President-elect Donald Trump plans to name Elaine Chao — a former Labor secretary married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — as his Transportation secretary, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). Chao’s establishment ties conflict with Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington and promote outsiders to lead his government. But Chao’s connections could be an asset in Trump’s plan to promote a major infrastructure proposal that could face resistance from within his party.
Here’s the weird thing: Chao is actually very qualified for this position. That’s…a little unusual for Trump. So it’s hard to make too big a fuss over the obvious cynicism of picking Mitch McConnell’s wife to be the head cheerleader for his infrastructure plan.
Still, this is not exactly draining the swamp, is it? Chao is married to the Republican majority leader; has been a Washington fixture for more than two decades; and spent eight years in the Bush cabinet. She’s also a woman and an immigrant, which will help Trump with his “white guy cabinet” problem.1 But that’s OK. I can handle a bit of cynicism and a bit of political maneuvering. At least Chao is a normal, well-qualified, conservative, choice. If only we could say that about the rest of Trump’s choices.
1As near as I can tell, Trump’s approach to this problem is to appoint white guys to the important posts and then toss in a few women and minorities at the bottom of his cabinet. But maybe I’m wrong! We’ll have to wait and see who he appoints to head up State, Defense, and Treasury.