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Transition to Trump: Conservatives prepare for confirmation battles to come

With most cabinet appointments made, attention begins shifting to confirmation. Plus, Is #NeverTrump contrition real or are they just crying wolf?, and, Media tries every last tack to depict the Trump transition team in trouble.Donald Trump’s cabinet is not yet “full” but enough major picks have been made to begin the process of looking forward to next month’s confirmation hearings in the Senate.

With what many are calling a stellar line-up of conservatives bent on reforming the federal government, expect the Washington establishment to go all-out in trying to stop some of the nominees during their hearings. It could get ugly and contentious. Reputations will be bloodied and battered with little thought given to the Trump Jeff Sessionspersonal fallout.

But in the end, Trump’s nominees will probably survive.

S.A. Miller writes in The Washington Times, “President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees are headed for brutal confirmation hearings, and his choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state is shaping up to be the most grueling, but history shows that the Senate rarely musters the nerve to reject Cabinet picks.

“Only nine Cabinet nominees in U.S. history have been defeated in committee or Senate votes, although 12 others have been withdrawn in the face of strong opposition. The last time a nominee was defeated outright came in 1989, when former Sen. John Tower, President George H.W. Bush’s pick for defense secretary, went down in a party-line vote in a Democrat-majority Senate.”

In other words, traditionally speaking the Senate defers to the new president’s preferences for personnel. The same can’t be said for Supreme Court nominees, but cabinet candidates are part of the administration, not the judicial branch.

And if it looks like a cabinet nomination could be in trouble it’s been more common the past couple decades for the nominee to withdraw rather than face an embarrassing rejection.

The excellent odds of confirmation aren’t going to deter the left from trying to defeat the nominations, however. In the case of Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, the Democrats are going to have to explain away all the nice things they’ve said about him in the past if they’re serious about voting him down now.

Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports, “A growing number of key Democrats raising questions about Attorney General-nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions have spent 20 years praising his character and bipartisanship, leading to a potentially awkward and hypocritical challenge at his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing.”

Those offering flattering past approval to Sessions are outgoing Labor Secretary Thomas Perez as well as Democrat Senators Chuck Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin.

But that was then, this is now. Sessions is seen as public enemy #1 by many Democrats and leftists groups. Expect it to get nasty when the cameras roll during his confirmation hearings.

The same can be said for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. It’s clear after a couple days of Tillerson’s name being in the national news that Democrats and a few Republicans are going to bite down to the bone in trying to dredge out his views on Russia.

Tillerson might actually get some conservatives questioning him as well. Again, Bedard reports at the Washington Examiner, “Already facing concerns about his and his company's ties to Russia, Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson is also coming under fire from family groups opposed to his support for Planned Parenthood and gays in the Boy Scouts.

“In his latest newsletter to supporters, for example, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that the Exxon Mobil chief picked by President-elect Trump Tuesday to run State has backed several leftist issues.”

Questioning Tillerson’s social views might give rise to some sort of withdrawal scenario. Though the issues with Tillerson’s personal views are serious, I’m not sure how they would impact his duties as secretary of State. This might be one area where we’ll have to trust Trump and Mike Pence to elevate someone who will carry out the mission of the administration while keeping his liberal personal stances to himself.

Tillerson’s list of Republican supporters is also growing, so if he can manage to get past the eternally skeptical neoconservative GOP senators (mainly Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham), his confirmation should not be in doubt.

Senator Rand Paul (who, like Rubio is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) could also potentially cause some issues though the Kentucky senator said he’s “keeping an open mind” on Tillerson and was primarily concerned with stopping Trump from tapping John Bolton for the job. (It should also be noted Paul opposes Bolton for the undersecretary position as well, a stance that could put him at odds with the president-elect and much of his party.)

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Tillerson’s or any of the other Trump nominees’ hearings devolve into a media circus, but then again, it’s Democrats we’re talking about. Until it actually happens, we’ll just have to keep an eye out for the storm on the horizon.

Is #NeverTrump contrition real or are they just crying wolf?

