Cal Thomas: Trump needs shadow cabinet

Published 11:10 pm Saturday, May 7, 2016

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has broken just about every political rule and precedent this election cycle, so what difference would it make if he broke one more?

If Trump wants to gain credibility with voters who are either wary of or vehemently opposed to him becoming president, he should borrow from the British system and name a shadow cabinet.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a British shadow cabinet is made up of a group of senior people from the opposition party who create an alternative cabinet to that of the government. The role of shadow ministers is to criticize government ministers. If their party wins a majority in a future election, most are frequently appointed to cabinet positions.

If Trump were to adopt such a strategy now, it would present him with several opportunities. First, each of his appointees, presumably, would be people with the knowledge and experience Trump lacks. Second, each of his shadow cabinet members could focus on what they consider the failures of a particular government agency or program and offer alternatives to make it better. Third, some of Trump’s shadow cabinet could recommend doing away with cabinet agencies and programs by making the case that they cost too much and fail to live up to their purpose.

In Britain, the shadow cabinet is presided over by the opposition leader. In Trump’s shadow cabinet, his choice for vice president, who should be named before the convention to allow the public time to become comfortable with his choice, might be the one to keep his people focused on their goal. Should Trump win, all of the shadow cabinet members could be nominated to real cabinet positions.

How would this work? The shadow minister for education could make the case for the dissolution of the unnecessary Department of Education, which was Jimmy Carter’s promise to the teachers unions in 1976 in order to gain their endorsement. DOE educates no one and is another one of those Washington bureaucracies that thinks it knows better than local school districts and parents how best to educate. The shadow minister might also make the case for school choice, focusing on poor and minority children trapped in failing government schools whose liberation would offer them a chance to succeed.

The shadow minister for defense would look at wasteful spending by the military and by members of Congress who like to spend money on defense projects in their states and districts for things the military doesn’t want or need. Stories of overpriced planes and ships and long delays are legion. The F-35 fighter jet is just one of many bad examples. The airplane has been way behind schedule in development and cost overruns have added to the price, now around $1 trillion. A withering 2015 report by the National Security Network, a D.C.-based think tank, according to, maintains that “The F-35 fighter jet will find itself outmaneuvered, outgunned, out of range, and visible to enemy sensors.”

Trump should also promise a flat or fair tax, elimination of the Internal Revenue Service and a top-to-bottom audit of the federal government. Programs that do not perform well and within budget should either be eliminated or turned over to the private sector. This idea can be sold to voters based not only on their antipathy to Washington, which Trump’s campaign has helped channel, but also for the sake of coming generations who will be saddled with the bill. Are we so selfish that we want ours now without concern for the financial burden we are placing on our grandchildren and their kids?

A shadow cabinet might work and it would be different. Like Trump.

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