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Time to worry as trouble brews in Trump transition

Nov 16, 2016

Sixteen years ago, during the campaign that led to the famous Bush-Gore disputed presidential election, I did a joint appearance with pollster Steve Mitchell, who predicted victory for George W. Bush and then-Senator Spencer Abraham in Michigan.

I said that I thought the pollster’s Republican bias was showing. He said that wasn’t true, and to prove it he regretfully predicted that Mike Rogers, a state senator then trying to be elected to Congress, was going to lose.


Rogers had a distinguished record in the Army and the FBI, but Mitchell said he couldn’t win that congressional district.

Well, on Election Day Bush and Abraham lost here, but Rogers won, after a recount that ended with him winning by just 88 votes.

In Congress, Rogers was a rising star. I had lunch with him once, and he was clearly highly intelligent and competent. He quickly rose to become chair of the House permanent select committee on intelligence.

Now retired from Congress, he was named last week to President-elect Trump’s transition team, and there were rumors that he might be in line for a top-level national security job, perhaps CIA or national security advisor.

Rogers lives where we should want all our public servants to dwell: In the reality-based universe.

Had that happened, it would have been reassuring.

Rogers lives where we should want all our public servants to dwell: In the reality-based universe. But yesterday the shocking news came that Rogers was leaving the transition team.

The New York Times today says he was fired as part of a purge led by the new president’s son-in-law.

According to the nation’s leading newspaper, Rogers was fired because he had overseen a report about the Benghazi attacks that concluded that the Obama Administration had not intentionally misled the American people.

By the way, other government investigations into Benghazi have concluded the same, but this is apparently unforgivable in Trumpland.

If this is the case, we should all be very worried. It is one thing to have ideological blinders on about marijuana. But it’s quite another to decide that you can’t be troubled by the facts when it comes to national security issues.

There are numerous signs that the transition team is in considerable disarray. Some of this is understandable.

There are numerous signs that the transition team is in considerable disarray. Some of this is understandable. Eight days ago, almost none of these people really expected to win, and while Vice-President-elect Mike Pence does have some Washington experience, the team does not have an efficient, highly skilled, well connected operative like Dick Cheney running the show.

According to the Times, it took the Prime Minister of Great Britain a day to figure out how to reach the President-elect for the traditional congratulatory phone call.

If that kind of chaos continues, it could obviously be disastrous.

One Michigan politician who is still a national security advisor to Trump is another former congressman, Pete Hoekstra, whose political career seemed dead after he badly lost a bid for the U.S. Senate four years ago.

It would be reassuring for all of us if Hoekstra could somehow instill a bit of sanity and pragmatism to that operation. But he is sharing advising duties with Frank Gaffney, a man who has said repeatedly he thinks President Obama is a secret Muslim.

This is great material for standup comedy. But when we are talking about things that could threaten the survival of our planet, we really need some grownups here.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.