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Transition to Trump: Is Donald Trump keeping his enemies a little too close for comfort?

With America now coming off the long Thanksgiving holiday, it’s fair to say most political observers will be returning their attention to the choices president-elect Donald Trump makes for his cabinet and senior advisors ahead of his January 20 inauguration.

It’s been almost three weeks since Election Day and Trump has already earned headlines by selecting Senator Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General, Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and the controversial (to the media, at least) Steve Bannon for his senior advisor.

Mitt RomneyLast week Trump met with a politically diverse group of candidates vying for spots in his cabinet, announcing few concrete appointments but hinting several more were forthcoming soon.

One theme emerged from Trump’s actions thus far: he appears more than willing to let bygones be bygones in order to bring what he views as the most competent people into his administration.

In doing so, Trump’s drawing praise from many quarters. The Editors of the Washington Examiner wrote over the weekend, “Every American must hope that the great weight of the presidential office helps Trump grow in wisdom. The job could overwhelm most people, and Trump has no prior experience in government. This makes his Cabinet selections critical.

“That he would select his own critics in his batch of early Cabinet picks leaves open the possibility that Americans have just elected someone who can separate the work of campaigning from the work of governing. Maybe there's more to the man than his critics allow.”

As a conservative-leaning newspaper, the Examiner provides a lot of Republican-friendly coverage, yet throughout the 2016 campaign the editors spared little criticism of Trump himself, often taking issue with the party nominee’s odd behavior and non-traditional strategies.

To draw praise from some of his objective critics for his transition moves is a feather in Trump’s cap and echoes much of the reporting in the mainstream media, which with the exception of Bannon and Sessions, has mostly gone along with Trump’s offerings to date. As an example, the Examiner piece commended Trump for naming South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and conservative school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to head his Department of Education.

Needless to say, Haley and DeVos were vocal critics of Trump during the party primaries and both openly backed Marco Rubio. Haley only announced she was supporting Trump days before Election Day and DeVos never officially indicated how she’d handle the voting question.

But perhaps the most headline-grabbing potential appointee Trump is considering is none other than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Romney maintained his opposition to Trump all the way up to November 8. Romney didn’t announce who he would vote for – or against – but he made it clear through his actions that he was backing so-called conservative Evan McMullin.

Nevertheless, Trump showed the gumption to bury the hatchet and invite Romney to meet with him and vice president-elect Mike Pence last week. It’s widely rumored that Mitt is Trump’s leading contender to be Secretary of State, a somewhat odd match since Romney would appear to be much more hawkish in his foreign policy philosophies than the president-elect.

As would be expected, the possible selection of Romney is drawing critics, among them Trump’s own campaign manager and now close counselor. Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner reports, “Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President-elect Trump, criticized Mitt Romney on Sunday and suggested the 2012 GOP nominee would not make a good choice for secretary of state.

“Conway cited ‘the number of people who feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney would get the most prominent Cabinet post’ during an appearance on CNN's ‘State of the Union.’

“’It's just breathtaking in scope and intensity, the type of messages I've received from all over the country,’ she added.”

While it would seem unusual for senior advisors to be openly criticizing Trump in the national media, if there’s anyone who could get away with it now, it’s Conway. There is no question the president-elect is not only fond of his campaign mastermind, he respects her opinions, too.

In lobbying Trump against Romney’s prospective appointment, Conway emphasized the depth of opposition she’s receiving from her sources in the grassroots. When taken together with the backlash Trump endured with his recent suggestion that he would not actively seek prosecution of Hillary Clinton after he becomes president, Trump cannot afford to be making too many decisions that aren’t popular with his most ardent supporters.

While I agree with those who argue Trump deserves credit for not only considering but also bringing former critics and rivals into his cabinet, he needs to be careful in not pushing the concept too far. Of course Trump needs competent people at his side, but there are more than enough qualified conservatives to fill the roles who would enjoy widespread popular backing.

It could also be that Trump is just tossing out the possibility of choosing Romney to determine what kind of public reaction it engenders, a little “trial period” to see what the people think. This strategy brings risks of its own in potentially sapping support for his transition moves.

The old saying goes that you should “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” But maybe in Romney’s case Trump is keeping those adversaries a little too close.

It’s safe to say most conservatives got behind Romney when he ran against Obama four years ago but he was roundly criticized for not running a very aggressive campaign. Romney’s a good man, but conservatives and Republicans don’t “owe” him anything. Trump is smart enough to realize it, and at least for now, deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’ll do the right thing.

Laura Ingraham would be Trump’s press secretary, but wants more

One crucial piece of the Trump transition puzzle that’s yet to be solved and we’re not hearing as much about these days is the behind-the-scenes debate over who should be the official voice of his administration in the position of White House Press Secretary.

