Donald Trump is about to become the biggest alligator in Washington, so it should be no surprise that he has lost interest in draining the swamp.
Thanks to constant repetition by the candidate, one of the campaign applause lines that Trump fans learned by heart and loudly repeated whenever their hero gave the signal was “drain the swamp!” Trump unambiguously insisted that, if he were in charge, all the political hacks, corporate lobbyists and money-chasing senators and Congress members inside the beltway would be facing a populist administration filled with new blood and fresh ideas.
Now that Trump is assembling his Cabinet, though, the outsiders are scarce. Instead, his team, so far, is composed of billionaires, veteran Republican politicians and a cohort of Goldman Sachs alums.
His choice for secretary of the Treasury is Steve Mnuchin, a hedge fund whiz who made a killing during the crash of the housing market in 2008 by buying up failed mortgages. For Commerce secretary, Trump wants his billionaire buddy Wilbur Ross. Ross will face a Senate grilling over the deaths of 12 workers in an unsafe West Virginia mine that was one of his many industrial properties. Mnuchin and Ross can be relied upon to make the bankers and financiers happy — Goldman Sachs stock soared when Mnuchin’s appointment was announced — but all those blue-collar white guys who voted for Trump may not get the attention they expected.
For attorney general, Trump has turned to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has said nice people never smoke marijuana. And for secretary of Health and Human Services, he has named Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who does not believe birth control should be covered by healthcare plans. The common folk who put their trust in Trump may not object to these two insiders — at least not until Price starts pushing his scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
Elaine Chao, a veteran of both Bush presidencies, will be back, this time as Transportation secretary. She may not be the ultimate insider, but she is married to him. Her husband is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The pick to run the Department of Education, Betty DeVos, comes from outside the education establishment but likely knows the inside of a country club. The billionaire is a champion of charter schools, wife of an Amway heir and sister of the man who founded the highly controversial private security firm Blackwater.
Still to come is Trump’s decision on who will be secretary of State. Tuesday night, he was sharing a plate of frog legs at one of his hotels with one eager candidate for the job, Mitt Romney. The 2012 GOP standard-bearer delivered a searing speech of condemnation against Trump during the campaign, but now is sucking up big time. Also on the list for this position is Gen. David Petraeus, who was convicted of compromising national security secrets — the same crime that Trump accused Hillary Clinton of perpetrating.
Former vice presidential candidate and Tina Fey impersonator Sarah Palin is on the list of possible Cabinet appointments. So is neurosurgeon and somnolent presidential candidate Ben Carson. Palin and Carson would both be more unusual choices, if only for the fact that they lack qualifications for any of the possible openings. Still, unlike Mnuchin and Ross, Palin and Carson have something in common with the voters who believed Trump would be a champion of the common man: They do not let facts get in the way of naive belief.
Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter