Obama's cabinet picks had one thing in common: they were all ideological leftists who fell in line with the president's thinking. Most of them not only thought like Obama, but shared the same background. They were so-called intellectuals educated at elite universities in the Northeast, held advanced degrees, and had no idea whatsoever how the real world operated.
The ineffectual Obama cabinet included Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. After bringing chaos to Libya, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and Iraq and executing a failed "reset" with Vladimir Putin, Clinton was replaced by the equally inept John Kerry. Both Clinton and Kerry operated as extensions of Obama's fantasy of befriending our enemies and dissing our friends. Eight years later, our enemies disdain us, while our friends doubt our resolve.
In 2010, US News and World Report named Obama's five worst cabinet members. Remember Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (replaced by Jacob Lew)? How about Janet Napolitano in Homeland Security (replaced by Jeh Johnson)? And Attorney General Eric Holder (replaced by the equally sycophantic Loretta Lynch), Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (replaced by more radical Thomas Perez), and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan (replaced by Julián Castro)?
These were only just a few of the Obama ideologues who populated the original cabinet and led to the failed jobs recovery, the undermining of the rule of law, the depletion of our military, and a swath of terrorist attacks on our homeland. Their replacements were no improvement. Economic growth did not return in Obama's second term, and America is more vulnerable than ever.
The collection of Ivy League dreamers that has run the country for eight years, and run it into the ground, has a lot to answer for. The lack of principle and resolve in Obama's cabinet meant that there was no healthy discussion of policy issues. The White House became a house of mirrors in which the cabinet rubber-stamped the president's wishes, resulting in unpopular, unsuccessful, and unconstitutional policies that offended a majority of voters in Middle America. The only cabinet member who stood up and resigned, more out of exhaustion than principle, perhaps, was Robert Gates, the holdover defense secretary from the Bush years.
Noticeably missing in Obama's cabinet have been those with a true affinity for the American heartland. Rural voters, including Southerners and those from other regions, have had little if any representation at the highest level of government. Obama's disdain for those "clinging to their guns and religion" was obvious before his election, but it was confirmed by the fact that none of those "clingers" made their way into the cabinet.
Especially lacking among Obama's picks were independent thinkers willing to stand on principle. Obama presided over the most politicized administration since FDR, and political expediency seems to have governed every decision, even those critical to our national defense. Obama's cabinet committed one foreign policy fiasco after another, from ending the surge in Iraq to fomenting the Arab Spring that brought chaos to the Middle East to the Iran deal.
Mistakes of this type will not happen in a Trump administration, with Rep. Mike Pompeo at the CIA and, presumably, General James Mattis as secretary of defense. John Bolton or Gen. David Petraeus would bring the same toughness to the State Department, as would Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. One can only hope Trump does not appoint Mitt Romney to the post.
Nor can anyone who examines the résumé of Betsy DeVos, Trump's choice for education secretary, accuse her of lacking principles or resolve. She has devoted much of her life and fortune to reforming America's failing public school system. It is inconceivable that she will abandon her principles once she takes charge of the Education Department.
The same can be said for Wilbur Ross, reportedly Trump's choice for commerce secretary. Ross is the 78-year-old head of one of the most successful private equity firms in the country. He got there not without intelligence and hard work. Of all those chosen so far, he best understands what makes businesses succeed. He has a lot to offer in terms of reforming our nation's trade policies and creating American jobs.
Trump's pick for Treasury secretary is Stephen Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and now a major Hollywood producer. Mnuchin is a breath of fresh air after eight years of Timothy Geithner and Jacob Lew, both of whom seem to think more regulation and higher taxes are the way to grow the economy.
Another key member of the cabinet will be Rep. Tom Price at Health and Human Services. Price will be key to unraveling Obamacare. Price has labored for six years alongside Speaker Paul Ryan in an effort to repeal and replace Obama's "signature" health care law. As Trump said in making the announcement, Price is "the ideal choice" for HHS secretary. Not many Americans can name the current HHS secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, nor can they identify one accomplishment under her tenure. Tom Price will bring new seriousness to the office.
Those mentioned for energy secretary are equally impressive: Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (also rumored to be a candidate to head the EPA); Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, one of the nation's largest energy producers; Mary Fallin, governor of a large oil- and gas-producing state; and former governor Rick Perry of Texas. Compared to Obama's Stephen Chu, an academic seemingly focused on blocking energy production rather than increasing it, any of these would be a vast improvement. Also rumored are Bobby Jindal for Health and Human Services; Ben Carson for HUD director, and Forrest Lucas for agriculture secretary.
All in all, the pattern is clear: Trump is seeking the best man or woman for the job, and he is bringing in accomplished candidates from the real world outside politics. Another crucial point: Unlike his predecessor, Trump is not imposing an ideological litmus test. He is seeking hard-driving pragmatists who will get the job done.
Trump's picks to date, and those under serious consideration, are the most impressive group since Reagan's cabinet in 1981, which included George Schultz, Edwin Meese, James Baker, and Caspar Weinberger. If confirmed, Trump's cabinet will include the largest number of individuals with business experience since Eisenhower's cabinet in 1953, of which more than half came from the private sector.
Trump is unlikely to lose touch with or respect for the base that elected him. His appointment of Steve Bannon as special adviser and Jeff Sessions as attorney general assures that he will remain a reliable conservative. His future appointments to key posts in the EPA, NLRB, SEC, and FCC should return these agencies to their constitutional limits.
Unlike Obama, Trump is appointing men and women with real-world experience and strong character. For eight years, Obama has surrounded himself with a collection of sycophants while the real policymaking took place in his head. Isolating himself in the company of Valerie Jarrett and Michelle didn't help.
Another thing in Trump's favor: after selecting the best talent available, Trump listens to his advisers, and he isn't loath to cut ties with those who fail to produce. Both Paul Manafort and Chris Christie, Trump's top advisers during the campaign, were shown the door when they became liabilities.
With fifty years of successful business experience, Trump is a keen judge of character, and he is a demanding boss. He is surrounding himself with principled and experienced individuals. The next eight years should be "great" for America.