The press secretary not only speaks for the president to the press, he or she is critical for selling the administration’s policies to the American People. Perhaps no one else – other than the president himself – is more visible to the media members who will be framing those policies in their reporting.

In other words, it’s important to get it right.

During the campaign I suggested a number of times that Carly Fiorina would be terrific for the role. Then media personality Laura Ingraham’s name came up. Ingraham would be perfect as well, though it sounds like she wants a bigger say in the policies she’d be speaking about to the press.

Annie Karni of Politico reports on the ongoing discussions, “The popular conservative-radio talk show host is willing to accept the position of White House press secretary in Donald Trump’s administration, but she wants a bigger title, a role in policymaking and a seat at the decision-making table with the president, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

“It’s not yet clear how Ingraham, a regular on Fox News who boosted Trump's anti-establishment candidacy throughout the campaign, would mesh with the rival power centers that currently define Trump’s inner circle.”

Fiery Fox News analyst Monica Crowley is also under consideration for the job, apparently. Crowley would be excellent in the back-and-forth with the media as well, though I can’t help but think a high profile name like Ingraham would be a superior fit if the right conditions can be hammered out.

In the days after Trump’s election it was rumored that Conway was being considered for press secretary, though she’s now listed as a “senior advisor.” It almost sounds like Ingraham is seeking to combine the “senior advisor” and press secretary posts.

Conservatives would be thrilled to see Ingraham officially involved with the new administration just as they were when Conway and Bannon joined the Trump team back in August. Trump has set himself up with a solid foundation of issue positions but needs the capability – and credibility – to convince Americans that real change and improvement is on the way.

I’m guessing Ingraham would savor the opportunity to excoriate reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post and other liberal mouthpieces on a daily basis. She would also be able to cut through the leftist gobbledygook that Americans have been force-fed for generations. Highly quotable in her own right, Ingraham could take unwanted attention off of Trump himself.

Another factor to consider is Ingraham automatically carries with her a large nationwide radio audience, a potential grassroots army that could be mobilized at the get-go to support the administration’s measures. This is a factor that should not easily be dismissed.

In a world where entertainment is political and politics is little more than watered-down entertainment without a musical score, adding a little show-biz quality to the daily press briefings could be immensely valuable to Trump.

I can’t help but think Laura Ingraham is the right one to bring it, too.

Clinton campaign’s joining of fruitless recount efforts signals sour grapes

One of the more interesting finishing touches on Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory occurred last week when Michigan was finally called for the Republican, bringing his Electoral Vote count to an impressive 306 total.

It’s almost easy to forget that in the weeks leading up to the election many a pundit declared Trump didn’t have a “realistic path” to reach 270 votes. The fact he exceeded the minimum threshold by over 10 percent proves the “experts” don’t always know what they’re talking about.

It also changes the electoral math from here on out. Expect the liberals to increase their calls to abolish the Electoral College.

Despite the numbers and the hopelessness of their cause, Hillary Clinton and her people aren’t giving up. Instead of going away and accepting defeat, they’re grasping at straws and joining wacked-out Green Party candidate Jill Stein in asking for recounts (in Wisconsin and possibly in Pennsylvania and Michigan).

The campaign claims it isn’t doing so in an attempt to taint the actual results but in order to prove to supporters that they’re doing everything possible to ensure the process was fair. But weren’t they the ones who said there’s no such thing as election fraud?

The “doing everything we can” line may be what they’re saying in an official capacity, but at the same time it seems to me they’re going back on their word to unequivocally support the results of the election. They’re planting a seed in peoples’ minds that Trump didn’t actually win fair and square, a point they’ll emphasize time and again in the coming years -- along with the fact Clinton prevailed in the popular vote by over two million votes.

For his part, Trump fired back at the recount efforts. Daniel Chaitin of the Washington Examiner reports, “President-elect Trump says ‘nothing will change’ with the election results despite a last-minute push to hold vote recounts in three swing states…

“Trump shared a message for these Democrats this weekend: ‘The Democrats, when they incorrectly thought they were going to win, asked that the election night tabulation be accepted. Not so anymore!’”

Trump is just engaging in a little post-election game play with the Democrats, keeping the focus on them instead of any possible negative effects from his own transition effort. Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the public relations war has reached a détente.

Trump the entertainer knows how to draw attention and Trump the politician has his own instincts and the solid advice from his close advisors to combat any damage the Democrats might inflict from this faux “recount” effort to discredit his election. No matter how many times the Democrats try to pin their own losses on the Russians it doesn’t change the fact that they’re largely out of power at both the state and federal levels.

And if Trump is able to make some inroads with black and Hispanic voters in the next four years they’ll lose their voter base. The Democrats could be the party that “collapses” out of all of this. Outside of California, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts, they’re in big trouble.

The voters weren’t fooled. The Democrats lost. Maybe they’d be better off trying to win over people with issues instead of scaring them into voting for them next time around.

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