A Confederacy of Dunces

We now know what an “anti-elitist” Administration looks like.

It isn’t simply Keystone Kop Cabinet-level appointees who know nothing about the agencies they lead: Betsy DeVos, who lacks any background or training in education, never attended public schools, and never sent her children to public schools; Rick Perry, who barely eked out an agriculture degree and cheerfully admits he had no idea what the Department of Energy did; Scott Pruitt, who scorns “elitist” scientists, denies climate change, and is methodically dismantling the EPA at a time when its expertise is most needed. Etc.

Trump’s roster of White House advisers and Cabinet officials has been called the least experienced in recent presidential history.

But Trump’s war on “elitists”–defined as people who know what they’re talking about–extends well into the bureaucracy. Some recent examples:

  • Sam Clovis, a former right-wing radio talk-show host and failed Senate candidate from Iowa, has been nominated to be the chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ProPublica reports that Clovis is a vocal climate change denier who has no formal training in science at all.
  • Appointments to the Department of Health and Human Services have been anti-evidence culture warriors. The Hill reports that “Trump has appointed some of the nation’s worst anti-women’s health extremists to top cabinet posts in the agency, including the designation of birth control skeptic Teresa Manning to lead the nation’s family planning program.” One of the newest HHS additions — Valerie Huber — is a vocal advocate for discredited and misleading abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
  • Of the 28 appointments to the Department of Energy analyzed by Pro Publica, only 10 had any relevant experience, and most of those had worked as lawyers, advocates or spokespeople for coal, oil or gas companies. (Then there are those appointees that Pro Publica calls “wild cards,” like Kyle Yunaska, a tax analyst at Georgetown University whose primary connection to the administration appears to be his status as the brother-in-law of Eric Trump.)

Media has focused more upon Trump’s paucity of nominations than the appalling nature of the nominations he has made; hundreds of positions remain vacant seven months into his term. Given the “quality” of his nominees, that may actually be a blessing.

The one area in which he has sent numerous nominees to be confirmed is the Judiciary, and those nominees are terrifying. Two examples:

  • John Kenneth Bush, Trump’s nominee for the Sixth Circuit, contributed regularly to Elephants in the Bluegrass, a political blog run by his wife, posting far-fetched parallels between Barack Obama and Monica Lewinsky and calling slavery and abortion two of America’s greatest tragedies. He consistently cited WorldNetDaily, an extremist publication known for peddling conspiracy theories and white nationalism, including the lie that Obama was not born in the United States.
  • Damien Schiff is Trump’s nominee for the US Court of Federal Claims. He has called Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute” in a post,  strongly disagreed with the Court’s decision ending punishment for sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas, and criticized a school district for teaching students that homosexual families and heterosexual families are equally moral.

When “elitism” is defined as expertise, and people who know what they are doing are for that reason disqualified, ideology and incompetence fill the void.

There’s a saying to the effect that the only foes that truly threaten America are the enemies at home: ignorance, superstition and incompetence.  Trump is the trifecta.


  1. And yet, the majority of the Republican Party continues to support Trump. There may be whispers behind the board room doors or the locker room at the country club, but publicly that well healed majority still stands with their guy. Down the road the blue collar supporters do what they do best, they simply lie to themselves, just as they have since Reagan won their hearts and minds with a new bigotry… hatred for their own government.

  2. I’ve often thought that Mike Pence is significantly involved in choosing people to fill posts in the administration.

  3. Why are we surprised that an incompetent steeped in deconstruction of the administrative state per Bannon should select incompetents or even those diametrically opposed to the mission of the agency they are selected to head? Figures. What to do in the absence of a cowardly Congress set to first obtain tax cuts for their libertarian zillionaires before offering any substantial opposition to the Trump agenda (whatever that may be)? Go to the judiciary and keep resisting the Mercers, Kochs and Spencers of this world and Trump in his otherworld.

  4. It is my personal opinion, beginning with Trump…especially with Trump, that these appointees are like most CEOs who are intelligent in the basic meaning of the word but with little if any knowledge of and are unable to relate to the basic foundation or structure of the business they are “leading”. In other words, they are figureheads who get the big money while others actually make decisions and do the work. Today; their admitted primary goal is to “deconstruct” this government and democracy.

    Consider Trump’s many bankruptcies and sudden ability to become a “self-made” billionaire; at the expense of small businesses who actually performed the work but were partially compensated (after court battles) or never compensated. I, on my Social Security and City retirement, would have a lot more money if I didn’t pay my bills; doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. He found others to make the decisions for him, leading to his “success” as a real estate mogul.

    Trump’s appointees are intelligent human beings placed in vital positions far beyond their ken. DeVos is one of the most dangerous because her position will in effect, determine leadership of much of our future. Consider Dr. Ben Carson, a world renown neurosurgeon appointed to oversee HUD while Health & Human Services is headed by “some of the nation’s worst anti-women’s health extremists to top cabinet posts in the agency”.

    Maintaining their lofts posts in the House and Senate are Ryan and McConnell who refuse to see the “human condition” of the majority of Americans they were elected to work for and protect. Neither has faced a hungry or cold day in their lives or had to wonder how to pay their rent or buy food. I believe John Boehner was beginning to see the reality of the economic division in this country and that is why he was ousted and replaced by Ryan.

    Just as I believe Trump, not encumbered by above average intelligence but with enough sense to listen to those who are, is merely repeating decisions reached by his appointees, mixed in with his unbalanced ramblings to confuse all issues.

    Back to W.C. Fields, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” Viewing Trump’s presidency from this stance, he is highly successful leading “A Confederacy of Dunces”.

  5. Sheila,

    Try to be fair. What do you expect from a TRIFECTA MINDSET: CRUSADES+CONFEDERACY+NAZI GERMANY.?

    Wow! Steve Bannon + Donald Trump, a team of creative genius. What’s next? Will it be a stage managed ARMAGGEDON for the U.S.? Although the odds are great, don’t let that deter you. I suggest it’s worth an investment of a few $$$ in Las Vegas.

  6. You have to wonder about a political party who has decided inexperience is their highest virtue when selecting candidates. “Why I don’t know a thing about how this here thing runs or what it’s supposed to accomplish, but I know I can stoke me ego, make people indentured servants to the rich again, and make my friends some money of you’ll let me run it awhile.” Seems to be the mantra of Presidents of Universities to Countries

  7. Meanwhile, while all these dunces try to rule the roost, including the biggest dunce of them all, the world is not waiting for us to sort these fools out of positions of responsibility and get our collective heads screwed on straight. Things are beginning to stack up on us all over the globe, especially ICBM deliverable 100KT thermonuclear warheads being cranked out with great glee by the North Koreans. They are working on having a big stack of them as fast as they can.

    Decisions, decisions, decisions!!

  8. This morning, our local newspaper reported on two things that are happening under the current administration. First, they are cutting in half the budget for stopping leaks from underground storage tanks. It is feared this will adversely impact our water supply. Second, they are eliminating the program that checks for bacteria at the beaches. Come on down and enjoy the beaches, but try to stay out of the water because there might be flesh-eating bacteria in it.

    In spite of these and other actions that will make life untenable, this deep red, radically conservative area still supports their guy.

  9. Hark back to Sheila’s 9/3/17/ post re: the “deep state” and consider thanking those Federal civil service employees who bravely soldier on despite the conflicting policy signals from their ‘so-called bosses’, the elected officials and the politically appointed officials. These “deep state” employees are the ones who keep things ‘running right on time’ while simultaneously walking a figurative tight rope that has no safety net.

  10. Peggy,

    Trump’s base doesn’t want democracy. Their #1 objective is white supremacy. And they are willing to risk suicide to that end. Actually, a few of them would commit suicide if their objective was lost.

    The only chance for change is to convince Trump’s base: “They are not risking suicide, they are committing suicide.” Anything less at this point in time is fruitless.

  11. I have long believed that Americas Democracy’s greatest enemy is from within, I have followed talk radio, Fox News, and several Altright blogs. Their drum beat 24×7 is hate the democrats, liberals, foreigners of all types, Mushy Christian religions along with all other religions.
    I have found whatever they are doing to undermine our nation is exactly what they are accusing all of those other groups of doing.
    It’s a very productive strategy and difficult to fight against. It’s especially useful in rural America to shape options and their ideas of the nation and world.

  12. Clearly, the drill here was to dissemble everything the Obama administration had tried to build, to dismantle public services and environmental protections and regulations on business. This follows the Supply-side economics agenda of the late and terrible Milton Friedman. The destruction of the “administrative state” was Steve Bannon’s dream and he fed his memes to Trump who hired the most egregious and horrible people in America to perform those hideous tasks.

    It will take decades to repair the damage done to our society from this goon squad.

  13. Vernon,

    “Clearly, the drill here was to disassemble everything the Obama administration had tried to build, to dismantle public services and environmental protections and regulations on business.”

    The TEA PARTY was in the process of being assembled before Obama was even elected

  14. Copied and pasted from Wikipedia:
    “The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to “No taxation without representation”, that is, be taxed only by their own elected representatives and not by a British parliament in which they were not represented.”

    The creation, actions and demands by the 21st Century “Tea Party” has always appeared to me on the same level of the Pence caliber of “Christians” who have usurped the name but are not in any way related to the original foundation of the movement or the meaning. Republicans are and have always had “representation” regarding taxes and all else connected to our government; they just didn’t and don’t agree with the attempt to return to their previous higher/fair tax percentage as set by George W. on the date George W. set to end their lower rate. I have said before and will say again; President Obama’s biggest mistake – and it was and is a huge one – was NOT to allow the 1%’s lower tax rate to end on January 1, 2010, as set by George W. The repercussions still resound within the Republican party which is in total control of all three branches of government.

    The ruling party today, “A Confederacy of Dunces”, have not yet publicly made the connection to George W., or if they do, they will still place the blame with the Obama administration and it will continue to be believed by Trump supporters due to the color of President Obama’s skin.

  15. Vernon and Marv, what is most fearsome is that Trump appears to be intent on taking the opposite course Obama took on Korea as well. Obama took the diplomatic course in an effort to avoid war. Trump…. well, if Obama wanted peace, why do we think that Trump does not want war? He has certainly made all the noise of a war monger.

  16. Barak Obama was just too good for America in 2008. He was too premature. That was his biggest problem.

    It looks like we’re all getting on the same page. Trump/Pence/Bannon better hold off on their victory celebration at least for awhile. Maybe D.J. Trump will turn out to be “Santa Claus” after all is said and done.

  17. What is truly scary is nearly half the country thinks these people are qualified and appropriate appointments.

    I don’t know Clovis, but he is from my general area and is a toady.

  18. “Come to think of it, perhaps “moderate” simply means “adult.””, as per the final sentence from Sheila’s 9/1/17 blog post.

    Taking the ‘adult’ viewpoint re: political appointees, especially the current Trump political appointee for the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos…as Sheila noted, DeVos has no professional university training in Public School Education, none whatsoever. DeVos has an earned Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics from a private college and nothing beyond that. She never attended a public school, either for K-12 or for post-secondary/college/university training. Her children have attended private schools. Hence as an adult, I agree DeVos is a poor choice for the Secretary of the US Dept of Education.

    On the other hand and taking an adult viewpoint, I agree that Arne Duncan was a poor choice for the Secretary of the US Dept of Education, a choice made by former President Obama. Like DeVos, Arne Duncan had absolutely no professional college/university training in public school education. Duncan’s professional college education ended with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from a private university, and nothing beyond that. Like DeVos, Arne Duncan is the product of a K-12 private school education at the University of Chicago Lab School where the current tuition for students in grades 9-12 is $33,558 per year.

