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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How one political outsider picked a cabinet

Trump’s efforts to fill the top jobs in his incoming administration bring to mind those of Dwight Eisenhower, who was the last person elected president without having earlier served in elective office.

The Ike cabinet was wealthy, too
Eisenhower, a moderately conservative Republican elected in November 1952, came to the White House from a career spent almost entirely in the military. His brief stint as president of Columbia University from 1948-50 was the one break with that pattern.

Like Donald Trump, Ike and many of his top aides had no previous experience in public office. Also like Trump, Eisenhower tended to be impressed by people who had risen to the top in realms other than politics. As a result, the senior ranks of the Eisenhower administration were filled with people who had achieved distinction in such fields as the military, business, law and education. Almost all of them were quite affluent.

Liberal Democrats responded by dismissing the Eisenhower cabinet as “eight millionaires and a plumber.” “A plumber” was a reference to the new labor secretary, Martin Durkin, who had previously headed the Plumber’s Union.

That put-down didn’t faze Eisenhower. He felt government would be well served by successful men, who tend to be rich. If the leaders of successful businesses were excluded from consideration, he wrote in his diary, the result would be an inability “to get anybody to take jobs in Washington except business failures, political hacks and New Deal lawyers.”


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