WASHINGTON, DC – This is not a city overflowing with the holiday spirit. As the US Congress heads home for the holidays, there’s a sense that something ominous lies over the horizon. People might try to avoid discussing the pending inauguration, on January 20, of President-elect Donald Trump but the topic rarely stays out of conversations for long.
At last week’s White House Christmas party for the press, reporters speculated about whether this might be the last such party for years to come. It’s difficult to imagine that Trump, no fan of the press, would host such an event, much less stand stoically with his wife Melania greeting each individual guest, as Barack and Michelle Obama did for eight years. One reporter joked that the next press Christmas party would be held at the recently opened Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House, and there would be a cash bar.
Of course, if the press Christmas party was the only precedent Trump and his team broke, no one would be too distraught. But Trump has so far shown such indifference to rules and norms, such a disregard for limits, and such unpredictability, that the prevailing mood among Democrats and Republicans alike is one of uncertainty and unease. But the concern goes beyond Washington: many ordinary citizens in the US and elsewhere genuinely fear the consequences of a Trump administration.
Given Trump’s capriciousness, many are looking to his cabinet for clues about the country’s direction over the next four years. The results thus far aren’t comforting, not least because he’s shown a predilection for choosing generals to run civilian agencies – three thus far – and even more so because several of Trump’s nominees will, if the Senate confirms them, be heading agencies whose missions they have opposed.