There’s one thing on which all of us can likely agree: We really are the Divided States of America now. If the nomination and confirmation process for cabinet members is any indication, there’s no sign of a healing of the breech.
Per 5th-grade knowledge, the tradition of the cabinet goes back to the very beginnings of the presidency. It’s in the Constitution. The cabinet advises the president. It includes the vice president, 15 secretaries and the attorney general. They form the line of succession should a president be removed or die in office. Though it’s not written anywhere, one would guess that cabinet members advise in ways that are best for the United States and the American people — not in ways that work against us.
You can find a fair number of cabinet controversies if you search for them. But you can’t find a single administration in which cabinet pick after cabinet pick appears to have been chosen to dismantle the work of the department they have been tagged to lead instead of building it. You can’t find a single administration in which the idea of learned, thoughtful, world-aware people serving their country as advisers at the highest level of influence was so absent — and billionaire knuckleheads were so present.
No matter how you look at these nominations, they make no sense for America.
It makes no sense that Steve Mnuchin, who worked for the criminal Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs, would be tapped as secretary of the treasury when his portfolio also includes years of running a foreclosure scam that made 36,000 homeowners homeless in one fell swoop.
It makes no sense that Andrew Pudzer, who made his fortune off of the kind of fast food that has made America fat and sick, would be tasked with leading the Department of Labor when he has so explicitly made his opposition to the minimum wage, paid sick leave and even breaks at work widely known.
It makes no sense that Betsy DeVos, whose record includes promoting school vouchers and privatization of education, would be tasked to be the guardian of this country’s public education system. She might actually be the most highly unqualified nominee in modern cabinet history.
And it makes no sense — among other senseless, mean-spirited, self-serving acts of this administration — that Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator with an egregious record of civil rights wrongs, would be named as attorney general to succeed the excellence of Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder.
When Sessions was tapped, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks and a team of national and state civil rights activists vowed they would be arrested and jailed rather than stand by and allow a civil rights violator to move forward in the process.
Many have taken Dr. Brooks’ posture of resistance and replicated it again and again in phone calls, in emails, in visits to the offices of their U.S. senators and other elected officials. Their voices must be heard.
The breach is widening daily. It’s going to be a long four years. Only time will tell whether these cabinet advisers will help the president “make America great” — or if their selection into these seats of power will simply take us all back 400 years.
The question is about Trump’s cabinet, not Trump himself. It’s been a fascinating couple of weeks. I watch as anxiously as anyone, hoping Trump’s persona doesn’t destruct himself or the country. But let’s talk about some of his appointments.
Rex Tillerson is a serious man who knows how to negotiate and speak softly at the same time. That skill set has been missing from the State Department for eight years. Too tight with Putin? He did Russia no favors while Exxon flooded the market with petroleum that drove prices down and devalued Russia’s only hard asset. Staying on good terms with the former KGB boss under such circumstances strikes me as brilliant management and diplomacy.
James Mattis is a warrior with a poet’s heart. He will oversee a Department of Defense that is trained and expert to win wars when the nation calls. He is not about conducting cutting edge social experiments and producing propaganda for global warming alarmism. Astonishing. A secretary of defense focused on defense.
Jeff Sessions is wrong about asset forfeiture but at least believes in following the law. He’s a cleansing change from his two predecessors, who weaponized the Department of Justice in the service of their boss and in persecution of his American critics.
Andy Puzder has overseen a small business empire. He might know a thing or two about labor, like policies that allow employers to flourish and hire more workers. More jobs is better than more shackles on enterprise.
Ben Carson demonstrates it’s possible to grow from poverty to spectacular success without becoming a ward of the federal government. He wants to share that gospel at Housing and Urban Development. The left really hates the idea of a black man spreading that message. I don’t blame them.
Rick Perry wants to oversee the responsible production of the energy that fuels American life and prosperity. He doesn’t want to contrive ways to make gas cost $8 a gallon, like his Euro-wannabe predecessor. Steven Chu professed that goal when Obama chose him. Only the fracking revolution saved Obama from his wishes.
Betsy DeVos will head a department that shouldn’t exist. The federal government shouldn’t be the national school board. She realizes this and supports school choice and innovative reforms and flexibility that, if implemented, will break the back of the National Education Association’s control over education policy and funding. The left realizes this too and hates her for it. So, their attacks will be ruthless.
Scott Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, didn’t sue the EPA because he hates clean air and clean water. He sued the EPA because lawless bureaucrats have shoved people around with impunity and disregard for legal standards. The EPA has a very bad batting average at the Supreme Court, where even Obama appointees have regularly voted to slap it back. There is nobody better to bring law and order to the EPA than Scott Pruitt. Environmental policy should be reasonable, not rogue.
Trump’s cabinet bodes well because they support free enterprise and lawful government. They want to let America get back to business. They offer the hope of a limited federal government that isn’t constantly trying to redesign domestic life. Trump’s cabinet looks like the real deal.
Rosemary Lytle is president of the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference. She lives in Colorado Springs. Shawn Mitchell is an attorney and former Colorado state senator. He lives in Broomfield.