One of the many remarkable things about Donald Trump’s transition thus far is his handling of the “acting presidential” issue that dogged him throughout the campaign.

Trump’s critics often chastised him for: statements he made in interviews; statements he made in the primary debates; statements he made twenty years ago; tweets at odd hours; tweets at normal hours; the people he surrounded himself with; the people he didn’t surround himself with; his relationship with the Republican Party; his lack of a relationship with the Republican Party; the people who supported him; the people who didn’t support him…

And the list goes on and on.

Among the harshest of the unfair critiques of the president-elect came from the Republican/conservative #NeverTrumpers who questioned not only Trump’s character but also his intelligence and sincerity. They claimed they could “never” support him because he is not “fit” for the office, no matter what.

Now that Trump defied them and won, some of those #NeverTrumpers are trying to make amends.

Leading #NeverTrumper Erick Erickson writes at Fox News, “I, and the polling, were completely wrong.  So were a lot of other people. After the election I wrote that those of us who were so completely wrong about the election should exercise some humility. If we got that much wrong, the odds are we got a lot of other stuff wrong, too. Consequently, I thought the day after the election and still think that we owe Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt.

“This does not mean I am now on the Trump team.  I still have concerns about Trump. But I see a number of friends and fellow #NeverTrumpers opposed to each and everything Trump does and each and every appointment Trump makes.  Anyone in the sphere of the president-elect must be corrupt and crooked.  Anyone seeking a job should be shunned.  I find that all nonsensical.”

First off, it’s good to see someone like Erickson speaking out on the subject. There are still an awful lot of ill feelings left over from the campaign, but there’s room to forgive. Reasonable people excuse friends for mistakes made in the heat of battle. Erickson has proven over the years to be a reliable conservative commentator and up until about eight months ago his opinions always seemed to be accompanied by a sound reading of the facts.

The problem with Erickson and all the #NeverTrumpers isn’t a lack of contrition and forgiveness on behalf of most of them, however -- it’s the fact that they’re in the business of commenting on politics and they were hideously wrong on Trump and his chances to win, time after time after time.

So why should we believe them now? Isn’t that like the boy crying wolf?

If you’re a pundit, you go on TV and make the case for your candidate, your party or your point-of-view. That’s why we shouldn’t get mad at Juan Williams when he appears on Fox News and writes columns in The Hill. He’s paid to present the liberal perspective and he does it with sincerity and conviction. I personally don’t agree with hardly anything Juan says but I know ahead of time I’m likely going to think he’s flat out wrong on whatever he’s talking about.

But Erickson and the #NeverTrumpers at RedState, The Weekly Standard, National Review and other publications are paid to observe the political scene and comment accordingly from a rightward angle. When they’re wrong, it counts. They’re not pundits like Juan Williams. They’re commentators and people believe they’re supposed to be right at least some of the time.

It’s like taking a test. When you’re a so-called conservative commentator and you’re not only wrong on a particular topic, you basically flunk the entire course -- it’s going to hurt your credibility.

Sometimes one slip-up can do the trick. For example, on Election Night after it was clear that Donald Trump had won the presidency, Fox News personality Sean Hannity was interviewed. Understandably Hannity was a little hyperactive with excitement over Trump’s victory, whereby he uttered “Paul Ryan is not going to be the Speaker of the next Congress.”

Not only was Hannity wrong, he was dead wrong. His credibility suffered, but since he’s more like a pundit (and a known Trump supporter) than a commentator, it didn’t really matter that much.

In contrast, Erickson has a radio show as well as his own publication. Are people supposed to believe him when he states an opinion now?

It’s not that Erickson has decided to give Trump “a chance” now – that’s a good thing. But those of us who were forced by the #NeverTrumpers to suffer through months of finger-pointing and being called Trumpkins and other demeaning names as well as enduring accusations of being tacit enablers of the racist elements of the so-called Alt-Right … We should be the ones deciding whether we’re going to give them “a chance.”

