I’ve had a hard time keeping track of all the people Trump is appointing, nominating, and still considering for his Administration. So I thought I’d do some research into the people he has decided on and create a synopsis to see what the big picture is looking like. I looked at only the major candidates, but what I found confirms our worst fears. See what you think.
THE GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHMENT
Attorney General: Sen. Jeff Sessions
Civil rights menace
Whether Sessions still holds the harsh racist views he expressed in 1986 is, apparently, up for debate. But he is inarguably the most anti-immigrant senator on Capitol Hill. He would crack down on “sanctuary cities” and increase deportations of undocumented immigrants. He also wants the federal government to take much tougher stances on terrorism. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer thinks Sessions’ appointment is “a wonderful thing” and believes the senator will roll back the Obama administration’s enforcement of civil rights. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions stumbled when asked by The Weekly Standard if Trump’s grabbing of a woman’s genitals amounted to sexual assault. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not clear that he—how that would occur.” Other rights are also threatened. On the those of special ed students, he has said the laws that protect and ensure their education “may be the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.”
CIA Director: Rep. Mike Pompeo
A major player in the many Benghazi investigations, Pompeo has close ties to the Koch brothers. Kansas’s State Rep. Jim Ward raises concerns about Pompeo. “If you listen to Mike’s paranoia about things like the Iran diplomatic initiative or Benghazi, he tends to have that conspiratorial mind, which is not healthy for a person who runs the CIA.” That was clearly demonstrated after the Boston Marathon Bombing, when Pompeo accused Muslim leaders of endorsing terrorism. Their silence, he said, “has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and…in those that may well follow.” Pompeo is fiercely opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and to any attempt to close the Gitmo. He also supports the use of CIA “black site” prisons and the loosening of restraints on CIA interrogators. Pompeo is a staunch proponent of removing legal and bureaucratic roadblocks to U.S. surveillance.
Health & Human Services Secretary: Rep. Tom Price
Health care annihilator
An ardent opponent of reproductive rights, Price has detailed plans for dismantling Obamacare, privatizing Medicare, and curtailing Medicaid. As a doctor, he belongs to a longstanding, radically conservative medical association. Its journal advocates scientifically discredited hypotheses such as HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, being gay reduces life expectancy, abortion is linked to breast cancer, and vaccinations are linked to autism. Better than I can, The Washington Post sums up the threat Price poses: “What does seem clear, though, is that the department in charge of public insurance, insurance for children, delivery-system innovation, protecting transgender healthcare rights, and providing women’s health services will now be led by a man who wants to contract public insurance, voted against expanding children’s insurance, is against delivery-system reforms, and wants to remove the government from the business of providing protections and services for transgender people and women.”
Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao
The wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell (can you say ‘conflict of interest’?), Chao will likely play a key role in Trump’s efforts to overhaul infrastructure and reduce government regulation. And she’s definitely capable of doing the latter. Chao is best known for her eight years spent leading the Labor Department, whose job is to enforce laws that protect American workers. While she did accomplish some of that, The Nation reports that critics complained her department excessively deferred to businesses that were mistreating employees. It issued low fines for safety lapses and ignored complaints from low-wage workers. According to the critics, that lax enforcement led to an epidemic of employers illegally committing wage theft—allegations the non-partisan Government Accountability Office confirmed as true. One can only wonder how much of that story Trump knows, especially given his statement that Chao “has helped countless Americans in her public service career.” Chao’s connections and her understanding of China could also be a boon to Trump’s dealings with the country.
THE BILLIONAIRES’ CLUB
Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos
Public education foe
DeVos has no firsthand experience in either K–12 or higher education. She does, however, have a long history of advocating for school choice. She is a fierce proponent of school vouchers, which allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools (including religious ones), and of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. DeVos has deep ties to the Christian Reformed community. She believes education is the way to change culture, but she’s not expected to focus on curriculum issues like evolution and creationism. DeVos is married to the son of Amway founder Richard DeVos. She and her husband have an estimated worth of $5.1 billion.
Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
With a net worth of $2.9 billion, Mnuchin is a banker and Hollywood producer with no known views on public policy. His main qualifications seem to be his personal loyalty to Trump and the bang-up job he did as Trump’s campaign fundraiser. Mnuchin is said to bring an understanding of the global mortgage market that Trump will need to complete the unfinished business of the housing recovery. Ironically, however, Mnuchin made his money from the failed banks, foreclosed homes, and government bailouts that followed the 2008 recession. During that time, he and a group of partners established OneWest Bank—now notorious for its foreclosure on a 90-year-old woman because of a 27-cent payment error. The bank is also known for squeezing the victims of Superstorm Sandy. And last month, its successor, CIT Bank, was accused of discriminating against minority borrowers.
Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross
“The King of Bankruptcy”
A donor and longtime associate of Trump’s, Ross helped the president-elect resurrect his casino company after it went bankrupt in the early 1990s. He now serves as one of Trump’s economic advisers and thinks Trump’s “radical, new approach to government” is refreshing. Ross has grown rich by buying and restructuring troubled companies, often with significant layoffs and budget cuts. Over the years, he has invested in 178 companies in 14 industries, including steel, textiles, auto parts, and coal. In 2004, Ross’s private equity firm, WL Ross and Company, bought the Sago Mine in West Virginia. From April to late December of 2005, the mine was cited 208 times for violating regulations—91 of which were considered significant and substantial. Then, in January 2006, an explosion at Sago killed 12 miners. In announcing Ross’s appointment, Trump said, “Wilbur Ross knows how to help companies succeed. He is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met.” Ross’s current net worth is $2.5 billion.
Deputy commerce secretary: Todd Ricketts
Ricketts is the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, which underwent a dramatic turnaround and finally won its first World Series since 1908. He is the youngest son of Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade. The Ricketts family, worth an estimated $5.3 billion, is politically active and has deep connections. Todd Ricketts runs a conservative political action committee of his own, called the Ending Spending Super PAC. His father once commissioned a provocative―and race-baiting―multimillion-dollar attack plan against President Obama. Although Ricketts has spent only 14 months in the securities industry, Trump has praised him as “an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.” Ricketts calls himself “an accomplished entrepreneur.” But, as noted by the Huffington Post, his career “appears to consist of a defunct eco-tourism venture and a local bike shop.” Ricketts will be the first person in nearly 20 years to take on his position’s far-reaching responsibilities without having earned an advanced degree.
National Security Adviser: Ret’d Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
Crazy, dangerous ideologue
Flynn is a disturbed and disturbing man with an alarming leadership philosophy. As reported by The American Conservative, he told a group of senior officials on retreat that “the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his.” What makes that statement so frightful is Flynn’s preoccupation with Iran. He has convinced himself—and Trump—that the United States is in a “world war” with Islamist militants and must work with any willing allies, including Vladimir Putin. As national security adviser, Flynn is likely to dismiss any evidence that contradicts his ideology. Worse yet, he will have the last word on how the president should respond to international crises. Amplifying the danger of that influence is Flynn’s tendency to defy rules he thinks are “stupid.” That belief has led him to share classified information with NATO allies without approval and risk national security by installing a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office.
Deputy national security adviser: KT McFarland:
McFarland is a Fox News analyst who served as an official in the Reagan White House. He reportedly has advocated for war with Iran, supported the use of torture, and insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel Prize. Flynn also has supported the profiling of Muslims.
Defense Secretary: Ret’d Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis
Great white hope
Considered to be an open, direct, and humorous man, Mattis may actually be Trump’s best nomination to date. He has deep wells of support from both sides of Capitol Hill and within the military. Mattis is seen as someone who can rein in any potentially unwise military actions by Trump and bureaucratically neutralize NSA nominee Mike Flynn. But before Mattis can be approved, Congress must waive the requirement for him to have been a civilian for seven years. That may well be a move worth favoring. For, as one New Yorker writer observed, Mattis is “intently focused on stability, wary of warfare that seeks to promote democracy or idealism, sentimental about the independence of the Baltic states, firmly committed to NATO, and unsentimental about Russia.” However, Mattis shares in Trump’s confrontational posture with Iran. He believes the country “must be dealt with as a threat to regional stability”—a position shared by Flynn and Pompeo.
A lifelong communicator, I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb talking. But with no siblings to chat and play with, I learned to express myself in writing. My subsequent birth as a politics junkie came while I watched my father, a career Marine, sob uncontrollably over Kennedy's assassination. Intuitively, I knew the world would never be the same, and I should pay attention. So I did.
Now, some 50 years later, I find myself dumbfounded by the trajectory of American politics and the prevalence of ignorance, bigotry, hate, and violence. I started Two Cents of Sense, hoping to help change that trajectory and to promote progressives' conversation, knowledge sharing, and actions.