Donald Trump can’t decide whether he thinks the transition of power is going well or not.
But he knows he doesn’t like how much attention Barack Obama is getting and is also bothered by what Trump and his closest advisers see as an active effort to poke the president-elect and undermine the incoming administration with last-minute policy changes on his way out of office
.. Most of all, though, Trump is frustrated with how Obama has poked him, by claiming in a podcast interview with former adviser David Axelrod that he could have beaten Trump had he been eligible to run again. (The president made that claim as part of an insistence that his kind of positive, hopeful campaign would have resonated with Americans, despite what Trump successfully tapped into.)
.. Trump was also irritated by Obama’s comments at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday afternoon in which he said, “even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.” These felt to Trump like direct criticism of the president-elect, according to two people close to Trump.
.. A senior administration official said Trump is wrong if he thinks Obama’s aim is to disrupt the transition by highlighting Russia’s role in the campaign, ordering the abstention on the Security Council vote on the Israel resolution and laying out his more globalist worldview as part of a speech at Pearl Harbor that was meant to address the right-wing nationalism going on all over the world.
“That is not evidence of a flawed transition,” the official said Wednesday afternoon. “That is evidence that we have starkly different opinions.”
.. The White House team is also frustrated with Trump’s policy statements — not just over what he did in regard to Israel, but by his hosting of a meeting with the Japanese prime minister in November, speaking by phone with the Taiwanese president despite the objections of China and beginning to map out a new framework of a relationship with Vladimir Putin.
Not only were these arranged without first informing the current administration, but they’ve created a level of confusion about American policy appearing to be driven by two different leaders at once.
Some of Trump’s supporters may have believed they were electing a pragmatic businessman who wouldn’t be restricted by obligations to either party or other powerful interest groups. But he is putting together a cabinet that looks almost exactly like the modern Republican Party: older, white, anti-government, and extremely conservative on virtually every issue. It could have been constructed by the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or one of the other corporate-funded institutes that have helped drag the G.O.P. so far to the right on issues ranging from taxation to environmental regulation to charter schools.
.. Many have wondered recently why conservative leaders such as Ryan haven’t been more critical of Trump’s conduct since the election, and, in particular, his barrage of controversial tweets, including one in which he suggested that millions of people voted illegally on November 8th. But the answer is clear enough. So far, Ryan and his colleagues have had every reason to believe that Trump will allow them to pass large parts of a conservative agenda that they have been putting forward for years but that they have never been able to persuade a majority of Americans to support. As long as Trump goes along with this agenda, orthodox Republicans have every reason to downplay his outbursts on social media, as Ryan did earlier this week,
.. My own theory is that Trump is being pragmatic, but not in a policy sense. He’s pragmatically promoting his own interests, which, at this stage, are best served by throwing some large bones to the Republican Party.
.. The deal doesn’t need to be explicit to be clear. The G.O.P. gets its legislative “revolution.” Trump gets to keep his businesses and further enrich himself.
Perhaps most important, demographic trends have produced slower growth in the working population. And the U.S. and other advanced economies are grappling with sluggish gains in productivity, for reasons that aren’t wholly clear.
Though Mr. Trump’s transition team said last week that the search had narrowed to four finalists, new candidates have emerged, including Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp., one transition adviser said.
.. He’s very fortunate to have interest among serious men and women who, all of whom need to understand that their first responsibility as secretary of state would be to implement and adhere to the president-elect’s America First foreign policy, if you will, his view of the world.”
.. So far he has chosen to largely freestyle his engagement with foreign leaders, rather than rely on the State Department’s guidance for such conversations.
.. Choosing a secretary of state with scant foreign policy background, such as Exxon’s Mr. Tillerson, could further unnerve government officials serving in an institution that functions on strict protocols.
.. As Exxon’s chief executive, he has spoken against sanctions on Russia, where the company in 2012 signed a $3.2 billion deal that Mr. Putin said could eventually reach $500 billion in investments.
.. Mr. Tillerson has some of the closest CEO ties to Mr. Putin and Russia, with his work there dating back to when Mr. Putin rose to power after Boris Yeltsin’s resignation. The 2012 deal gave Exxon access to prized arctic resources. Later that year, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship on the American businessman.