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Trump’s team of the rich and the generals

world Updated: Dec 08, 2016 23:55 IST
Yashwant Raj
Trump's rich cabinet

Donald Trump’s cabinet, whose combined worth is estimated to be $35 billion, is still evolving, with the most high-profile position of secretary of state still open.(REUTERS)

A billionaire himself, President-elect Donald Trump may have been expected to turn to his wealthy friends and allies for his cabinet and other senior administration positions. But generals? He has never served in the military.

Trump has packed his team with generals and billionaires and millionaires, including the newest additions: General John Kelly, who is expected to head homeland security, and Linda McMahon, former WWE CEO, to head small business administration.

Trump also named Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general with strong links to the coal and gas companies, to head the environment protection agency. He is neither a military man nor, apparently, a millionaire, as few others in the cabinet.

The billionaires and millionaires in the cabinet are, according to reports, Wilbur Ross and Todd Ricketts, commerce; Betsy DeVos, education, Steve Mnuchin, treasury; Jeff Sessions, attorney general and Tom Price, health and human services.

The cabinet, whose combined worth is estimated to be $35 billion, is still evolving, with the most high-profile position of secretary of state still open. If Mitt Romney, a former hedge-fund manager, gets it, that will be one more millionaire.

While critics have called it a return to the “greed is good” era of the 1980s, it’s the number of generals already on board and those waiting in the gilded lobby of the Trump Tower where the president-elect is picking his cabinet, that’s causing concern.

When announced, Kelly will be the third general in a senior position in Trump’s top team of officials and advisers, following retired generals Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, and James Mattis, the nominee for secretary of defense.

Mike Pompeo, who has been picked to head the CIA, is also from the military. He went to the West Point military academy and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. But he didn’t stay on.

The president-elect is said to be considering two more military leaders — retired general David Petraeus, who also headed the CIA, and retired navy admiral James Stavridis — for secretary of state along with at least eight others, all civilians.

Other s from the military on Trump’s radar included, according to news reports, Admiral Mike Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency and is still on active duty, and retired generals Jack Keane and Stanley McChrystal.

Presidents have picked generals before — Colin Powell was secretary of state for President George W Bush and James Jones was national security adviser to President Barack Obama — but rarely as many as Trump at one given time.

Describing the number “highly unusual”, two former Pentagon officials wrote in The Washington Post, “No doubt these men bring tremendous experience. But we should be wary about an overreliance on military figures.”

“Great generals don’t always make great Cabinet officials,” they added, cautioning, “And if appointed in significant numbers, they could undermine another strong American tradition: civilian control of an apolitical military.”

Analysts argue Trump’s predilection for the military, specially for national security positions, could have something to do with the fact that he was largely abandoned by the civilian foreign policy experts among Republicans and conservatives.