An early look at just how bad (or not) some of Trump's nominees are so far.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Democrats and Republicans aren’t getting along so well these days. Or maybe not, since it’s been quite some serious time since civility ruled the day in Washington, D.C. Partisan bickering is a 21st century reality, no doubt.
But the tone has changed, and first in line for blame is President Trump himself. You can’t run a campaign that explicitly preys on the worst tendencies of human nature – xenophobia, sexism, tribalism, nativism, etc. – and then feign shock when your political opponents decide to throw down the gauntlet. Democrats are understandably upset, even enraged, at the onslaught of executive orders, tweets, alternative facts, and other noise emanating on a 24/7 basis from what looks like the most disorganized, unprofessional White House transition in anyone’s living lifetime. Rattling around in the cacophony are Trump’s Cabinet nominations.
It’s tempting for Republicans to look at all the protests, the signs, the circus of senatorial tactics to postpone, delay, and shutdown votes on these Cabinet picks as “typical” liberal hyperbole. And it’s equally tempting for liberals to assume every last choice Trump makes must necessarily be an awful, evil decision.
Neither of those approaches is true, but staking out some plot of ground called “rationality” isn’t much fun… So I thought I’d do a pie chart and run down the confirmed members of Trump’s cabinet thus far, in order of their relative likelihood to wreak havoc in some way.
These are my opinions, made with limited information, and I’ll only stand by them for as long as any one of these Cabinet picks allow. Which is to say, all percentage allotments are pure conjecture, but read on for my arguments. Should be fun, but if not, hey – it’s almost Friday!
1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 30%
Just confirmed last night as Attorney General, Sessions squeaked by with barely a majority. (Harry Reid, do you regret nuking the filibuster now?) He’s wildly unpopular, primarily because at least half the country thinks he’s a racist. On top of that, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided it’d be a great move to “silence” Sen. Elizabeth Warren during Sessions’ hearing via an obscure rule that’s actually never used. Not a great note to come in on.
Furthermore, the AG is responsible for carrying out justice. President Trump’s idea of justice involves cracking down on crime rates that he claims are creeping up, but are not actually creeping up. Also, Sessions could side with POTUS on his immigration crackdowns, which seems entirely reasonable, since Sessions is himself an immigration hardliner.
2. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, 25%
I’m going out on a limb here, because we don’t know that much about Tillerson’s instincts politically. He has no government record, but he did used to serve as CEO of that beloved corporation Exxon Mobil. Mmmm. Smell the oil.
My beef with Tillerson is his buddy-buddy approach to child-murdering thug Vladimir Putin. Like Trump, the new Secretary of State finds it enormously difficult to badmouth the balding Russian leader who has a thing for bare-chested horse rides. WTH is going in our government? It’s an international bro-fest of slightly-very villainous seeming old dudes.
3. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, 20%
Liberals REALLY hate Betsy DeVos, and her confirmation came down to a historic tie, which Vice President Pence had zero qualms about breaking. Into the department of education she goes, the screams of ten million teachers’ unions unable to stop her.
I don’t think DeVos is prepared or qualified for her job, though unlike many, I also have no problem with charter schools as a concept. Why I’m not more concerned about DeVos is that, as a former public school teacher, I am in on a little secret more Americans need to discover: schools are not only mostly controlled at the state and district level, they are also primarily funded by local tax dollars.
What does that mean? The federal government plays a pretty minor role. Usually. But sometimes, as in the case of No Child Left Behind and Common Core, the feds get into the deets up to their elbows, and as you’ve noticed, that doesn’t usually end well.
4. C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo, 10%
We never know what awesomeness or shenanigans the C.I.A. is up to, because, well, they’re the C.I.A. That said, leaks sometimes happen, and often they reveal not so wonderful activities carried out on the DL. Ergo, any C.I.A. director is gonna automatically have a fairly good chance of messing up something, somewhere, so there you go.
5. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, 8%
I really only put Chao here because she’s married to Mitch McConnell, which seems like a pretty great way to embroil all parties in conflicts of interest. She also used to serve as Labor Secretary, and not everyone loved her tenure, though most reviews were pretty positive.
6. Director of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly, 5%
I’m tempted to up this, with the news today about the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia. Kelly will have a big role in immigration policy as well, which seems like an ever-increasingly urgent issue. But people seem to love the guy, and he’s established a solid reputation over his military career, so I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.
7. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, 1%
Do you know what really goes on at the U.N.? No? Me neither. Resolutions are passed, and everyone gets excited, and absolutely nothing changes. It’s hard to wreak havoc in a monstrously bureaucratic and ineffective institution like the U.N. (Apologies to idealists, and let me clarify: it’s not that I think the U.N. is useless; there is merit even to a façade of goodwill amongst nation-states.) Also, Haley seems like a competent, informed, diplomatic woman. How Trump chose her is a real mystery.
8. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis, 1%
Usually a defense secretary has all kinds of potential boondoggles along for their tenured ride. But Mattis is uniquely beloved by all kinds of people. In fact, he and Haley received the most Senate confirmation votes, with 98 voting in favor of the “Mad Dog Mattis.” Don’t like that nickname, but it seems a misnomer. If you are looking (frantically, desperately) for a reason to sleep well at night, Mattis seems like as good a check on Trump as any.