To understand what kind of president Donald Trump will be, do not listen to what he says, watch what he does.
In a series of campaign-style events, he has repeated all the favorite lines that convinced millions of voters that he was on the side of Americans who feel abused by the establishments on Wall Street, K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile, between rallies, he has been generous in his praise of President Obama and announced he would not order a criminal investigation of his defeated opponent, Hilary Clinton. When he went for an interview at the New York Times, he praised that bastion of the liberal media and told the assembled journalists he is not a climate change denier. He even met with Al Gore to kick around ideas about global warming.
For anyone confused by the contradictions in Trump's public pronouncements, here is the key to understanding the president-elect: He will say whatever he needs to say to please whatever audience sits in front of him at a given moment. In a weird way, this man who sends out savage tweets against anyone who dares to differ with him is a people-pleaser. Or at least an audience-pleaser. He spent many months saying things that immensely pleased the working-class white voters who flocked to hear him. His actions, though, tell far more than his statements. In fact, judging by the Cabinet he assembling, his words mean nothing.
Trump plans to run an administration that will make Ronald Reagan look like a working-class hero. The Trump team is composed of billionaires, retired generals, hard-right Republican politicians and one eccentric neurosurgeon, Ben Carson. If there is a thread that connects almost all of them, it is a deep commitment to making America great again for the financial industry and major corporations at the expense of workers and the environment.
This is not exactly the anti-establishment revolution Trump voters were expecting.
Trump's choice for secretary of Labor, Andrew F. Pudzer, is CEO of a fast-food empire. He hates unions, dislikes the minimum wage, does not want to see overtime benefits extended to more people and has said he would love to replace his employees with robots who never get sick and never take a vacation.
Trump's pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, wants to dismember Obamacare, thereby eliminating healthcare for millions of people, including many of the hard-hit working stiffs who voted for Trump. He also wants to get his hands on Social Security and Medicare and change them in ways that will horrify the elder Trump fans who wanted those cherished programs left alone. As a member of Congress from Georgia, Price was a great friend of the pharmaceutical industry and can hardly be expected to champion the interests of consumers in his new role.
Wilbur Ross, the billionaire who Trump named to run the Commerce Department, favors steep tariffs as a bludgeon to get better trade deals; tariffs that, if implemented, would cost average American consumers a great deal of their hard-earned money and kill the jobs of thousands of blue-collar workers.
Trump's choice for secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, added to his billions by buying up the mortgages of poor chumps who lost their homes in the Great Recession. The former Goldman Sachs executive is a friend of Wall Street. Consumers? Not so much.
Perhaps the worst of all is Trump's nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt. In his current job, Pruitt has been busy suing the EPA on behalf of his close friends in the fossil fuels industry. He would only support efforts to deal with climate change or other environmental problems if those efforts did not inconvenience oil companies and other corporate energy interests (which means never). Trump has said he wants to take apart the EPA "in almost every form." Pruitt is the man for the job.
Unsurprisingly, the names on Trump's list to take over the Department of Energy and the Interior Department are almost all figures from the oil and gas industry or Republican politicians who have been loyal allies of those corporate interests.
The naifs who voted for Trump believed his promises to fight on their behalf against the corporate lobbyists, Wall Street and the political establishment. Well, what do you know? Donald Trump is doing exactly what establishment Republicans have done for decades: gin up fear among Americans of modest means to get their votes, then, once elected, serve the interests of the monied class.
Congratulations, folks, you've been fooled again.