In days gone by in a previous Republican administration, that of Dwight Eisenhower, the cabinet was referred to as “nine millionaires and a plumber.” Donald Trump evidently does not know a plumber, so in 2017 we will instead have four or five billionaires and a bunch of bankers.
It has been a rather amazing spectacle to watch “Cabinet Apprentice” unfold. In the midst of what turned to actual appointments, there were all of those embarrassing sideshows. It was sad to see a decent fellow like Mitt Romney groveling in public. He probably liked the frogs’ legs that Trump ordered for him, but the schmoozing that Romney did was unbecoming, since it was so obvious that he was being played. Trump guru Roger Stone finally unmasked the charade, admitting that the whole Romney-for-Secretary-of-State show was simply intended to torture poor Mitt.
There were others of course. Chris Christie, pretty much for the entire period between February and November, made a fool of himself in public, only to be shown to the door a few days after the election. His public career will soon be over.
Rudy Guiliani claims to have been offered two cabinet position but turned them down after he got played and shot down for Secretary of State. Guiliani’s bizarre behavior during the campaign earned him nothing.
Then, of course, in the daily parade at Trump Tower, we saw folks who were not really in the running for an appointment, but thought that they were given a hearing before the throne. Think Al Gore, whose visit three days later was followed by Trump’s EPA appointment of a climate change denier who never met an oil well that he didn’t love. What did Ray Lewis and Kayne West have to offer the new administration?
There remain a handful of major positions yet to fill (can’t they find anything for Corey Lewandowski?), but it is clear that this crew is coming in for action, ready to set the country and the world straight about how things need to be. A recent Washington Post article seemed to have it nailed: most of them are disciples of Ayn Rand and they see the world simply. There are makers and moochers, and most of us, in the eyes of this cabinet-to-be, are in the moocher class.
So we will have a cabinet that will include:
- A Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, BFF of Vladimir Putin and CEO of Exxon Mobil. It becomes clearer by the day that Trump is intent on cozying up with Putin. Putin, an old KGB agent, is a lot smarter than Trump and has been playing him like a drum. Putin seems intent on re-asserting a Russian role in the world that it held in the heyday of the Soviet Union. One of Trump’s sons admitted several years ago that the family had a large financial interest in Russia. A recent poll indicated that a majority of Republicans in the country now like Russia. Oh my! Consider for a moment how the Republicans would be reacting if their party had been hacked by the Russians or if a President Hillary Clinton was making nice with Putin. Traitor! Impeachment! Lock her up!
- A National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who was disciplined while serving in the Army for the unauthorized release of classified information. He attacked Clinton throughout the campaign for such things and led the “lock her up” chants at the Republican National Convention in July.
- An Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, with a racist background.
- An Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, who could not even remember the name of that department which he proposed abolishing when he was a presidential candidate in the 2012 cycle. Perry will henceforth be known as the Secretary of Oops.
- A Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, whose spokesman said in November that Carson was not qualified to accept a cabinet position because he has no government experience and has never run a federal agency.
- An Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, who loves oil wells and hates environmental regulations.
- An Education Secretary, Betty DeVos, whose obsession with remaking an education system to her liking basically destroyed public education in the State of Michigan.
- A Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, who prides himself on taking advantage of bankrupt companies. He also owned the Sago Coal Mine in West Virginia, where twelve miners died in 2005.
- A Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, whose specialty is selling mega burgers that do wonders for a person’s cholesterol. Pudzer opposes increases in the minimum wage and overtime benefits for workers making more than $23,000 per year.
- A Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, who is one of the founders of the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives. He favored shutting down the government rather than raising the debt limit. The debt limit issue reappears in mid-2017.
It is becoming clearer by the day that the populist BS that Trump spouted for months on end was just a joke on the moocher class. His supporters tolerated all sorts of indignities such as racism, encouragement to violence, sexual assault, and dishonoring veterans, because, as one commentator noted, they took Trump seriously but not literally.
He continues to play the “moochers.” He saved 1,100 jobs at Carrier – no wait, that might only be 730 of the original 2,000 that might have been going to Mexico. Keep in mind, he didn’t add a single job, just claims to have saved some, many of which Carrier hopes to automate. Fifteen million jobs were added during Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
Even Sarah Palin (!) criticized what Trump was doing with Carrier as “crony capitalism.” Or was she just upset for being passed over for a job.
Now and for a long time to come, we will hold our collective breaths, hoping that fearless leader isn’t selling us down the river for the sake of kissing Vladimir Putin’s backside.
We can hope that there will be sufficient courage among congressional Republicans to stand up to Trump whenever that is necessary, but don’t count on it. They didn’t challenge him when he was just a candidate, so why would they start standing up to him now?
The really scary thing is that, in about a month, it will not just be Trump’s pandering and slandering rhetoric that we will contend with. Soon he will control the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Administration, and the Defense Department, and he will get to appoint a new Internal Revenue Service Commissioner in 2018. Think about that. A man with the temperament of a spoiled five-year-old will have the power to harass, humiliate, and threaten anyone he chooses, with the entire power of the federal administration at his disposal. Trump could make Nixon look like a saint.
It seems pretty clear that Trump and his family are not going to worry too much about how the Trump business empire overlaps with control of the federal government. Short of divestiture of his assets in the next month, it seems pretty clear that Trump will be violating the contract with the federal government for the operation of the Trump hotel in DC by maintaining ownership of the business. The moment that a foreign government’s cash flows to Trump enterprises in the United States or anywhere in the world where there is something he still owns, Article I Section 9 of the Constitution, the emolument clause, comes into play. Will all those strict constructionists in Congress act, or will they choose to selectively ignore the Constitution?
Trump and his Breitbart buddies have done a pretty effective job of cutting the free press down to size. TV networks have had to hire security to protect their reporters. Trumpkin spokespersons have informed us that there is no such thing as facts and that in any case, facts don’t matter. The Russian word “Pravda,” which old history buffs might remember, means “truth.” But evidently it means a malleable truth. Another Russian word, “istina,” also means truth, but real unchallengeable truth. Perhaps Trump and Tillerson will guide us on which version of Russian “truth” interests them.
The late, great Bills radio announcer Van Miller used to tell us, when things got very interesting and the tension level increased during a football game, to “fasten your seat belts.” It applies to the whole country now. Fasten your seat belts.