Donald Trump is a monster—a confessed sexual predator, a toxic bigot, an unstable narcissist, a pathological liar, a con artist who built a business empire on plunder and fraud, a coward who thinks he’s a shark, a moron who thinks he’s a genius. For a person of such low character to occupy the presidency, wielding both its enumerated powers and its subtler, more symbolic ones, will be tremendously damaging to the country and to the world. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the greater part of the damage done by the incoming administration will have little or nothing to do with Trump himself.
Back in July, the New York Times famously reported that his campaign’s pitch to potential VP nominees was to offer them the chance to become “the most powerful vice president in history” who would be put “in charge of foreign and domestic policy” while Trump remained a celebrity figurehead. Much of what has been reported in the last few days has been consistent with this. Trump “was shocked when he won the election,” says the Times, may not live in the White House full-time, and is intent on “continuing to hold…large rallies” because of “the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide.” Politico adds that Trump has barely had any contact with his own transition staff and that “sources in and around the Trump transition team said there was no evidence that the president-elect had even reviewed any of the binders of policy and personnel proposals produced by the team.”
Meanwhile, that transition team is aggressively putting the lie to a foundational promise of Trump’s campaign—that he was an insurgent outsider who would “drain the swamp” and rid the federal government of corruption and special interests. As the Times, Politico, the Washington Post, the AP, and others have reported, the fledgling Trump administration is dominated by the lobbyists, donors, influence peddlers, insiders and career politicians that Trump spent his whole campaign railing against. More than 4,000 political appointments will be made by a transition staff that consists almost entirely of representatives of corporate interests matched with the relevant departments and agencies—a food industry lobbyist staffing the Department of Agriculture, a mining industry lobbyist the Department of the Interior, a notorious oil and gas industry shill the EPA, and so on.