Monday, December 5, 2016

It’s not easy to field a whole new team

Since the election, the news has been full of rumors, fake articles and some legitimate information about President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks as well as the transition itself. It seems as if the news media is still scrambling to come to terms with the outcome of the election and some writers seem legitimately surprised that the President-elect has the ability to hire his senior staff and appoint a cabinet (many of whom will require the advice and consent of the Senate). He can hire Satan as a senior advisor: it’s his prerogative and no online petition is going to make him say “oh darn, people who didn’t vote for me don’t like my choices, I should pick someone that makes them happy.” Sorry folks, not going to happen.

I’ve never served on a presidential transition but worked on transition teams for two Rhode Island governors and these days I wince every time I look at the news. Transitions are incredibly tough. Hours are long, expectations are high and more people are critical and disappointed than helpful and understanding. Bottom line: I do not envy Trump’s team right now. Not only do they have a challenging boss, but they are getting unfairly hammered on several fronts. FYI: the Secret Service determines how to protect the president-elect and there’s nothing they can do to control the Manhattan traffic. They also have a ridiculously immense job to do in a very short period of time. Baseball GMs publicly wring their hands each year about finding one or two new players to round out their team. The Trump people have to identify, vet and hire about 4,000 new employees between now and January 20th.  Those 4,000 current employees are happily serving the Obama administration so the chance that they would eagerly stay aboard (if asked) to serve President Trump is less than likely.

The unexpected outcome of the 2016 campaign further complicates the transition process. While the Clinton team probably had a full transition plan outlined and had many senior staff and cabinet positions assigned, the learning curve for Team Trump is very steep. The Clintons had a unique and intimate understanding of how the federal government and the Office of the President runs — they didn’t need to “measure for curtains” — they already had the dimensions. Making things even more difficult is the fact that Trump is not “of Washington” (which was a positive on a the campaign) and does not have a huge network of experienced and like-minded individuals who would like to join his team. If he hires people with no relevant experience, he can expect sharp criticism and if he appoints people who have years of government or DC service, he’s not “draining the swamp.” He is damned no matter what he does.

I’m not suggesting that anyone support the new President’s policies or endorse his behavior, but I wanted to note that he is in the middle of an incredibly challenging time and the first real test of his administration. 

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