Tag Archives: appointees

If These Are The Best People, I’d Hate To Meet The Worst Ones

Dana Milbank has been on a roll ever since Trump was inaugurated. I have been reading his (increasingly snarky) columns in the Washington Post regularly, and recommend them highly.

In a recent column, Milbank considered the various snaky characters who’ve accompanied Trump to Washington. Remember that campaign boast about “the best people”? Trump was going to drain that swamp and bring “the best people” to government. I hate to channel Sarah Palin, but “how’s that hopey-changey thing working out?”

Milbank starts with Sam Clovis, a minor figure who Trump nominated to be Chief Scientist at the Agriculture Department. (Clovis has withdrawn from consideration after being caught up in the Papadopoulos disclosures).

For those who had not heard of Clovis before (which is pretty much everybody), he has been nominated to be the chief scientist at the Agriculture Department, a position that by law must go to “distinguished scientists,” even though he is, well, not a scientist. He is a talk-radio host, economics professor (though not actually an economist, either) and, most importantly, a Trump campaign adviser.

Milbank notes some of Clovis’ “scientific” positions: he’s a climate change skeptic, says  homosexuality is “a choice” leading to pedophilia, endorses birtherism, calls Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”

Clovis has lots of equally disreputable company. A group called American Oversight has compiled information on the “best people” who worked on the Trump campaign and subsequently got cushy jobs in the administration; the list is nothing if not enlightening.

There’s Sid Bowdidge, who is now assistant to the secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. He previously managed a Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, N.H. and before that, worked for tire shops. (He lost his job after it was discovered he had called Muslims “maggots.”)

Victoria Barton now handles congressional relations for Regions II, V and VI of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Between 2013 and 2015, she was a “bartender/bar manager.” (Don’t get me started on the housing expertise of her boss, Ben Carson…)

Christopher Hagan, a confidential assistant at the Agriculture Department, was a “cabana attendant” at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y.  David Matthews, another confidential assistant, developed scented candles while also serving as a “legal receptionist.”

Some of the other “best” people Trump has hired are well known. Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator, previously arranged Trump golf tournaments and arranged Eric Trump’s wedding, among other things. Callista Gingrich, just confirmed as ambassador to the Vatican, prepared for this by writing children’s books, singing in a church choir — and being married to Trump ally Newt Gingrich.

Others now in high office are less known: an office page, the author of an anti-Clinton book, a Christian-school librarian, a couple of real estate brokers and a landscaper. Many don’t appear to meet the educational qualifications for their positions. But they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Milbank didn’t bother to describe those we know: the sorry gang of cabinet officials who range from embarrassing to unqualified to antagonistic to the missions of their agencies. Or the White House “advisors” qualified by virtue of nepotism and/or ability to suck up to the single most unqualified member of the administration, Donald Trump.

We live in a complicated and increasingly dangerous world, and we have elected a President who has absolutely no idea what government does, and no understanding of or respect for the skills and knowledge needed to administer it. Donald Trump ran for President to feed his ego. I seriously doubt that he expected to win; he was simply promoting his brand. He’s a sad and embarrassing buffoon, and he’s surrounded himself with the kind of people who actually look up to someone using a gold toilet.

The same sort of people who voted for him.


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.