Tag Archives: qualifications

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 (Clovis has withdrawn from consideration after being caught up in the Papadopoulos disclosures).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.


Public Service is NOT Amateur Hour

I had a disquieting exchange yesterday with a very nice woman who is apparently enamored of Ben Carson, and considers him qualified to be President. Because he’s a brain surgeon.

Carson–as political observers have noted and as his interviews have made painfully clear–is a seemingly nice man with no previous experience in government who has displayed a truly appalling ignorance of the issues America faces, the operation of our legal system and the current world situation.

And of course, I need not remind readers of this blog that the current front-runner for the Republican nomination is Donald Trump, who–in addition to sharing all of Carson’s deficiencies–is so monumentally narcissistic and un-self-aware that he is a walking joke.

Here’s the thing: none of us–including Ben Carson and Donald Trump–would hire someone to do a job who lacked any relevant experience, training or basic understanding of the most rudimentary requirements of the position. So why do so many Americans consider ignorance of how government works a virtue, and why do so many candidates seem to think that parading that ignorance should win them votes?

I teach in a school of public affairs. One of the majors we offer is public management–a course of study intended to prepare people for public sector positions. The skills we teach as essential for even entry-level bureaucrats include public finance (which–surprise!–is considerably different from balancing your checkbook), statistical analysis, the ways in which law constrains public policy, the effects of globalization, the operation of the policy process…the list goes on.

Like it or not, we live in a complicated world. Americans expect government to protect us from terrorists and e coli, to regulate utilities, to administer social insurance programs, to encourage economic development, to ensure that our air is breathable and our water drinkable, to prevent economic monopolies, to control air traffic, to wage our wars, to educate our children, to pave our streets and highways, and much more. Most of those functions require specialized expertise, and managing the public servants and contractors who provide these services is no small task.

Running a city, a state or a country is not a job for amateurs, or for people who have only the dimmest understanding of the  myriad foreign and domestic challenges the nation faces on a daily basis, and the often difficult and surprising interrelationships among them.

It isn’t brain surgery–and the ability to do brain surgery, or to star in a television reality show, doesn’t make someone even remotely competent to run a country in the 21st Century.