With more than 20 nominees now selected, Donald Trump’s cabinet appears much like the president-elect himself: mostly older, white males, many of them wealthy, who see themselves as risk-takers and deal-makers and prize action over deliberation.
Trump, who says Washington is “broken” and controlled by special interests, has largely eschewed technocrats with long government experience. Instead, he has built a team of bosses.
Trump’s roster of agency heads and advisers conspicuously lacks intellectuals, lawyers, and academics of the sort sought by some past presidents. In their place are titans of business and finance from the likes of Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs and no fewer than three retired generals in key positions.
Many of them are people used to getting their way but will now have a boss to answer to – Trump – while navigating the sometimes frustrating and sprawling bureaucracy of the U.S. government. The incoming Trump administration is poised to undo as much of President Barack Obama’s accomplishments as possible, while also attempting to advance a conservative policy agenda in areas such as taxes and healthcare.
A former senior U.S. official who knows Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO who is Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, and Marine General James Mattis, Trump’s pick for defense secretary, predicted a massive clash of egos in the cabinet.
Tillerson and Mattis are “accustomed to dominating whatever space they find themselves in, and that probably will now include the Situation Room and even the Oval Office.”
Trump’s transition team has said the cabinet is intended to be a mix of experienced Washington hands and newcomers. But former presidents who brought in outside blood have at times seen political neophytes make costly errors, experts said.
Of the 21 cabinet members and White House advisers chosen to date by Trump, 16 are white men. There are four women, none of whom hold what might be considered a top-tier agency post. There is one African-American, one Asian-American and one Indian-American. There are no Hispanics.