Sunday, January 15, 2017


It would be easy to see the Trump-Obama transition as a mess for the president-elect. He continues to face criticism for his extraordinary breach of traditional financial disclosure norms, not only failing to release his taxes but making only the cursory moves toward separating himself from his businesses. Trump has had to contend with an imbroglio over an unconfirmed dossier assembled by his political opponents. His poll numbers are low for a president-elect, with only a minority Americans thinking his transition is going well. The mainstream media is shocked, shocked that many of Trump’s cabinet nominees oppose some of his policies, like a return to waterboarding and building a wall with Mexico.

And yet...Trump is getting what he wants. It’s unlikely any of his cabinet nominees will be rejected by the U.S. Senate. The most endangered among them, Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO that Trump wants to be secretary of state, is more likely to prevail than not. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator who has been nominated to be attorney general, has no Republican opponents in the U.S. Senate, despite ferocious criticism from mainstream civil rights groups. Other nominees have had cordial hearings and avoided gaffes. Retired Gen James “Mad Dog” Mattis was well received by the Senate Armed Services Committee as was Retired Gen. John Kelly by the Committee on Homeland Security. They will easily become defense secretary and Homeland Security secretary, respectively. CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo was well received.

Dr. Ben Carson had seemed like a weak link in the nomination process, what with his bringing zero policy experience to the job of secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But he was given a gracious reception by the senators grilling him....

On any number of other issues, Trump is likely to get enough of what he wants to claim victory. There won’t be an Obama-style plan for infrastructure but there will be more spending on it, as Trump promised during the campaign. He is making big changes to how the U.S. manages international trade. It may not be the hyper protectionism hinted at during the campaign but he’s putting trade hawks in place at key positions and will pull the U.S. from the already moribund Trans-Pacific Partnership. Can Trump get tax cuts through a Republican Congress? Asked and answered.

Trump will have legislative defeats. His bluster will backfire at times. His Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton tweets are petty but they’re also discounted in the public mind. At some point he’ll dis the equivalent of the Khans, the Gold Star family he sparred with over the summer. But he looks poised for a lot of victories, despite critics underestimating him, which, come to think of it, sounds pretty familiar.