Donald Trump Is Filling His Cabinet With Reflections Of Himself

The president-elect is assembling a cadre of businesspeople who lack qualifications and are cozy with Russia.
Narcissus by Caravaggio
Narcissus by Caravaggio

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise electoral victory, many wondered how he’d select his cabinet; would he stick to his promise of “drain[ing] the swamp” and select unconventional, populist outsiders like Steve Bannon (his chief strategist), or would he try to compensate for his lack of experience with establishment picks like Reince Priebus (his choice for White House Chief of Staff)? Now that Trump is starting to fill his cabinet, the answer is becoming quite clear: neither.

Instead, Mr. Trump is filling his cabinet with reflections of himself, or at least how he likes to view himself. Of the cabinet positions that have been filled, many of the most important have gone to people whose previous experience is in the business world. This includes Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State and the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobile who’s known for his strong, deal-making personality and cozy relationship with Russia ― sound familiar?

Aside from Mr. Tillerson, Trump’s picks for other cabinet positions also seem to serve as a reflection of Mr. Trump himself.

Andrew F. Puzder, his pick for Labor Secretary, is a blunt business executive known for bashing President Obama, “globalist elites,” and political correctness; his choice for the head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, is the wife of WWE owner and Trump acquaintance Vince McMahon; soon-to-be Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is a billionaire known for his attacks on trade deals, and U.S.-China trade relations in particular. The list goes on. It’s worth emphasizing that these aren’t just individuals involved in business: These are businesspeople with personalities and opinions that are remarkably similar to Mr. Trump’s.

“[H]e’s aggressive, he’s tough-skinned and he knows how to win.”

Those were the words Donald Trump used to describe lawyer Harvey D. Myerson, who he had hired to take on the NFL in court. The case was a slam dunk: They were going to argue that the NFL had a media-monopoly on fall football. Who could disagree with that? Unfortunately for the USFL, Trump had hired a lawyer with no antitrust experience to lead an antitrust case, and it showed. Ultimately, the USFL only received a dollar off of the case (later trebled to three dollars). Their case fell apart for several reasons, not the least of which was Trump’s clear desire to use the USFL as a way into the NFL ― as noted by Tim L. O’Brien in Trumpnation ― but Myerson did not help. Trump’s decision to hire Myerson represents a trend that’s continued throughout his career: A tendency to hire people based more on his feelings about them than on their qualifications, or, as Trump may put it, by “going with his gut.”

“I’m, like, a smart person.”

It’s generally agreed that Donald Trump thinks very highly of himself, almost to the point of believing that he represents humanity in its ideal form.

Donald Trump is in love with his own reflection, and he is deciding to fill his cabinet with people who reflect him perfectly. If history is any indicator, this will probably end as well for him as it did for Narcissus.



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