For all of the obsessive attention being paid to Donald Trump's prospective cabinet — attention from which the president-elect is not exactly shying away — it's worth pointing out that he's not exactly being pokey about it.
David Axelrod, who was close to the transition process for Barack Obama in 2008, pointed out on Twitter that things that year weren't any faster.
And he's right. In 2008, Election Day was four days earlier, but by Nov. 17 Obama had made no official announcements about his prospective Cabinet.
In fact, going back to 1980, only two of the 70 eventual Cabinet announcements for the five newly elected presidents had been made by Nov. 17 of the year before the inauguration.
On average, the Cabinets for the five new presidents were completed by the new year. Obama was actually the quickest to do this, getting everyone named by 32 days before inauguration. (These calculations skip over appointees who ended up needing to be replaced. It's the first pick for each president for each position.) George H.W. Bush pushed it out the longest, not naming his last Cabinet member until a bit over a week before he was sworn in.
With the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (a position created by George W. Bush), the positions for which nominations have been made most quickly on average are the heads of the Treasury, Justice and Commerce departments. The slowest are Interior, Energy and Transportation.
Most nominations come during December, with Dec. 25 being a target date for several recent presidents. George W. Bush didn't hit that mark — but, then, he didn't become president-elect until Dec. 12, 2000.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway pointed that out Thursday morning, when asked about the time frame for picks. “In 2000, the country went to Thanksgiving without knowing who the president was,” Conway said. “So we didn't know who the president was until about December 12 of 2000. So we feel way ahead of schedule and never in a rush to do the wrong thing.”
True. But, then, Obama didn't make his first pick until Nov. 21 and his second until well after Thanksgiving, either. Ronald Reagan announced his in big groups, six on Dec. 11 and four on Dec. 22. Plenty of time left.
Whether the process of picking is going smoothly, however, is an entirely different story.