The Best Worst

Note: This is tomorrow’s blog. Accidentally posted early.

When I was growing up, there was a widespread assumption that you could judge people by the friends they chose. Did Johnny run around with a bad crowd? Was Susie attracted to “bad boys”? In political life, we had a similar shorthand: did the Mayor or Governor or President surround himself (back then, it was always a him) with quality people? Knowledgable, ethical people? If not, it was a bad sign.

Which brings me to Gail Collins’ recent contest. Collins asked her readers to vote for Trump’s worst cabinet member. As you might guess, the competition was fierce. She began with a warning:

No fair just yelling “Wilbur Ross!” Our secretary of commerce appeared to be trying to sweep the field last week when he expressed bafflement that federal workers were going to food banks during the government shutdown rather than taking out loans.

Collins described several other contenders: Kirstjen Nielsen generated false evidence to justify the president’s ugly immigration policies, oversees the execution of those policies, and consistently lies about them. She’s a strong contestant.

And she’s been pretty effective in carrying out her plans, which is important when you’re part of a crew where ineptitude often cancels out bad intentions.

For instance, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would certainly like to privatize the nation’s public schools, but she barely seems organized enough to get dressed in the morning. Still, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, believes DeVos should get Worst points for having “basically spent her time in that office working for everyone but the kids.”

If I were voting, DeVos would definitely be a finalist.

Although Collins listed Rick Perry, Mr. “Oops” has managed to look positively benign next to most of the other cabinet members.

Some cabinet-watchers are discovering, to their shock, that they miss Scott Pruitt, who won last year’s competitionas the anti-environment head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was famous for his public relations disasters. Remember security agentswho were sent to pick up his dry cleaning and drove him from one place to the next in a search for a special moisturizer?

Now we’ve got E.P.A. Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist who’s way better at the job. Presuming you believe the job is screwing up the air and water.

Collins points out that a quarter of the cabinet are “acting”– she terms them “high-end governmental equivalent of temps.” It’s quite a list; it  includes the E.P.A., and the Departments of Defense, Justice and Interior.

People who care about land conservation were unnerved when the inept Ryan Zinke was replaced by Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist. Can you imagine Bernhardt and Wheeler plotting together?

I don’t know where those “people who care about land conservation”–or clean air and water–are, but it’s pretty obvious none of them are serving in this Administration.

Collins acknowledges the challenge in picking a Worst Cabinet Member–as she says, there is so much competition.

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, ticked off Pompeo, DeVos, Nielsen, Steve Mnuchin (“Certainly the slimiest Treasury secretary ever”) and Housing Secretary Ben Carson.

Let’s face it. The most apparent qualification for a cabinet position in this administration is a belief that the agency you are heading is illegitimate.

Pruitt and Wheeler both prioritize fossil fuel interests over pesky concerns about clean air or water; DeVos (recommended by Mike Pence–need I say more?) has an animus toward public education–both she and Pence want schools to “bring children to Jesus”–and her background included pretty much destroying Michigan’s public schools. Maybe Ben Carson was a good surgeon, but he has often expressed bias against “handouts” like affordable housing, also known as the mission of his agency.

It’s really hard to choose a “worst” from this assortment of incompetents and crooks, otherwise known as Trump’s “best people.”

My favorite description of this pathetic assemblage was posted by a Facebook friend, who said “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.”


  1. I hope you send this to reporters of the NY Times and Washington Post. They pay pitifully little attention to this collection of destroyers.

  2. Wow Sheila you caught me off guard with two posts in one day but I can’t make up my mind so I’ll call it a tie.

  3. If this keeps up we will all want to drown this government in a bathtub. This is clearly fulfilling the life long dreams of conservatives everywhere.

  4. Thank you Sheila,

    I love your Facebook friend’s IKEA cabinet reference in describing what has to be a true “ship of fools” serving as Cabinet Secretaries in this dreadful Administration. My candidate for the absolute worst official connected with the White House does not technically hold a Cabinet level position and that’s Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who is contemptible in his own ways. He is the consummate Neocon and is itching for a war with Iran and has been for years.

    As bad as all the rest of them are and I include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in that esteemed body of crooks, thieves, liars and self-promoting sycophants, Bolton is the most dangerous of them all in my very humble opinion. He holds the dubious distinction of being the least respected foreign policy and national security practitioner by his peers and his body of work over the years, including the revoltingly stupid idea that Iraq could be made into the Nebraska of the Middle East, gives ample reason for anyone that scrutinizes him to any degree to be terrified at where he currently works.

  5. Sheila: Sleep in on Sunday or catch “CBS News Sunday Morning”. Just know that this one topic will keep us going for several days. There are so many “worst” and there is so little time! They’re, um…thick as thieves…to re-use a well-worn expression.

