Billionaire Wilbur Ross headed for Commerce post; women bring diversity to Trump's Cabinet

(From left) Mr Wilbur Ross, Mrs Nikki Haley and Mrs Betsy DeVos.
(From left) Mr Wilbur Ross, Mrs Nikki Haley and Mrs Betsy DeVos. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS
Mr Ross, seen here with the President-elect at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Sunday, worked closely on crafting Mr Trump's tax-reduction and infrastructure spending agenda.
Mr Ross, seen here with the President-elect at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Sunday, worked closely on crafting Mr Trump's tax-reduction and infrastructure spending agenda.PHOTO: REUTERS

But appointment of two Trump critics has supporters warning of distraction in govt

Billionaire Wilbur Ross, nicknamed the “king of bankruptcy’’ for buying distressed companies and turning them around, is a favourite for Commerce Secretary in the incoming US administration.  
  
Multiple reports quoting sources in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, say the 78-year-old who has a home in Florida close to Mr Trump’s personal estate where the President-elect is spending the Thanksgiving holiday, is top of the list for the job. 

Assessed by Forbes to be worth nearly US$3 billion (S$4.3 billion), Mr Ross would be tasked with making good on President-elect Donald Trump’s promise of more jobs for US workers. The billionaire worked closely on crafting Mr Trump’s tax-reduction and infrastructure spending agenda. 

Meanwhile, Mr Trump's choice of two women, Mrs Nikki Haley and Mrs Betsy DeVos, for his Cabinet was seen by some as an attempt to bring diversity and talent into his administration, balancing what critics have noted was one dominated by mostly "old white men".

Those two appointments, and the possible addition of African American Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, may signal that Mr Trump is open to taking critics on board, a move that could help heal internal party rifts that opened up during the divisive campaign.

Mr Trump has also reached out to another critic, Mr Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and former Republican nominee for president, as a potential secretary of state. But his efforts have not received an unalloyed welcome amid signs that Mr Romney is facing resistance from some key Trump supporters, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who warned that hiring disloyal people could cause a distraction.

Other candidates in the running include former New York mayor and staunch Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani.

Mrs Haley, 44, the daughter of Indian immigrants and governor of South Carolina since 2011, successfully worked to remove the confederate flag over the state capitol last year following the horrific racist murder of nine African-Americans in a church by a white supremacist. During the primaries, she backed Florida Senator Marco Rubio and denounced Mr Trump - who in turn called her "very, very weak on illegal immigration".

But, in announcing his decision to nominate her as ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Trump said she had a "track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation" and was "a proven deal-maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals".

Dr Satu Limaye, of the East West Centre in Washington, DC, told The Straits Times: "The choice of Governor Haley brings to a key international platform an immigrant American, a woman, a one-time critic... and a political moderate in the Republican Party. I can only interpret that this choice is meant to assuage international doubts about a Trump administration on all these issues."

 But critics have pointed out that Mrs Haley is a foreign policy novice, and could be challenged in dealing with Russia and other knotty issues.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Mr Trump himself, in his usual precedent-setting style, posted a video message on YouTube wishing Americans a happy  holiday and saying that while the bruising wounds opened during the campaign would take time to heal, it was time for the country to come together and rebuild trust.


Correction note: This story has been corrected from the print version, which had quoted a tweet purportedly from Wilbur Ross. The tweet was later found to have come from a hoax account.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe