The Trump Enigma

US President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming cabinet now includes retired generals, plutocrats, and people who would abolish the very departments they will lead. But it is still unclear how Trump will actually govern, which has become a source of growing anxiety for the rest of the world.

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WINCHESTER – Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo once quipped that triumphant politicians tend to “campaign in poetry and govern in prose.” Donald J. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was hardly poetic, and the transition to his presidency suggests that he will govern the United States not in prose, but in tweets.

Beyond Twitter, Trump’s cabinet nominations also enable us to discern what his presidency will look like. So far, he has selected an unprecedented mix of retired generals and superrich political arrivistes: General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense; General John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security; Steven Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, as Secretary of the Treasury; Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, as Secretary of Commerce; Betsy DeVos, a billionaire heiress, as Secretary of Education; and Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State.

That is not a cast of characters that will glide through the Senate confirmation process unscathed. Democrats are already sharpening their knives, and the narrow Republican majority includes powerful critics of Trump, such as South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Arizona’s John McCain – a former prisoner of war whom Trump belittled during the campaign.

Meanwhile, General Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, needs no Senate confirmation, but will nonetheless continue to draw criticism, not least for his outspoken antipathy to Islam generally, and to “radical Islam” in particular. Flynn once called Islam a “cancer,” and tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” During Trump’s campaign rallies, Flynn denounced Hillary Clinton for using a private email server, and led chants of “lock her up.” And yet, while serving in Afghanistan, he was sanctioned for sharing information about CIA operations with unauthorized non-US citizens.