The first few month after a presidential election are generally a good time for the winning candidate. Typically, the president-elect’s popularity spikes and Americans are more optimistic about the future of the country.
As Donald Trump prepares to take office, though, the opposite is true: Americans are more divided and the president-elect’s favorability numbers are at historic lows.
It’s so bad for Trump that even those he’s chosen to serve in his administration are distancing himself from him and his rhetoric – all so they can get a job.
Take Trump secretary of defense pick John Mattis today in his Senate confirmation hearing, who broke from the president-elect when it comes to two of our biggest foreign adversaries, Russia and Iran.
While Trump has spoken favorably of Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign and continues to suggest that Russia may not have been involved in last year’s election interference, Mattis is strongly supportive of NATO and believes Russia is “raising grave concerns on several fronts.”
“Russia is a threat,” he said. “I’m all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality.”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 12, 2017
On Iran, Mattis said the United States should continue to adhere to the Iran nuclear agreement, while Trump had promised to tear up the deal.
Trump’s pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, also put distance between himself and his potential future boss, saying that he accepts the intelligence community’s finding that Russia tried to influence the presidential election. Trump, on the other hand, has stood alone in not being able to admit that Moscow was behind the cyberattack that helped him become president.
Pompeo said, “It’s pretty clear about what took place here about Russia involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy.”
Pompeo also backed away from Trump’s campaign-season promise to bring back torture.
Pompeo says he would “absolutely not” restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques https://t.co/wz12mDkprX
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 12, 2017
Even Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions – the president-elect’s pick for attorney general – distanced himself from Trump on proposals to enact a Muslim ban and reinstate waterboarding during his testimony earlier in the week.
That strategy here is clear: In order to win over enough U.S. Senators to get confirmed, Trump’s appointees must distance themselves from the man who selected them to serve.
While it’s good news that not everybody surrounding the incoming president has publicly embraced each of his dangerous statements and policy positions, the problem is that Trump – not his cabinet picks – will have the final say.
If Trump hasn’t already listened to the less-sane voices around him, what makes anybody think he will start when he’s in the Oval Office?