    Arne Duncan’s children attended and now attend the private and pricey University of Chicago Lab School. President Obama’s daughters attended the same private and pricey University of Chicago Lab School years before he became President and moved to Washington, DC. https://www.ucls.uchicago.edu/admissions/tuition

    Let’s speak as adults, there’s not a White House administration that does not contain more than a few ‘dunces’, those folks who are politically appointed but have absolutely no documented professional expertise for their appointments.

    By the way, Arne Duncan left his position as the Secretary of Education following a massive revolt by the “deep state” government employees, the public school teachers of the US and the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Yet another ‘kudos’ to the “deep state” government employees.

  19. In a recent article about North Korea, Vladimir Putin had this to say:

    “It’s ridiculous to put us on the same (sanctions) list as North Korea and then ask for our help in imposing sanctions on North Korea,” said Putin.

    “This is being done by people who mix up Australia with Austria,” he added.

    We have been the laughing stock of the world for quite some time. Sadly, these “dunces” have access to the nuclear codes and direct our military.

    And when you look for the opposition party, you can’t find one because they serve the East Coast Elite – Wall Street hedge fund managers.

  20. Todd Smekens,

    I suspect I’m not the only person of a certain age who has not considered their ‘being stuck in the middle’.

    Clowns to the left of me,
    Jokers to the right, here I am,
    Stuck in the middle with you.

  21. Trump is like the the Picture of Dorian Gray. The Trumpet looks like someone who has been embalmed while he is still alive. The puffy face, orange complexion and hair comb over. His jut jawed posturing resembles Mussolini.

    It is when he opens his mouth or tweets he reveals the inner self of Trump (The True Picture). He is a man devoid of any human feeling for others. People are assembled around him as shields, when their shelf life expires the shields (people) will be kicked out. Like every dictator absolute loyalty is demanded not to the state, but to the person of Trump.

    Kim Jong-un of North Korea must be a particular slap in Trump’s face, as Kim continues to taunt Trump.

  22. This may be viewed as a small thing, but I would prefer that Trump’s attacks on “elitists” be referred to as attacks on “elites”. Elitists are people who look down their nose at others. Elites, in my opinion, are the people Sheila is referring to–those whose achievements and competence make them the best. You can be an elitist know-nothing (like many of his appointees, including the latest one appointed to run NASA ), but anyone who is elite must know much and be able to practice it.

  23. BSH: You’re not, we are, and we do! We’re so stuck in the middle! Folks would do well to heed Marvin. Sit up, take notice, and get involved. This is going on right around each of us.

  24. I believe there are “Dreamers” that are smarter and have a better command of the roles in Government than the folks that #45 has selected. What a despicable human 45 is.

  25. Thanks for the great post, Sheila. It makes me think of a quip I saw online: I’ve seen smarter
    cabinets at Ikea.

  26. Todd; now Putin will NEVER admit he helped elect Trump, even the Russians are embarrassed by his mentally unbalanced statements.

  27. And, Todd, did you see the news film of Trump “helping” load a pickup truck with supplies for the flood areas? He handed a bag of cement through the window to the truck driver who, it being the president of the United States of American, simply accepted the bag. Then Trump walked toward the window carrying a big box; the driver leaned out the window and kept pointing to the bed of the truck so Trump would know how to help load a pickup truck with supplies for flood victims. Even the president can learn something new every day…if he simply pays attention.

  28. Lest we forget. DACA was created by executive order which violated the Constitution. “If you want to keep your doctor you can” was considered by many to be the lie of the decade. President Obama began his political career in the living room of Bill Ayers, a former domestic terrorist who tried to kill americans and who was on the FBI ten most wanted list. President Obama was a freshman senator who had no business experience, no military experience, no foreign policy experience, no executive experience OF ANY KIND, and a former state senator who made history with his votes of “present”. We are lucky we have survived and Trump, with all his faults, comes better prepared as a leader and executive than any President in the last several decades. George HW Bush was probably the best with former VP, former head of the CIA, former congressman, former ambassador to China, former ambassador to the UN and former military pilot. SUGGESTION….give these SELF MADE BILLIONAIRES,…at least as much time as you give the political hacks we usually get.

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