The Chaos Begins

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We’ve discussed a number of times since Black Tuesday that the idea of a unified Republican government is in many ways quite misleading. I’m not being Pollyannaish. This does not mean it’s good news for people who are progressives and/or Democrats. But the ‘unified’ part of that phrase makes no sense.

You have a man at the center of the storm who knows very, very little about any policy issue. Trump isn’t a blank slate. He has strong instincts and drives on several key fronts. But details? No. Many issues he’s become invested in through the radicalization process of the campaign. But could he shift on those? Of course. Trump is himself the biggest wildcard in this whole drama.

The strongest indicator we’ve gotten so far, which is what we should expect, is that friendship and loyalty are the guiding principles of his appointments. Reince Priebus, an establishment guy who went all in with Trump and didn’t waiver even in the most doubtful moments in early October. Bannon. Giuliani. Sessions, the first major member of Congress to endorse him.

Can all these guys get confirmed? Don’t take that for granted.

John McCain has just sent out a warning to Trump about any rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. Rand Paul has just announced that he would not vote to confirm either John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani as Secretary of State. Remember, the GOP senate majority is exceedingly small. Three GOP defections can sink any nominee, unless Republicans can bring over a Democrat.

Next, there’s ex-Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-MI) sudden departure from the transition team. The key here is that he was apparently tossed because the Benghazi investigation he led in 2014 wasn’t hard enough on Obama and Clinton. If you look at Rogers’ findings and the criticism of the report that essentially means that believing Benghazi conspiracy theories is a litmus test for administration work. That’s Steve Bannon and whatever faction he’s leading talking.

We’re hearing various blind quotes about a ‘knife fight’ in the transition team. Those quotes can be a dime a dozen. But remember, the Trump campaign is build on men who are driven by aggression as ideology and instinct. It’s hardly surprising that infighting would amount to a “Game of Thrones” type scenario as another source called it. But what does seem clear is that the Bannon/white nationalist wing of the administration is trying to root out mainstream Republicans, except for ones who have fully taken the Trump yoke, like Priebus.

Here’s one tell from this morning. Eliot Cohen is a foreign policy/national security academic who has also worked in government. He’s basically part of the neo-conservative faction of GOP foreign policy hands. But not a fire-breather. He worked for Condi Rice at the State Department late in the Bush administration.

You have two totally inimical and contradictory groups here – the Trumpist party, made of the desperate and the extreme, and the mainstream GOP. Most House Republicans are jumping on the Trump Train. But confirmations go through the Senate. The amount of chaos and nonsense to come out of this is going to be immense. And it’s just starting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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