Liberals are freaking out. Conservatives are jumping for joy. And it’s about time we get the mainstreamers out and have some different people step up. Don’t you agree?
Liberals and even some moderate Republicans are shuddering at the prospect. But it is a source of delight among conservatives who believe the GOP establishment has drifted too far from its core principles.
Of the people tapped so far by President-elect Trump, only one — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — is identified with the party’s mainstream. Priebus will be chief of staff in the Trump White House.
The other names tapped for important positions are outsiders, albeit to varying extents.
Former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon will be chief strategist, while Gen. Michael Flynn will be national security advisor.
Liberals accuse Breitbart of trafficking in racism, misogyny and bigotry, though Bannon vigorously denies that critique. Flynn has made a number of incendiary remarks about Islam, including asserting that fear of Muslims is “rational.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick to be attorney general, is perhaps the leading hardliner in the Senate on immigration, while his choice for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is a staunch conservative who was among Hillary Clinton’s harshest critics over the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Pompeo opposes closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and has called Clinton’s tenure at the State Department “morally reprehensible.”
Sessions and Pompeo will require Senate confirmation to their positions, but Bannon and Flynn will not.
Democrats and others on the left are horrified by the transition that is unfolding. David Axelrod, a former key aide to President Obama, tweeted on Friday that Trump was “sticking with those who brought him to the dance but to many Americans, it will seem a Monster’s Ball.”
On the right, there is enthusiasm rather than concern. Some are delighted that Trump’s appointments suggest no trimming of his sails but, rather, a rededication to pursuing the policies that resonated with voters.
Perhaps none of those promises is so famous as the pledge to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, and to crack down on illegal immigration more generally.
Trump insisted during his first major TV interview after the election — on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last weekend — that he would indeed build the wall, softening only in suggesting that some stretches of the border could be secured by fencing instead of concrete.
Activists opposed to illegal immigration are fired up about the Sessions pick.
“If there has been one voice in Congress that has really reflected the American public [on immigration], it has been Jeff Sessions,” said Ira Mehlman, the media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. The group seeks to stop illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration to “levels consistent with the national interest.”
On the broader politics of Trump’s picks, Mehlman said, “The voters made their position very clear: they voted the establishment out of power. First, Trump decimated the Republican establishment and then he decimated the most establishment candidate the Democrats had picked in a long time.”
There is still time for the complexion of Trump’s administration to change, given how few positions have been filled so far. Senior adviser Jason Miller said on a Friday conference call Friday with reporters that the president-elect was seeking to staff his White House with “the best, brightest and most qualified” people, even if they had not supported him in the past.