If President-elect Donald Trump hopes to put together an administration that can protect U.S. interests at home and abroad, he will have to reach far beyond his loyalists.
And, if Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican majority want an administration that does not embarrass them or imperil the country, they will demand qualified nominees who can pass scrupulous examinations of their backgrounds and possible conflicts of interest.
Trump’s naming of Steve Bannon as top White House strategist is not one of the hundreds of appointments subject to Senate approval, but it raises serious questions about Trump’s judgment and willingness to move from campaign mode into governing.
Regardless of whether Bannon has advocated or just enabled an ugly strain of white supremacy during his time at Breitbart News, he is a divisive figure at sharp odds with Trump’s post-election call to “bind the wounds of division ... (and) come together as one united people.” Bannon became Trump’s campaign chief in August.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, is among 169 House Democrats who signed a letter demanding that Trump rescind that appointment.
Trump also should renounce those who would use his election as license to commit hateful acts against minorities and distance himself and his presidency from his own bigoted campaign rhetoric.
A post-election uptick in reports of racial and ethnic slurs on the University of Kentucky campus seems to be part of a broader surge nationlly. At UK, two of the allegations constituted assaults: A Hispanic student was reportedly pepper-sprayed and a traditional headscarf was ripped off a Muslim student.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has spoken out against rumored nominees for secretary of state, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, saying their support for President George. W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq disqualifies them and would contradict Trump’s espousal of anti-interventionist views.
Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which vets potential State Department heads, said he can’t support anyone “who didn’t learn the lesson of the Iraq War.”
Paul, an outspoken critic of mass surveillance and mass incarceration, should also insist that Trump appointees, especially attorney general, are committed to defending civil liberties.
Trump’s pronouncements and behavior during his campaign have raised legitimate fears that his administration will persecute Americans based on their religious and political views and that he will use the government’s power to intimidate and punish the press and media and his political rivals.
As Trump picks his cabinet and staffs up the executive branch, the vetting process will test not just Trump and the Senate but the strength of constitutional safeguards protecting Americans’ rights and their government’s integrity.