- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2016

What we used to call “the press,” before the newspapers aspired to be part of the professional class with its inflated titles and airs, is never happy. Nor should it be. The press is a demanding and cranky lot by definition, and now they’re something called “the media.” Marshall McLuhan, who invented the concept if not the word, must never be forgiven.

This invited television, which is an entertainment medium, to share a definition with newspapers, and soon newspapermen (including women) wanted to be seen as well as heard, and there went the neighborhood. Megyn Kelly is Hollywood gorgeous, but she wouldn’t be happy working on a newspaper where nobody could see her.

The press is in a pout just now because Donald Trump is not supplying a new Cabinet officer on demand. He’s taking his time choosing his team, and this is reported as if a national tragedy. Time magazine calls the Trump transition “chaotic,” and The New York Times asserts that the Donald’s team is plagued by “discord” and stalled in “disarray.” A reporter at Politico, the political daily, says the transition team is having “a knife fight,” which demonstrates mostly that the reporter has never been to a knife fight, and is probably covering his first transition.

“The president-elect will be announcing specific Cabinet positions,” says Jason Miller, a spokesman for the transition, “as well as key position staff, when those decisions are made. The focus of the administration is putting together the best team. It is not an arbitrary timetable. It’s about getting it right.”

The wiseheads in the Trump camp understand that the press/media will never think he’s “getting it right.” The notabilities of press and the twinkles of the tube should be pleased with a slow pace that spreads their misery. A wise man awaiting the hangman never complains if he can’t remember where he put the rope.

But the pace this time is not unusually slow, and it’s faster than in many incoming administrations. George W. Bush, bedeviled by all those hanging chads, did not name his first Cabinet officer until early December. President Obama was eager to get moving to deal with the financial crisis in 2008, but nevertheless did not make his first Cabinet appointment, the Treasury secretary, until Nov. 24. The press was so busy swooning it never noticed. Donald Trump beat that date with four such appointments.

Mr. Obama did not reveal his next appointments, secretary of State, attorney general and director of homeland security until Dec. 1. By that time, Richard Nixon had named his entire Cabinet, and see where that got us.

The chattering about discord, disarray and knife fights is neither unprecedented nor unexpected. Chattering is what magpies do, and December announcements are the rule not the exception. The smarter magpies might usefully aim their hysteria elsewhere.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser in the early Obama administration, says he has “lots of reasons” to be concerned about a Trump administration but the pace of announcements isn’t one of them. “We hadn’t made any major announcements at this point in 2008,” he says, “and I don’t remember being criticized for it.”

But criticizing is what Washington does well, and sometimes it’s all that Washington does well. Criticisms are the fleas that come with the dog. Changing governments is a big job, and nowhere as big as in the United States. Ronald Reagan’s transition was marked by fits and starts. Bill Clinton’s path was not strewn with rose petals (though he was always on the scout for rosebuds), and John F. Kennedy’s transition to Camelot was difficult, particularly after he appointed his brother Robert as the U.S. attorney general.

The pace of appointments may be giving the Donald’s critics a headache now, and the headache will become a bellyache when all appointments are made, and the Democrats have chosen the subject of the execution. That might be Jeff Sessions, the attorney general-nominee. He’s white and a Southerner, and the hangman only needs to find the third strike.

The transition to president of the United States is never easy because it’s unique. There’s nothing remotely like the presidency; nothing can prepare man or woman for it. Harry Truman said on assuming the office in the final days of World War II that he felt like “the sun, the moon and the stars fell on me.”

He never expected the star shower, and apparently never did Donald Trump. Unlike some other presidents, he wouldn’t talk about a transition during the campaign. “I don’t want to talk about this,” he told his inner circle. “I don’t want to jinx this.”

With the jinx defeated, he can get on with choosing his side. Life will go on. Our friends on the left will survive, too.

Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.

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