White House Reality TV: Trump’s Apprentices
Trump’s transition to the White House appears to be more like his reality TV show The Apprentice and less a political, reasoned and transparent process. On Tuesday, after Mike Rogers, a top national security adviser, suddenly stepped down, Trump took to Twitter trying to convince us that the transition process is “organized.” He tweeted: “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!” Asserting his authority, as if he was acting out his reality TV boss persona on The Apprentice, he referred to possible White House personnel as the lucky “finalists” ordained by his priesthood. This is the American president-elect, a "You're hired" or a "You're fired" president.
But, the transition process looks nothing like a smooth organised operation. Ben Carson, who was supposed to become the health secretary, has now departed. Last week Chris Christie was substituted by Mike Pence, while an NBC News source explained that Rogers’ close relation to Christie was the reason behind his “Stalinesque purge.” The departures of Christie and Rogers were also, allegedly, partly orchestrated by Trump’s son in law, Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner. What is slowly becoming clear, is that Trump’s transition to the White House is ridden with disarray and controversy. His apprentices are not only family members but very dangerous personalities.
Conflict of Interest
The fact that Ivanka and his two sons, Donald Jr and Eric, are interested in securing some of Trump’s top security positions, complicates the whole process. Julianna Goldman of CBC News has reported that Donald Trump has allegedly asked the White House for top secret security clearance for his three children. Trump and his children used the presidential campaign as a branding opportunity for their businesses. Trump’s campaign paid millions of dollars in expenses to Trump Tower, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and other Trump facilities, according to Politico. Ivanka advertised her clothing line whenever she appeared in the campaign, too.
The children are said to be exploiting their dad’s position for commercial purposes. Running dad’s business will also create a conflict of interest. When Trump was asked by Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo, “how difficult will it be for you to disentangle yourself from your business and your money and prioritize America’s interests first?”, Trump’s answer was alarming. He replied: “I would put it [my assets] in a blind trust—well, I don’t know if it’s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don, and Eric run it. Is that a blind trust? I don’t know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives, and I wouldn’t ever be involved.” But a trust is only considered “blind” when the trustees have no financial relationship with the company’s owner. Most presidents, from Reagan to Bush and Clinton, all placed their assets in blind trusts during their term of office.
If his offspring do secure places in Trump’s administration, this would be clear nepotism and favouritism, which Trump had promised to destroy when elected president. During his campaign, he preached about a transparent and all-inclusive government that would destroy the elites’ lobbies and status quo. Now, what is happening stinks of partiality and discrimination.
Another finalist for Trump’s administration is the former mayor of New York. Rudy Giuliani, possibly to become the Secretary of State, is a controversial figure with ties to America’s enemies. Giuliani, was allegedly paid to advocate an Italian group which was considered by the state department as a terrorist organisation. He has worked for a law firm whose clients included Saddam Hussein, terrorist Abu Nidal and a Hugo Chávez oil company. The Senate would be definitely concerned with such a CV and would probably not agree with Trump’s decision.
The most controversial of all of Trump’s decisions is the appointment of the chairman of the alt-right news network Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist. The online network defends white identity, western values and attacks multiculturalism. Bannon insinuated that African Americans are naturally violent, while an article on his website said that “rape culture” is a fundamental characteristic of Islam. The former Goldman Sachs banker, white supremacist and neo-Nazi has caused a backlash from politicians and progressives. Some of the Republicans have also expressed their outrage. John Weaver, political consultant for the Republican party, tweeted: “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America.”
US House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said of Bannon’s selection: “There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration.”
Michael Keegan, president of the progressive group People for the American Way, said: “By choosing Steve Bannon as chief strategist, Trump has made clear that he intends to carry the racism and antisemitism of his campaign straight into the White House. The website Bannon ran is a home for the white nationalist right that elevates racist, xenophobic, antisemitic tirades and conspiracy theories.”
But Bannon’s personal credentials aren’t that strong either. He was charged with misdemeanor witness intimidation, domestic violence with traumatic injury and battery. His ex-wife had said that he didn’t want his daughters to go to a specific LA academy, because of Jews attending the school.
In the time of Trump, what hope can we have?
With people like this, who needs enemies?
In case some of us feel that Trump has been left out, let’s remind ourselves, one more time, of why Trump was elected president.
Trump, who has never done a day of public service in his life, whose whole career is based on family connections and inheritance, has been chosen as the president-elect by a working class that believes he “would stand up and work for them.”
Trump is also the same person, who on Tuesday night, broke with presidential protocol and left behind the reporters covering him to go and have his dinner at a Manhattan steakhouse. Let’s hope that he can at least rein in his political appetites, because greed might not go down so well within the walls of the White House.