The exciting thing about a new president from a different party—and especially this new president—is that zillions of journalists get to write about the impact on their little corner of the world.
I used to joke during the campaign that even the food writers (Trump eats pizza with a fork!) and sportswriters (Does Trump cheat at golf?!) got into the act. But now the stakes are a heckuva lot higher.
So whether you cover Medicare or the military or monetary policy, climate change or culture or constitutional issues, there are pieces to write, questions to explore, critics to quote.
But there is a tone of shock and awe in some stories, especially those surrounding Trump’s appointees.
Take the selection of Georgia congressman Tom Price to run Health and Human Services. Many headlines echoed this one in Business Insider: “Trump’s New Cabinet Pick Wants to Destroy Obamacare.”
Hello? Trump said over and over during the campaign that he wants to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Why would anyone think he would pick a health care chief who has a different view?
The same goes for Betsy DeVos, an outspoken champion of school vouchers and charter schools, being tapped as Education secretary. Why would anyone think Trump would hire an advocate for the teachers’ unions, which backed Hillary, to continue the same approach?
Jeff Sessions will have a far more limited approach to civil rights at the Justice Department, which is in part why Trump picked him.
Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs guy just anointed Treasury secretary, quickly drew flak because his hedge fund once bought a failing bank that foreclosed on many homeowners . “Trump Puts Housing Predator at Treasury,” blared the Huffington Post,
Ben Carson hasn’t accepted the apparent offer to run HUD, but the Daily Beast reports that he has opposed the agency’s anti-discrimination Fair Housing Rule, once calling it a “mandated social-engineering scheme.” Again, Trump isn’t in the market for someone to continue Barack Obama’s policies on housing and urban development.
This, folks, is why we have elections.
After Obama won in 2008, he put in place a team that would reverse many of George W. Bush’s policies at departments and agencies. But there wasn’t all this hand-wringing about it.
I’m all for vetting the Trump nominees. The public should know who they are and what they’ve done and what they stand for. The same would be true if Hillary Clinton was staffing her administration, in which case the right, rather than the left, would be decrying many of the appointments.
Democratic presidents tend to name people who either have long experience in government or were advocates for more federal spending and greater federal regulation. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush tended to name business executives who find government too intrusive and have battled some of the agencies they wound up running. Needless to say, the press is less sympathetic to the latter group.
It is very easy for reporters to go interview the beneficiaries of various programs and ask how they’ll feel if the funding is cut. We’re seeing that with people who are receiving ObamaCare insurance, although Trump has pledged not to abolish the program without replacing it with it with his own plan.
It’s true that some people will be hurt if programs are slashed or eliminated. But that doesn’t mean government is always the answer to every problem.
In the case of Price, as many stories noted, he is not just a guy engaging in empty diatribes against ObamaCare.
“If President-elect Donald J. Trump wanted a cabinet secretary who could help him dismantle and replace President Obama’s health care law, he could not have found anyone more prepared than Representative Tom Price, who has been studying how to accomplish that goal for more than six years,” the New York Times said.
Price is a surgeon, who happens to be close to Paul Ryan, and who has made a series of detailed proposals for a replacement program.
These would include tax credits, health savings accounts and grants to states to subsidize higher-risk, and therefore more expensive, patients.
Chuck Schumer, the incoming majority leader, said that “nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.” Of course the Democrats are worried about Obama’s signature program.
Whatever Price’s views on Medicare, Trump pledged many times in the campaign, including in an interview with me, that he did not want to touch the program in any way. Ryan and House conservatives, though, very much want to rein in the entitlement program.
Perhaps the real headline here, with other picks like Elaine Chao, is that Trump has largely chosen seasoned Washington operatives rather than bomb-throwing outsiders.
I hope there’s a great debate coming over these programs and the people that Trump wants to run them. But no one should be surprised by a new president who vowed to drain the swamp.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.