By Christine Todd Whitman
January 8, 2017
Every president has the right, and obligation, to place in nomination for their cabinet his or her own choices of who will reflect their policy priorities. Equally, the senate has the right and obligation to vet and vote on those nominations. The president should be given deference in his choices and, equally, the senate confirmation process needs to be thorough and respected.
Having said that, I am concerned that battle lines are being drawn as much to unilaterally oppose as to support President-Elect Trump’s choices for his cabinet. Both extremes are wrong. While it is out of the ordinary to have so many nominated to head departments that they have called on disbanding, sometimes it can be healthy to go into a position with a bit of skepticism, not about the mission as much as the way that mission has been carried out. Reassessing regulations that may have outgrown their usefulness, been superseded by new science or knowledge, has a valuable place in a cabinet member’s responsibilities. However, if that is coupled with a blind assumption that everything that has been done in the past is wrong or that past Congresses had no idea what they were doing and simply grew government for the sake of growth, that is a dangerous situation.
There are legitimate questions to be asked of each nominee, but not just about their loyalty to the president who appoints them. Have they the experience to manage large government bureaucracies, do they understand, and respect, the Constitution and the rule of law, do they fully understand the mission of their department and can they respect the civil servants who will work with them? These are all legitimate questions. Just assuming that every nominee is qualified for the position for which they are nominated is no more legitimate than assuming that none of them are.
This will process will test the willingness of both sides of the aisle to work together, and for the sake of the country, they must prevail.