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Donald Trump’s pro-business, Christie-free cabinet comforts conservatives

By Paul Mulshine | The Star Ledger
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on December 11, 2016 at 6:28 AM, updated December 11, 2016 at 9:45 AM

A lot of conservatives were worried that as president Donald Trump would abandon the right-wing positions he espoused in the campaign.

Trump has put them at ease by doing two things.

He put a lot of conservatives in key positions.

Better yet, he didn’t include any New Jerseyans – especially New Jerseyans named Christie.

Gov. Chris Christie was passed over for a cabinet post. By week’s end it was reported that he won’t even get the fig leaf of the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

Meanwhile Trump has been assembling a cabinet that is as far to the right as any in recent history.

“This is the most conservative cabinet I’ve ever seen,” said Phil Kerpen of American Commitment, a Washington-based free-market advocacy group. “He’s not falling for the crutch of ‘We need the same old people because they’re the ones who know how to do it.’ So far they’re all ideological conservatives.”

If Christie had been retained as head of the transition, Kerpen said, we could have expected “the usual suspects” for the cabinet, the same sort of moderate Republicans who opposed Trump in the primaries.

We certainly wouldn’t have seen people like Trump’s most controversial pick. That was Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

The publisher of Climate Depot – a website that is either “realist” or “denialist” depending on your politics – pronounced it “refreshing that a Republican President is not throwing the EPA over to the green activists and the media by appointing a weak administrator. Christine Todd Whitman he is not.”

No, he’s not. Pruitt is a hard-nosed advocate of fossil fuels who rejects the idea they must be phased out in the name of climate change.

The other governor named Christie was clueless on climate change when she was named EPA administrator by George W. Bush.

In her first big interview with the New York Times back in 2001, Christie Whitman famously confused the issue of carbon dioxide and climate change with the issue of chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone layer.

And that was the high point of her tenure, during which she tried to steer Bush toward the same sort of climate-change activism that Trump is now so firmly rejecting.

As for the other governor named Christie, it’s now clear why he was ousted from his position as head of the Trump transition.

Though Christie has a talent for talking tough, he’s something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing when it comes to right-wing politics. Like Whitman, he’s surrounded himself with moderates and kept conservatives at arm’s length.