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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Swamp Creatures

The Trump Cabinet
Since Donald Trump's election a little over a month ago right-thinking (or left-thinking, I should say) have been going through the stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and maybe some have reached acceptance, but I won't until he is actually inaugurated.

I have also, while we wait to be annexed by Russia, viewed with a horrible fascination his selection of a cabinet. The meme that emerged from this was his desire to "drain the swamp," that is remove the trappings of politics as usual and find people who would, I don't know, be free of corruption and heal the sick and feed the hungry. This meme, as memes do, turned itself on its head, as Trump has mostly filled his cabinet with oligarchs and generals, which is probably looks a lot like Russia. The most common joke, which is more painful than funny, is that the swamp was drained and what was left at the bottom is now the Cabinet.

Of course they all have to be confirmed, but with a 52-48 edge for Republicans in the Senate, the best that can happen is the Democrats make major stinks at the worst nominees' hearing (a few of them are unobjectionable, relatively speaking). This will annoy Trump and make his finger hurt from tweeting, and for the worst choices there could be filibusters that will tie him up and make his tiny brain explode.

So here's the list, though of the Cabinet-level positions, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs have not been chosen. Presumably Agriculture will go to someone from Monsanto, or some company that makes weed killer. Veterans organizations have objected to the names floated for the VA, including famous dingbat Sarah Palin, who is neither a veteran or much of an administrator.

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson. After bandying about such strange names as Rudy Giuliani and David Petraeus, who would have to be pardoned to take the job, Trump went with Exxon CEO Tillerson. Tillerson would presumably be asked to divest himself of any Exxon stock, but these guys seem to think rules don't pertain to them. He is also very cozy with Vladimir Putin, and was probably suggested by Putin himself in one of Trump's unauthorized late-night calls to the Russian leader and tickle buddy.

Secretary of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin. Another scary business guy, Mnuchin is now a hedge-fund manager, which, to paraphrase Woody Allen, is like a notch below child molester, and worked at Goldman Sachs, one of the banks that nearly ruined our economy. Trump spent a lot of hot air on how Hillary Clinton spoke at Goldman Sachs, and now he has appointed two people who used to work there. One Trump voter was dismayed that her new president appointed the man who foreclosed on her house.

Secretary of Defense: James Mattis. Philosophically, this is not a bad choice. Mattis was a Marine Corps General who was in charge of military operations in the Middle East, appointed by Obama. What I can't get around, and haven't seen much discussion of, is that according to the law, he is not eligible. Under Title 10, U.S. Code Section 113: "There is a Secretary of Defense, who is the head of the Department of Defense, appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force." Mattis retired in 2013, and mathematicians will tell us that that is not seven years.

Attorney General: Jefferson Session. The elfin Alabama senator is one of the worst picks Trump has made. Sessions was denied a spot in the federal judiciary twenty years ago for racist remarks, which will surely be brought up again. He also has a special thing against people who smoke pot. But more importantly, he is against almost all strides made for rights of the individual made in recent years, such as same-sex marriage and making a road to citizenship for undocumented workers. His confirmation hearings may be the most fiery, although there is a thing called Senate privilege that may have some laying off of him.

Secretary of Interior: Ryan Zinke. A congressman from Montana, he seems to have been selected because he sat on the Committee for Natural Resources. He was only elected to Congress in 2014. Although he only has a ranking of 3 (out of 100) from the League of Conservation Voters, he does seem to believe in global warming, for now, and does not favor transferring federal land to state control. It seems like Interior Secretary always goes to someone from the West.

Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross. A billionaire, even richer than Trump, Ross' greatest claim to this job seems to be that he donated to Trump. Strolling around his Wikipedia page finds that he started the International Coal Group, and did so without workers having unions, health care or pensions. I guess he's not a compassionate conservative.

Secretary of Labor: Andrew Puzder. One of the "fox guarding the hen house" picks, Puzder is the CEO of CKE restaurants, that include Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. He is fiercely anti-worker, against minimum wage raises, overtime pay, and the Affordable Care Act. Along with education, of which I will speak of shortly, the labor movement in the U.S. is one of the areas most likely to experience a four-year nightmare while Trump is in office.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price. Yikes. Price, a congressman from Georgia, is a doctor, but is one of those cabinet picks who is being put in charge of an agency he would really like to dismantle. He is against abortion, against gun control (which seems counter to promoting "health") and is against the Affordable Care Act. I think if he had his way more poor people would simply die.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson: Like Interior getting Westerners, HUD usually gets a minority, and Trump has tapped Carson, the house Negro of the Republican Party. Carson initially didn't want a Cabinet post, since he has no government experience (which didn't stop him from running for President). But instead of getting HHS (he is a doctor) he got HUD, presumably because he lived in public housing, which is like saying I could be Secretary of Transportation because I once flew in a plane. Carson is another fox in the hen house, since he is against the very kind of housing he grew up in, against the Fair Housing Act, and a Jesus freak. He famously thinks that the pyramids were built to store grain.

Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao. She was once the Secretary of Labor, and as these things go she will probably be confirmed easily, but will she do anything about the crumbling infrastructure of this country? Oh, who is she married to? Why, it's Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, and now under a microscope for avoiding the Russian hacking issue. A step removed from nepotism.

Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry. Former governor of Texas and Dancing With the Stars contestant, Perry ran for president wanting to eliminate this department, though he couldn't remember the name of it. There seems to be a certain cosmic sense to this--after Perry was left a slack-jawed yokel on a debate stage because he couldn't remember the Energy Department, he will now run it. Probably into the ground. Don't be concerned: it just deals with nuclear materials.

Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos. This pick is the worst, and angers me the most as a teacher. DeVos has absolutely no qualifications for this position, other than donating nine million dollars to Trump's campaign. She has absolutely no connection to public schools--never went to one, never sent her children to them. She is an advocate for charter schools and private school vouchers, especially to religious schools. If she had her way, public education would be a smoldering ruin, and all the advances made for equality in educating would be turned back 50 years (charter and private schools do not have to provide an equal education for all). If that weren't enough, the family fortune comes from Amway, and her brother is the head of Blackwater, two of the most odious companies on Earth.

Secretary of Homeland Security: John F. Kelly. Another retired Marine Corps general, I don't have any particular disgust with this pick, as the other names floated, Sheriffs Joe Arpaio of Arizona and David Clarke, of Milwaukee, were vile. Kelly seems to have been picked to keep those Mexicans out. Maybe he'll supervise the building of the wall.

There are other cabinet-level positions that require Senate confirmation. One is Ambassador to the U.N. which went to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. She has no foreign policy experience, but maybe Trump figured an Asian-Indian would fit in over there. I don't think she can do any damage. Who can do damage is Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, tapped to be head of the Environment Protection Agency. This is a guy who has actually sued the EPA many times, and comes from a state where they frack so much the earthquake rate has gone through the roof. He may actually render this agency completely powerless. Like Sessions and DeVos, one of the worst Trump picks.

Other Trump picks, like Darth Vader admirer and casual racist Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn, a general out of Dr. Strangelove, are advisers and do not require Senate confirmation. We're stuck with them, until they are indicted for something, and maybe even then.

God help us all.

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