Trump also continues to display the sort of erratic, half-cocked attitude that left so many worrying from the moment we started taking him seriously as a candidate (of course, for some, that was November 9 of last year). In recent weeks, Trump hinted at starting another nuclear arms race for no apparent reason (WP) a trade war with China, though apparently without thinking through even what percentage he wants on his tariff (TPM), and selecting the hardcore China Hawk Peter Navarro as head of the National Trade Council. He has ramped up twitter wars with the intelligence community (Daily Kos), the media (The Independent) and, most recently, Meryl Streep (Time).
Today, in his first news conference (NYT) since well before the election concluded, he finally admitted that Russia was behind the hacking, before claiming hacking isn’t so bad, that maybe others were involved and a host of other hedges. He then added some fun lies and claimed he is too careful to be caught on tape when hanging around hookers in other countries (hoping his constituents had forgotten this moment that should have cost him the office alone: You Tube). And he added that he will not be releasing his tax returns and that “no one cares,” even as 60 percent of Americans believe he, in fact, should make them available for public scrutiny (Politifact).
So while better relations with Russia might be in the offing (The New Yorker), even if they are forced to further stultify economic development to engage in another arms race post-Cold War, China is already feeling beleaguered before Trump even steps into the White House as Commander in Chief. Trump has antagonized a whole host of foreign leaders through twitter and even launched two recent tweets that could, in a worst-case scenario, cease life on this planet. We can only hope our worst fears go unrealized.
So as the confirmation hearings are pushed through by Republicans without the Ethics Office even having time to properly vet candidates and potential conflicts of interest, let’s take a look at some of the most troubling members of a truly horrifying future cabinet (The Hill).
As I mentioned in a previous post, Pence is one of the most virulently anti-choice (see H. B. 1337), anti-gay (see Indiana Senate Bill 101), anti-media (he planned to start a state-run, taxpayer-funded news service that would run pro-administration news and mete it out to local papers) and anti-science (intelligent design proponent and global warming doubter) politicians in the country. He does, at least, have experience in government, unlike most of the names that will follow.
Breitbart founder and executive chair Steve Bannon is among the most radical voices in the entire administration (Forbes), and one that appears to be in a position to have huge influence over the administration. He has been making up the news for a long time at Breitbart, has a racist past littered with tacit support for the white supremacist oriented alt-right and doesn’t much care for Jews either. Not even close to a billionaire (his net worth is estimated at $10 million) but he does have a history of potentially beating his wife. Like most of the administration, he has no experience in government.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a billionaire himself, is set to join the administration as Senior Advisor (WP). The chances of future conflicts of interest, alongside essentially skirting the nepotism laws of the country, are only the start for a man who was one of Trump’s biggest supporters, spreading lies and misinformation without a smidgeon of compunction. He is in midst of negotiating a big real estate deal with a shady Chinese conglomerate with close ties to the government, has been involved in West Bank settlements deemed illegal by the UN and has a father that had to abandon his post as the CEO of the company his son now runs. Along with his wife and Trump himself, the three create a triumvirate of potential corruption not seen since the Grant administrations.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been selected as his attorney general, a man deemed too racist by Republicans to become a federal judge in the 80s (with good cause!), who calls the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and said he thought the KKK was “okay.” He is vehemently anti-immigrant, having opposed nearly every bill that has come before the Senate in the past 20 years offering amnesty to illegal immigrants seeking citizenship or work visas. He’s also a debt hawk, a military hawk and a climate change skeptic (The Guardian). He is one of the few others with government experience and has worked with Democrats in the past, but is considered one of the architects of Trump’s run and the choices of his administration.
Since Sessions is currently going through the confirmation process, let’s take a closer look at some of his most egregious lowlights:
• Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoked marijuana.
• He attacked the NAACP and the ACLU as “un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people.”
• He was one of the first supporters of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.
• He’s opposed nearly every immigration bill put forward in the last two decades that’s included a path to citizenship.
• He opposes same-sex marriage as well as sexual relationships between same-sex partners.
• Confronted with Trump’s remarks about grabbing women by their genitals, Sessions said it would be a “stretch” to “characterize that as sexual assault.”
• He voted against the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
• He referred to a white attorney who took on voting-rights cases as a “traitor to his race,” and has faced allegations that he used the n-word to describe a Democratic official in Alabama.
• He’s repeatedly worked to block NSA privacy reforms, including the mild reforms put in place under the USA Freedom Act.
• He sided with the FBI in its effort to force Apple to break the iPhone’s encryption, and has pushed legislation that would force technology companies to turn over customers’ private information to law enforcement.
• He's an old friend of Breitbart News, the site that mainstreamed white nationalism and has promoted racism, misogyny and other forms of hate.
