The exact shape of President-Elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE’s administration and cabinet is not yet fully formed or defined but of this there can be no doubt: Whatever its ultimate cast, it will be one of sharp right edges. It is not looking like the most rightward or conservative administration since Ronald Reagan, compared to his first term choices, this is an administration looking more conservative than Reagan’s.
Observing Donald Trump’s early and latest choices conjures up a paraphrase of the old line about Barry Goldwater after he gave his stem-winder at the Cow Palace in 1964: My god, he’s going to govern as Donald Trump!
Elaine Chao, Betsy DeVoss, Michael Flynn, Nikki Haley, Steven Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Tom Price, Wilbur Ross, Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE — this is a conservative public policy dream-team in the making, and at the most important of public policy positions and campaign commitments.
Throughout the campaign, the conservative “Never Trump” crowd spilt gallons of ink trying to explain how Donald Trump was no conservative and would not govern as one.
Of course, throughout the campaign, Democrats and the left were, and still are, horrified at how conservative Donald Trump is — an interesting disconnect that was one of the many ironies of the 2016 campaign. To Conservatism, Inc., Donald Trump was not conservative; to the left, he was worse than Reagan.
But now that the vote is in and his choices are being made, we achieved clarity: To the left, Donald Trump is a reproof; to the “Never Trump” conservatives, a rebuke.
The most important and instructive appointment and choice has not even been mentioned, but it came in July with the selection of Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceNearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Why is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Replace Kamala Harris with William Shatner to get kids excited about space exploration MORE, the nation’s most respected conservative governor, as running mate.
MORE STORIES FROM THE HILL:
Michael Dukakis was not right about much in his 1988 campaign, but when he said, the first presidential decision a candidate makes — that of his vice presidential choice — “tells all,” he was absolutely right.
And the “personnel as policy” decisions for the Trump presidency commenced in earnest with the choice of Pence. This was not Ronald Reagan bringing in moderate George H.W. Bush or George H.W. Bush bringing in the then-lesser known Dan Quayle — this was the pick of a well-respected, known, conservative former member of Congress and governor. Of little surprise, but great relief to conservatives, Mike Pence was put in charge of the transition.
Now look to three of the most important policy issues Donald Trump campaigned on: law and order, illegal immigration, and repeal of ObamaCare.
The sense that Donald Trump was serious about all of that is clear from his choices of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services.
Jeff Sessions is no William French Smith (Reagan’s first attorney general) or Richard Thornburgh (George H.W. Bush’s). Both of those were known moderate Republicans.
Sessions comes from the John Ashcroft mold, but, arguably, with more experience and even more conservative credentials on such issues as illegal immigration and color-blind civil rights commitments (the conservative case for civil rights being the case against using race as a criterion for benefits and privileges in employment and education — one might say the actual “original intent” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
And with a lifetime American Conservative Union (ACU) rating of 94.2 percent, it’s hard to be more conservative than that.
But not impossible. With a 96 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, Tom Price (a physician), has been a leader in trying to repeal ObamaCare and ran point in trying to defeat it on talk-radio and cable television during the debates of 2009-2010.
His selection is proof-positive “repeal and replace” was not an empty promise or mere campaign slogan, but, rather, a serious commitment to be run by a conservative singularly well-versed and able to lead the charge.
There was early rightward consternation over Betsy DeVoss as Education secretary, but that quickly dissipated as her commitment to choice and charters became more well-known. When the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, tweeted “Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Dept of Education,” all remaining doubts melted away.
President-elect Trump announced Betsy DeVos as his pick for Education Secretary today. Here is his statement: pic.twitter.com/ZhKImTVpGc— Transition 2017 (@transition2017) November 23, 2016
Weingarten is wrong about choice and charters being “anti-public ed,” but that is where the liberal/conservative debate lies on education policy.
Gen. Michael Flynn is as serious as they get and the co-author of a recent book with conservative go-to foreign policy hawk Michael Ledeen, a veteran of the Reagan administration and a favorite analyst of conservatives in the think-tank and op-ed communities.
Gov. Nikki Haley and Rep. Mike Pompeo are smart and accomplished conservatives, both being elected to their respective offices in 2010, backed by the Tea Party in the year of the “Tea Party election.”
As for Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, their commitment to Trump’s economic and trade policies is well-grounded and established and should broach little concern from conservatives.
Elaine Chao is a slightly more quiet conservative, but well-known and respected in her fields for years.
Elaine Chao is an outstanding choice to serve as the next Secretary of Transportation.— Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (@SpeakerRyan) November 29, 2016
My full statement ↓ pic.twitter.com/rITyxMFb9r
A veteran of the conservative think tanks from the Heritage Foundation to the Hudson Institute, she was a White House Fellow in the Reagan administration at a time when there were not that many women or minorities eager to stand up and be counted as Reaganites. And she made all the right enemies with the political labor unions in her tenure as George W. Bush’s Labor secretary.
It’s a little too easy and casual these days to look back at the Reagan years with nostalgia for true rightward conservative appointments, but the truth is, his first administration was not the era of Ed Meese at Justice or William Bennett at Education — the places known as “Fort Reagan.”
Indeed, in a December 1980 Washington Post article, veteran journalist and editor Lee Lescaze wrote of the incoming administration and early Reagan nominees:
“Together they are a mainstream Republican group, a Cabinet nucleus that will not alarm liberal GOP members although it may somewhat disappoint extreme conservatives who hope that a Reagan presidency will be strikingly different from previous Republican administrations.”
This cannot be said of Donald Trump’s first and early choices, all of who wed serious public policy experience to serious ideological commitment.
Indeed, with what is shaping up as the Trump presidency, Democrats learned early, as “Never Trump” conservatives are now beginning to, sometimes a conviction candidate actually does mean to do what he promises. And sometimes, as now, conservatives actually can be happy with their candidate’s choices.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.