  6. As we used to hear, you can tell who they are by the company they keep, and birds of a feather flock together, but those old saws have no application here. Comparisons are futile since each cabinet head is running an agency whose mission is so different from the others that there are few points for contrast. They’re all bad since they seem dedicated to destruction of the agencies they have been appointed to head, and Trump, of course, has no interest in what government does or doesn’t do – his terminal narcissistic state only craves the glory of being numero uno.

    The good news is that (if it isn’t too late) there will be some oversight of their activities for the foreseeable future; the bad news is that we have two more years of this garbage to oversee. For what it’s worth in the contest Sheila describes, and though not a cabinet member, I nominate Miller as the worst, closely followed by Bolton.

  7. Trump and his cabinet remind me so much of Vito Corleone’s “enterprise” and those with whom he surrounded himself. Oh. Wait. That was fiction, right?

    Yes, all the “best people” have been recognized as crooks or soon will be. DeVos may not be a crook, but her brother is. She’s just an idiot. The entire cabinet is low-hanging fruit for criticism and ridicule. Most of them belong in jail. The ones who’ve left are beyond corrupt. How in hell did Zinke become a Navy SEAL and then turn out to be such a whore of the energy industry?

    “The best people….”. “I alone can fix the problems.” “We’ll get tired of winning.” Trump is the #1 crook, liar and hater. No contest.

  8. after the hilary campaign, her staff was well into the next phase of their career, planing to see who will hire them next… any party,any name.. seems loyalty is also got a bad name,

  9. I have been sobering why there is so much animosity among Demos against Collins. I KNOW SHE HAS NONE THINGS I DON;T APPROVE OF, BUT I think she could be wooed into being not just a viable Democrat but a productive one, to say the least.

  10. Even the very best politicians need our forgiveness. Otherwise, there will be no one left as survivor of succession.

  11. Mary Jo – There is a difference in voting for Boy Scout resolutions and naming Post offices and voting for Kavanaugh (see Roe) and the Trump/Ryan tax bill that added to our long term debt while perhaps bankrupting our grandchildren to hand over 1.5 trillion dollars of our tax money to the already rich. Sweet talking Senator Sue talks as though she is pliable on big issues but invariably votes hard right with Trump & Co. when it’s crunch time. I have written her to such effect and added that I would be supporting her opponent next year.

  12. susan collins,ya got to be from maine, friends there were in a whirl wind of cheap rants,when le page ran for gov,and his rehtoric was in swing,since then,maine has cooled down,and may have decided,enough with the cheap rant.they have now seen what it did on a local front.devision,is not best policy. collins is not, going to be reelected as far as their concerned…

  13. Wheeler gets my vote. He is using the skills he gained to willfully damage the quality of life and safety of hundreds of millions Americans. It’s damage from which we may not ever recover. All done in the service of the Koch brothers.

  14. Many years ago David Halberstam wrote a book The Best and the Brightest (1972) about the Kennedy and LBJ advisors during the Vietnam War. Perhaps a book on President Agent Orange’s regime will be the Worst and Greediest.

    I would agree with Tom Lund, concerning John Bolton. You could also add in the President Agent Orange’s family and his chief Evangelical Enabler Pastor Pence. McConnell is a real poisonous snake, with not a single redeeming feature.

    The Regime of President Agent Orange all has their own selfish interests to push for, no matter how much damage it will cause in the present and future.

  15. I know enough to be sure that any statement made about a large group of people other than what makes them a group is bound to be true of some but never of all. One such statement is that business leaders are amoral. Make more money now regardless of the impact on others ever is not a statement of morality it’s a statement of greed. Those who follow it to the degree that corporate missions require it can’t be expected to be also following the Preamble of the Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    So we have government to supervise business because business makes no commitment to supervise itself to operated morally instead of greedily.

    We have a President and a Cabinet of business people who believe that their only responsibility is to provide jobs, who essential act like a temp agency providing labor for the corporate machine to turn into wealth for corporation, selected by a minority who believe the same. That’s the limit of their interests and capabilities. In fact on top of that many aren’t even very good at carrying out that one very limited responsibility.

    We have this year to figure out which of many choices will be best at uniting all of those Americans who know that life is so much more than that to elect moral people guided by the Constitution.

  16. Thank you Pete. Your entire post perfectly describes the Obama administration’s handling of the financial crisis. His administration chose to reward the malfeasance by having the citizens bail them out while they gave themselves enormous bonuses for crashing the economy. Not one was sent to jail. A bit like the Reagan administration’s response to those involved with the Iran-Contra scandal.

Comments are closed.