This, one supposes, is what passes for refreshing honesty in the age of Trump. Some appointments, such as the disgraces of putting Scott Pruitt at the EPA or Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, are just the typical, if distasteful, business of rewarding favored supporters. Politics, however, cannot explain the clueless Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development, the attempts to stash Ronny Jackson at Veterans Affairs and Matthew Whitaker at the Justice Department, the offloading of immigration policy to the likes of Stephen Miller, the duumvirate of Jared and Ivanka, or the emergence of Mick Mulvaney as the Acting Everything.
Nor can politics explain the nomination of people like Moore and Cain to the Fed.
Read: Why Trump is serious about Herman Cain
Rather, we are now experiencing the kind of politicization of senior positions normally only seen in authoritarian states, where appointments are kept within tight circles of people whose commitment (or family connection) to the leader is more important than experience or knowledge. Trump’s appointments are more and more obvious attempts to capture the machinery of government not for partisan interest, conservative ideas, or even the passing interest of some beloved donors, but purely for the sake of Donald J. Trump.
Cain and Moore are not unintelligent or unskilled men, but their nominations are straightforward examples of nominees whose primary qualification is their public obeisance to Trump’s personal priorities. Trump does not like the Federal Reserve’s ability to set interest rates without his permission and in ways that do not serve his needs, and he intends to put a stop to it. Cain and Moore will do what Trump tells them to do, even if it means undermining the independence of the Fed. This makes them, in the president’s eyes, qualified.
Cain has his defenders, who point to his brief stint as governor of the Kansas City regional Federal Reserve Bank as qualification for a more important appointment. This completely ignores Cain’s record as a presidential candidate, a foray into national politics that was a cavalcade of crackpot ideas—including a return to the gold standard—and ended with a hasty exit in the face of allegations of sexual impropriety.
Cain, however, seems a plausible choice compared with Moore, whose qualifications include a master’s degree in economics, some columns he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, and a willingness to defend Trump under almost any circumstances as long as it involves tax cuts.
Read: In Trump’s world, reality is negotiable
An interesting inversion is also happening here in the way some conservatives support Trump’s nominees even if they otherwise do not happen to like Trump. Rather than defend the president’s pick as the best-qualified candidate for a job, they more often challenge critics to explain why the nominee should be rejected. This makes no sense; the right answer to a nomination should be “Why?” rather than “Why not?” And yet, the former George W. Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey, for example, defended Moore’s lack of a doctoral degree in economics by taking the high ground of noting that Paul Volcker didn’t have one either, while arguing that Cain and Moore should be appointed not because they are highly qualified, but because the Fed needs “diversity of thought, not credentialism.”