WASHINGTON, October 30, 2016 — This year’s presidential election is the most important in a generation. The presidential transition will also be unusually important, hence so will be the transition team.
The presidential transition or interregnum runs from November 7 to January 20, 2017, when the new president is inaugurated. The primary role of the transition team is to screen and present candidates for the roughly 4000 non-civil special service positions in the executive branch of the U.S. government.
The candidates are approaching the transition very differently. Donald Trump exudes confidence, but he was slow to prepare his team for his inauguration. He was heavily criticized when it was revealed last summer that he had hired only a handful of transition staff.
He originally named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to head his transition team, which by October had grown to over 100.
Hillary Clinton, ever the policy wonk, has had her transition team working around the clock. The head of her team is Ken Salazar, former secretary of the interior from 2009 to 2013, and former United States Senator from Colorado from 1999 to 2005. Her choice of Salazar might make some question Clinton’s priorities.
Clinton promises to tackle climate change as a top priority: “Climate change is real, it’s urgent and America can take the lead in the world in addressing it, right?”
Salazar has been a strong advocate for hydraulic fracking. He said in 2011, “I think hydraulic fracking is very much a necessary part of the future of natural gas.” In 2014 he said, “We know from everything we have seen, there is not a single case were hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone.”
The thousands of people that have protesting the flammable water coming their taps might disagree, but more importantly, Clinton has convinced them that she also disagrees.
Salazar promotes the Keystone Pipeline, which will bulldoze the environment right along with the the Native Americans protesting it. Clinton talks passionately about climate change and concern for the environment, but her choice of Salazar suggests that this is another of her lies. The candidate of Goldman Sachs would have found it easy to extend her affections to big oil corporations.
The TPP agreement favors big banks and big pharmaceutical companies. Now against it, Clinton happily lobbied for it as secretary of state, calling it “the gold standard in trade agreements.” She discovered that it was a bad deal after all when Bernie Sanders beat her campaign bloody with his TPP cudgel.
Salazar is pro-TPP. The odds aren’t small that on November 9, a president-elect Clinton will find that TPP’s luster is golden after all.
Clinton and Salazar will be choosing the officials who will act on Keystone, fracking, and the TPP, as well as security officials and Department of Justice staff who, if anyone complains, will decide whether their boss is in compliance with the law. How Clinton and Salazar approach the task of staffing the executive branch will tell us everything about Clinton’s governing priorities, and far more than her words have.
With Salazar in charge of that effort, the portents aren’t good.