues relating to our Southern border, including illegal immigration and drug smuggling, by virtue of his time as head of the Southern Command. He understands Islamic terrorism by virtue of his experience combating it overseas.
Kelly has been described as a border security hawk. Liberals should welcome having one as head of DHS. With border security, if it’s ever achieved, broad amnesty and even a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants become more realistic possibilities.
Kelly is also a hardliner on Iran. He’s a critic of the nuclear deal and has sounded the alarm on inroads Iran has made in South and Central America.
The criticism of the Kelly selection is likely to center around the fact that he’s the third military figure selected for a top post by Trump (Michael Flynn and James Mattis are the other two). I don’t see why this is a problem, though. The military seems like a great pool from which to draw individuals for the three positions in question.
Some will take a cheap shot at Trump by pointing to his statement that he knows more about ISIS than the generals. I construed this as boasting by Trump, not criticism of generals (sort of like the way Barack Obama boasted about his ability as speech writer, political director, etc.). In any event, I believe that Flynn, Mattis, and Kelly have all, like Trump, been critical of one aspect or another of America’s approach to fighting terrorism.
Finally, what about Gov. Branstad for ambassador to China? Branstad has extensive experience dealing with China on matters of trade. He says he’s an old friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese have responded affirmatively to his selection.
Thus, Trump’s liberal critics should be pleased. Their concern that Trump will upset the apple cart when it comes to China — a concern enhanced by the phone call Trump took (and his team probably arranged) with Taiwan’s president — should be somewhat allayed.
I’m not sure, however, that conservatives should be thrilled by the nomination of an old friend of China’s dictator. In defense of the pick, Trump presumably wants to send mixed signals to China and to be able to take China policy in either direction.
This seems sensible. In any case, the selection of an ambassador is not necessarily the best way to signal potential antagonism with a foreign power.
Ideology aside, all three of today’s nominees have strong expertise in the subject matter relevant to their posts. This hasn’t been true of every Trump selection, but it’s been true of most — a fact that speaks well of the transition, I think.
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