• In the 1986 confirmation hearing that led to the rejection of Sessions as a federal judge, witnesses testified that he referred to a black attorney as “boy,” and described the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) will be the next CIA director. He ran the Benghazi Committee, authored a report excoriating Clinton, has close connections to the Koch brothers) and is a member of the Tea Party movement. He is also a firm believer in “spying on everyone” and would like to execute Edward Snowden. He wrote in a Wall Street Journal, “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.” (McClatchydc). He does have government experience, as a Representative of Kansas (since 2011), but is just the sort of anti-government conservative who has helped blocked Obama’s agenda for the past six years.
Secretary of State
Among the truly apoplectic-inducing appointees, also now in the midst of his confirmation hearing (NYT), is the selection of the Exxon-Mobil CEO as the next Secretary of State. The Rex Tillerson tilt appears to be a further sign that not only did Russia get the man they wanted but that he is going to repay them in spades with one of the friendliest figures to their economic interests in all of America. Tillerson has pretty consistently abrogated any responsibility to national interests while CEO of Exxon-Mobil, including in Africa and even Iran (The Guardian). He has shown little interest in protecting the interests of the average American, the environment or even the interests of America itself (MSNBC).
National Security Advisor
The fiery retired lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn will be Trump’s White House national security adviser. He, like Tillerson, has close ties to Russia (and has been paid to give speeches there), led “lock her up” cheers against Clinton during the campaign (and compared her to al-Qaeda combatants he faced in Afghanistan and Iraq), and has consistently made derogatory comments about Muslims (WP). He has extended the same “liar” tag he used for Clinton to Obama, called the U.S. Justice System “corrupt,” and, most troubling, has a history of spreading fake news, only surpassed by Bannon among future cabinet level officials (Politico). And he is but one of a coterie of ex-generals who will now line the corridors of power, with many only normalized by their relative distance from the radical Flynn.
Trump’s new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a global warming doubter and long ally to the oil and gas industry (NYT). Given comments from he and Trump’s advisors, we can expect more drilling, less reporting on global warming (if any), pro-corporate/anti-consumer decisions regarding air, water and land pollution, deregulation of coal, oil and gas and little effort to research or fund renewable energy sources. He does have experience in government, as a State Senator and then Attorney General of Oklahoma, but that’s about the only good thing anyone who cares about the environment can say.
New Energy secretary, Rick Perry, is another friend to the biggest polluters in the world and someone who doesn’t even believe the department should exist (The Union). It’s actually pretty extraordinary the list of flunkies that have made their way into this administration, including, of course, the President himself. Apparently losing elections or primaries appears to Trump as the best sort of advertisement for serving in his administration.
Department of Health and Human Services
Tom Price is a strident opponent of Obamacare and wants to transform Medicaid to block grants for the states. Enacting these two reforms would be a boon to the insurance and medical industries, but substantially less so for consumers (USA Today). He is a friend to Big Pharma, private hospitals and really the entire for-profit health industry.
National Endowment of the Arts
Sylvester Stallone has already, supposedly, said no thank you to overtures from the Trump transition team to take over the NEA, but seriously? Everyone loves Rocky, but is an actor without a stellar career who recently retired really in a position to lead what is left of the NEA, constantly gutted by conservatives who would rather the public have no access to, you know, the truth (Breitbart).
Department of Labor
Andy Puzder is the CEO of Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. and has been an enemy of labor for most of his career (NYT). He is paid more in a day than most of his workers in an entire year. He is against the minimum wage, against unions, against overtime, considers employees as nothing more than an “extra cost” and actually wants to replace them with robots in the future. Since he became CEO, his restaurants have been charged with 98 federal or city safety violations. Given the continued vibrancy of the $15 movement and the promises made by Trump, one can think of few choices less favorable for workers (besides maybe a Koch brother). And he doesn’t have any experience in government.
Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson appears to be insane (Salon). That is not really an exaggeration. He also has a long history of finding the truth an inconvenience he would rather avoid whenever possible. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he questioned his own fitness for government service, has no experience with housing and/or urban development and has no experience in government.
Department of Education
Another billionaire, Betsy DeVos, is the next Education Secretary under Trump. DeVos is a strong advocate for vouchers and charter schools, like the Koch brothers a huge contributor to the GOP cause, at least tangentially connected to the Christian Reform movement and has little relevant experience to bring to the job (NEA). While she seems substantially less radical than some of Trump’s other picks, the real fear here is that she will march us further along the path toward privatizing public schooling in America
U.S. Ambassador to the UN
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations might be one of his saner choices (NYT), but she – like Trump, Pence, Bannon, Kushner and Reince Priebus – has no foreign policy experience at all. In an increasingly dangerous world and one that Trump did his best to alienate during the campaign, one hoped he might temper his temper with some seasoned veterans who could mend fences and ensure smooth diplomacy moving forward. Guess again on that one.
These are only some of the radicals and unqualified nominees Trump has selected and perfectly exemplify an administration that seems intent on serving corporate interests over those of the American public, of reversing anything good the Obama administration accomplished and of setting a perilous course for our collective future, with the captain at the helm the scariest of them all.