Trump should listen to his Cabinet: Column – USA TODAY
In his short tenure so far, President Trump has not exactly calmedÂ the country’s nervous wondering about how he will govern. His collection of Cabinet appointees provides the biggest clue about what’s to come.
If Trump stays consistent with his pattern, he will almost certainly be mostly focused on the ceremonial and public aspects to his job.Â Think of him as tweeter-in-chief.Â Or as the CEO who relies on his executives to do much of the daily work.
If so, who exactly will do the business of the nation?Â It could be the new president will return to the ancient concept of Cabinet government and let his top officials guide him.
Perhaps the last great example of an administration that attempted some sort of cabinet government was the Eisenhower administration.Â Although very much in charge, Ike nonetheless welcomed the input of his cabinet on key issues of the day.
During the civil rights debates of the 1950s, for example, the president leaned heavily on the advice and counsel of his attorney general, Herbert Brownell.Â Indeed, Brownell gladly used his position to push the president toward a more progressive posture on civil rights and even convinced a skeptical president to submit a brief in support of the NAACP argument in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. the Board of Education.
But if it was Eisenhower who utilized cabinet government, it was Nixon who helped end it.Â When Ikeâs former vice president became the chief executive in 1969, he began the process of consolidating foreign policy and national security decision-making in the White House.
Nixon was motivated mostly by the desire to utilize his own vast experience in foreign affairs and to centralize the process in the West Wing. Simply put, he wanted to make the decisions.
Nixonâs vehicle for moving foreign policy decision-making to the White House was the National Security Council.Â Though created in 1947, the NSC had been used sparingly in the years leading up to the Nixon administration. Nixon quickly appointed Henry Kissinger as his national security adviser and began relying more on NSC input and less on State Department and Defense Department input.
Since the Nixon era, presidents of both parties have increasingly relied on the NSC to make foreign policy decisions and have also relied on the Council of Economic Advisers and the Domestic Policy Council to make domestic policy decisions.
Perhaps the most infamous illustration of how dead cabinet government has become occurred in the 1980s when Reagan introduced himself to his own secretary of Housing and Urban Development at a White House event.Â He didnât recognize Samuel Pierce because he had such minimalÂ interaction with him.
Now, 30 years later, another Republican president may want to reverse this trend and follow the Eisenhower example.Â Heâs already showing signs of doing just that.
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Though not without some controversial selections, many of the Cabinet nominees put forward by Trump have garnered bipartisan praise for their knowledge and expertise.
The first two members of the TrumpÂ Cabinet, Retired Marine Corps generalsÂ James Mattis and John Kelly, won overwhelming bipartisan Senate confirmationÂ within hours of Trump’s inauguration â Mattis 98-1 as Defense secretary and Kelly 88-11Â as Homeland Security secretary.Â Transportation secretary nominee Elaine Chao, meanwhile, was widely lauded by senators from both parties during her confirmation hearing. Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price is not only a former chairman of the House Budget Committee but also a medical doctor
These and other nominees are not only qualified but they are also in some cases in disagreement with the positions staked out by Trump on the campaign trail.Â Again, could it be that President Trump will allow the experts to help shape policy?
Trump could do a lot worse than listen to the advice of his cabinet.Â He would benefit from their counsel and leadership,Â and so would the country.
Kasey S. Pipes worked in the George W. Bush White House and now serves as the Norris Public Policy Fellow at the Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College.Â He is author of an Eisenhower biography and now is working on a book about Nixon.
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