The New York Times has recently launched their new campaign which presents them as focusing on the truth. When we examine the meaning of truth should this apply to not only what we say, but to what we don’t say as well? Is a lie of omission the same as reporting something that is false or is it simply bias when facts are conveniently forgotten? In a recent NYT article “Trump Lets Key Offices Gather Dust Amid ‘Slowest Transition in Decades’”, the reporter seem to leave out several items and report only from the typical NYT perspective which is obviously Anti-Trump. In this article they attribute the slowness of the transition to dysfunctional and self-inflicted strategies of the administration, but is this a wholly fair and accurate assessment of the situation?
“Mr. Trump’s personnel problems are rooted in a dysfunctional transition effort that left him without a pool of nominees-in-waiting who had been screened for security and financial problems and were ready to be named on Day 1. In the weeks since, the problem has been compounded by roadblocks of his own making: a loyalty test that in some cases has eliminated qualified candidates, a five-year lobbying ban that has discouraged some of the most sought-after potential appointees, and a general sense of upheaval at the White House that has repelled many others.”
Day 1 Pool of Nominees – The government is fine with wasting money because in the end there is no real bottom line to which they need to be held accountable. In business, the bottom line underpins almost every decision that an executive will make on behalf of a company. Is it no wonder that the mindset of an administration led from someone from the business world would be managed differently? Performing security and financial screenings are costly as they take time and resources. What I would like to see is a comparison between this administration and previous ones in the percentage of screenings performed versus people placed in positions. Considering that the transition team returned 20% of their allotted budget I would suspect that they are interviewing the candidates first and then once they are sure that this person is the one that they want, then submitting person for the screening. While this would not lead to an inflated pool of candidates, it would be the more cost effective solution. Additionally, this may simply be a function of span of control concept where Trump is allowing his cabinet have a direct hand in selecting their team instead of forcing them to select from a pre-established short list.
Loyalty Test – As a general rule no president puts people in key policy making positions that were harsh critics of them during that campaign. While this mainly usually the opposition party, President Trump is in a special circumstance. In addition to having opposition from Democrats there also exists a cadre of Republicans that have branded themselves “Never Trumpers”. In many cases these individuals were some of Trump’s harshest critics during the campaign and even went as far as to endorse Clinton. With the administration already battling leaks and dissension from Obama hold overs and entrenched left leaning bureaucrats you can hardly blame the administration if they seek to avoid those Republicans that have already publicly made their opposition known. It hardly does the administration good to remove an Obama loyalist only to replace them with someone who will not carry out the President’s vision, but actually look for ways to undercut his credibility and authority.
Five-Year Lobbying Ban – And your point is? Yes this is what millions of Americans voted for with this election. The American people are tired of bureaucrats going to Washington to “serve the people” only to turn around as soon as their time within the administration is completed to use those contacts that they acquired at the expense of the taxpayer in the service of private organizations or companies to push policies and initiatives that may not be in our best interests all the while enriching themselves. If this process is slowed down because the President is holding to one of his key campaign promises then it is worth it in the end.
General Sense of Upheaval – Transitions are times of upheaval. This is a fact. Transitions are times of change, but the narrative of some media outlets like the NYT is this is not only unprecedented, but this chaos is exclusive to the Trump administration. While the transition may be behind other administration the article does not go into any real details on where the Trump transition is in comparison other than one comparison to Obama and an almost toss away quote from Nicholas Burns that was used in the title of the article “Slowest transition in decades.” While Mr. Burns may be an expert in presidential transitions we must also weight his comments against the fact that he as a Republican also supported Hillary Clinton and like many “never Trumpers” may still be harboring resentment from the election with a political axe to grind. Call me old fashion, but I would like my news fact driven instead of opinion based.
What they do not go into detail within this article are the extenuating circumstances that have also contributed to the slowness of the transition; mainly the behavior of the Democrats. Generally undersecretaries of the various departments will be selected with the aid of the secretary of the department. If the confirmation of those key positions is slowed down then the filling out of the rest of the department’s positions is impacted as well. You can hardly start filling positions for the Department of Justice if the Attorney General has not been confirmed. The Democrats have used every trick allowed them with their limited power to make a circus of this process and grind it to a halt. They have engaged in unprecedented behaviors like having one sitting Senator testify against another, boycotting committee hearings, all night filibusters and have generally voted strictly along party lines to ensure that the process has moved as slow as possible for the confirmation of President Trump’s cabinet.
Obviously there are some issues with the transition not going as smoothly as possible. All of these are factors, but to blame the speed of the transition solely on the Trump administration without acknowledging the tactics of the Democrats in obstructing the process is dishonest reporting. For a paper that is looking to rebrand itself as an impartial gatekeeper of the truth articles like this do not enhancement my confidence that they can report fairly. The fact that the only perspective in the article is negative to Trump and relies on a couple of quotes to build this argument without any real deep dive analysis of other transitions simply feels lazy to me. Yes some of the government offices might be collecting dust, but there is certainly some dust on journalist skills at the NYT as well.