How many times did the #NeverTrumpers say Trump backers wouldn’t be welcome at the “conservative table” after the election? Didn’t they threaten to excommunicate Ted Cruz from the conservative movement because he eventually endorsed Trump?

The shoe’s on the other foot now. Trump not only won the election, he’s handling his transition in such a way to make conservatives proud.

When you’re wrong so consistently, people don’t believe you anymore. It’s something that’s going to take time to heal where the #NeverTrump movement is concerned.

Media tries every last tack to depict the Trump transition team in trouble

Though it certainly can be argued that Donald Trump’s transition is going well thus far, there are always going to be naysayers – especially in the media.

Politico, for example, produced a story titled “Poll: Trump’s transition has lowest approval rating in decades,” where Nolan D. McCaskill reported, “Donald Trump’s transition into the White House has the lowest approval rating of any incoming president dating back to 1992, according to a Gallup poll out Wednesday morning.

“Trump has made a spectacle of his transition. The billionaire has taken dozens of meetings inside Trump Tower with government officials, business leaders and celebrities, including rapper Kanye West and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, as reporters have staked out in the lobby taking note of notable figures who come in and out.”

Criticize, criticize, criticize. Is Politico supposed to be journalism or just a leftist blog? The lines sure are blurred.

Trump’s numbers themselves aren’t as bad as the story title and tone would have you believe. 48 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove of Trump’s transition. Considering the numbers from the election and the divided nature of the country, it’s about what you’d expect.

Additional factors dampening his approval ratings are the media’s continued negativity, the Democrats’ knee-jerk opposition to everything Trump does and the fact half the country is terribly afraid that the status quo is about to be altered in a way they’re not going to like.

Change is difficult to accept, especially when you’ve been told for eight years that Republicans are a collection of misogynistic racist devils who will starve the poor and shred the government security net.

The reporting on Trump’s transition team has been equally noxious. Another story from Politico, titled “Divisions deepen inside Trump Tower” (by Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth P. Vogel) begins with “Donald Trump’s White House-in-waiting is already being roiled by divisions, with the conservative outsiders who helped power his historic victory colliding with a Republican Party establishment muscling its way in.

“Insiders paint a picture of constant score-keeping and simmering suspicion within Trump world — one even called it ‘vitriolic.’ And they foresee incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the party stalwart, and chief strategist Steve Bannon, the populist firebrand, headed for an inevitable clash.”

Similar reports followed Trump throughout his campaign, yet on Election Night it was Priebus who Trump insisted come on stage with him and share the limelight.

Assuming the reports of discord have a smidgen of truth, it would only be natural for there to be some disagreements among the top advisors to the president-elect. If they all agreed on everything it would be akin to a mind-controlled hippy commune in the 60’s…or the Democrats today. Same thing, right?

Not to mention the amount of hours these people are putting in and the intense pressure being applied from all sides. The GOP establishment and conservatives have been at war for a long time. It wasn’t about to stop in a month’s time after a successful election.

This “strife” will continue on through Inauguration Day and probably all throughout Trump’s presidency, just as it did for Ronald Reagan’s years in the White House.

The struggle won’t end until the Republican Party consistently stands for constitutional principles and liberty. Trump has it on a promising path regardless of the media’s reports.

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Trump's Cabinet

So far I've been overjoyed with most of Trump's picks for cabinet and other top positions in his administration - except one: I share Tony Perkins' concern about Rex Tillerson's social radicalism. Remember, the State Department was Obama's and Hillary's vehicle for imposing their radical views on other nations. The last thing we need is yet another Secretary of State promoting abortion and ordering the flying of LGBT rainbow flags in our embassies abroad, particularly in socially conservative Muslim or African Christian nations. Tillerson's ties to Vladimir Putin and possible conflicts-of-interest arising therefrom also concern me, but not nearly as much.

The best case scenario, in my view, would be if Tillerson withdraws or is voted down after a grueling confirmation hearing, paving the way for the nomination of someone less acceptable to the Left - John Bolton and Frank Gaffney are two names that come to my mind.