As most preceding presidents know, choosing a cabinet is one of the trickiest jobs facing any new president. Mr. Trump told reporters early on that he wanted his nominees to express their own thoughts rather than his, but with Trump known for being opinionated, this could herald some difficult times ahead.
Clashing Views in the New US Cabinet
There is also the issue of clashing views among his cabinet nominees. Many members of Trump’s newly appointed cabinet have strongly differing views on key topics. So much so, a former Obama administration aid was quoted as saying that the newly elected cabinet sounded very incoherent.
Some of the most glaring inconsistencies have already emerged in the political arena. Mr. Trump seems keen to engage with Vladimir Putin, but James Mattis, Trumps Defense Secretary, has publicly stated that he views Russia as a major threat to US security. There has also been concern expressed over the appointment of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State, as he has a long-standing business relationship with President Putin. This is not the only area where public and private views clash.
When quizzed on the apparent conflicts between his views and those of the president, Mattis stated that he believed it was healthy to have many conflicting views within the new cabinet. He reiterated the point made by Trump that he wanted people with their own views. However, the hard part will be to bring people with conflicting views into a place where they are able to agree on effective US policy, a process not helped by Mr. Trump’s habit of posting policy statements on Twitter.
US Trade Policy
Foreign policy inconsistencies are not the only area of concern. There are also likely to be issues regarding US trade. Trump has appointed Robert Lighthizer as his US Trade Representative, Wall Street Veteran Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary, and economist Peter Navarro as Trade Czar. In addition, former Goldman Sach’s broker Gary Cohn will head the national economic council.
Ross is known for his tough views on trade and since he will be in charge of all future US trade deals, it is likely that the US administration will be cracking down on Chinese trading practices, not to mention US companies that shift production overseas to save money. According to analysts, and active traders will already well aware that, these hard-hitting policies are likely to have a big effect on the financial markets.
At least one Washington insider has been quoted as saying everyone in the new team thinks they are in charge, which does not bode well.
A Business-Heavy Trump Cabinet
With regard to business, Trump’s new cabinet is notably business heavy, with five of its 15 members experienced business people. According to the Pew Research Centre, Trump’s cabinet sets a new benchmark for bringing in career business people who have no previous experience of public office or military service.
As well as Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, and Wilbur Ross, Trump has appointed financier Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. This suggests that Mr. Trump, himself an experienced businessman, is keen to promote the interests of US businesses at home and abroad.
With such a diverse cabinet, there are likely to numerous conflicts going forward. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, can look forward to hosting some interesting press conferences.