The mainstream media seems upset with Donald Trump for picking very rich people and successful generals for key positions in his administration. Where are the lawyers, the college professors, the public administrators, and the activists?
In a more rational world, it would be hard to argue with Trump’s preference for people who have been extremely successful in the business world and the military. These backgrounds are no guarantee of success in public life, but they seem like a better indicator than backgrounds in most, if not all, of the professions listed in the paragraph above.
Some readers may be surprised to learn that historians generally view Warren Harding’s Cabinet as one of the best ever. Harding, who intended to rely very heavily on his Cabinet, put a high premium on success. Herbert Hoover, his choice for Commerce Secretary and the man who became his go-to adviser, was arguably the most successful man in America at the time.
For Secretary of State, Harding selected Charles Evan Hughes. Though Hughes lacked substantial foreign policy experience, he was one of the most able men in America, having served as Governor of New York and Supreme Court Justice.
Like Mitt Romney, Hughes had lost the previous presidential election. Unlike Romney, he supported his party’s nominee in the next cycle.
Andrew Mellon was Harding’s Treasury Secretary. Mellon had made a fortune in banking. He was a financial wizard.
Harding picked Henry Wallace (not the future VP and pinko 1948 presidential candidate, but his father) to be Secretary of Agriculture. Wallace was a successful farmer and editor of Wallaces’ Farmer, an important farm journal that apparently is still around today. Wallace helped establish 4-H clubs and extension programs in Iowa, as well as the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Harding is best remembered for his two bad Cabinet picks. Henry Fall, the Interior Secretary, gave us the Teapot Dome scandal. Fall was a well-regarded Senator. Harding had no reason to believe he would use his Cabinet post to enrich himself. Had Fall been extremely wealthy, it’s unlikely he would have.
Henry Daugherty, Harding’s attorney general, was a crony. Nearly everyone understood that Daugherty was bad news. In selecting this corrupt man, Harding put loyalty ahead of the good advice he received. Harding has only himself to blame for the damage Daugherty inflicted on his legacy.
History suggests that at least one of Trump’s Cabinet member will find himself (or herself) embroiled in a real scandal, not one merely ginned up by the liberal media. However, I don’t see a potential Henry Daughtery or Albert Fall in president-elect Trump’s selections, and it’s worth noting that Trump has not rewarded some of those who played (or like Daugherty with Harding, claim to have played) a significant role in helping him win.
Instead, I see a Cabinet populated mostly with extraordinarily successful people in whom Trump has good reason to place his trust.
BY THE WAY: Harding briefly considered a General for his Cabinet — Leonard Wood, the Old Rough Rider and a rival for the 1920 nomination. Harding wisely decided not to select Wood for Secretary of War or any other Cabinet post. Wood was a hothead and anything but a team player.
Moreover, America was at peace (the Great War was over and our troops had recently left Russia) in 1921, which reduced the case for selecting a General. Today, we aren’t.
Harding selected Wood to be Governor-General of the Philippines, where he ruled, contentiously, for six years.
John Weeks, one of Harding’s Senate colleagues, became Secretary of War. He had made a fortune in banking. Historians generally view Weeks as quite effective in his Cabinet post.
His son, Charles Sinclair Weeks, was Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower.