By Walter Brasch
Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate investor who began his run for the presidency and was one of the clowns who campaigned on promises that couldn’t be kept and fear that enveloped his core base, is now President Trump. Hillary Clinton accumulated about three million more votes than Trump, but the Trump campaign focused upon the Electoral College that gave him the presidency.
To see what’s ahead for the country and the Trump–Pence administration, it’s necessary to look at his cabinet, which reflects who Trump is. During the presidential race, the billionaire who pretended he was an outsider to politics who would represent the middle class now appointed an entire cabinet of millionaires and a handful of billionaires. For the first time in three decades there are no Hispanics in the cabinet. Trump probably couldn’t find even one distinguished Hispanic among the 55 million in the U.S. In his eyes, all are illegal immigrants, in prison, or are gardeners and construction workers. Most of the cabinet are rich white men who are right-wing conservatives who don’t agree with 97 percent of climate scientists that there is a frightening trend of global warming, but still support fossil fuel extraction, and have little experience for their jobs, but contributed significant funds for Trump’s election and are loyal to him. This isn’t new in politics, but the enormity of a cabinet that reflects Trump’s lifestyle and worldviews is significant in understanding how he threw a cloud of illusion to his campaign.
Let’s start with his choice for Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson is the billionaire owner of a gas/oil company who has no regrets when it comes time to build rigs, which destroy the environment, makes all kind of noises and keeps on its lights on 24 hours a day to mine fossil fuel, but when a 10 story water tower was proposed near Tilllerson’s home in Texas, he objected because he said it obstructed his view. Tillerson has no government experience and little experience dealing with foreign governments, unlike Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
Scott Pruitt is Trump’s choice for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As the Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt dissolved the state’s environmental protection agency, claiming there were far too many regulations by both the federal and state governments. Both Trump and Pruitt, who believe in fracking, doubt that climate change and the developing hole in the ozone layer were caused by people using fossil fuels at a higher rate than at any time in history. This puts their beliefs contrary to that of about 97 percent of scientists who claim otherwise. Trump, and presumably Pruitt, believe in the continued use of coal as a primary energy fuel. His signs, “Trump Digs Coal,” during the election race appealed to miners in Wyoming, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, and West Virginia, helping assure a plurality of votes in those states and Electoral College votes.
Ryan Zinke, who has a degree in geology and 12 years as a Navy SEAL, will lead the Department of Interior, where he will probably open federal land to oil and gas exploration.
Betsy DeVos, the right-wing daughter of a billionaire industrialist, will become the next Secretary of Education. She never taught in a school, sent her children to private schools, and has a degree in business administration. She will push for school choice while trying to learn about federal rules that regulate public education. Like most of Trump’s cabinet, she has a bias against the LBGT community and will reverse many of President Obama’s policy directives.
Most soldiers do their jobs well, but still have a thread of revulsion about killing enemy soldiers. James (“Mad Dog”) Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, was a distinguished four-star general who once said, “It’s fun to shoot some people.” John Kelly, also a retired four-star general, will be the Secretary of Homeland Security. He will probably be strong in keeping citizens of foreign governments out of the U.S., but weak in defense of natural disasters.
Jeff Sessions, who has a history of racism, is Trump’s choice to head the Department of Justice. Andrew Puzder, CEO of Carl’s and Hardees restaurant chains, is the Secretary of Labor. With a bias against labor unions, he’s a perfect fit for the Trump cabinet. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has little knowledge about nuclear power plants. Like Trump, he denies global warming, so it makes sense to have him become the Secretary of Energy. Perry once spoke out for dissolving the Department but now says he regrets the comments. For Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the new secretary is Ben Carson, a brilliant surgeon who has no experience in either housing or urban development. Linda McMahon never owned a small business, but if you’re a pro wrestler, give her a call; she was president of World Wrestling Federation, the largest pro wrestling/entertainment organization in the country. She’ll head the Small, Business Administration.
Tom Price and David Shulkin, unlike many cabinet members, have experience in their future roles. Before his confirmation by the Senate to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, Price was a House member and 19-year orthopedic surgeon. Shulkin, a physician, will head the Veterans Affairs. His experience includes times as chief medical officer and dean of schools of medicine.
Hopefully, the career experts of each department will be able to instruct the Trump appointments about what they need to know. They’ll have four years to try.
[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking America.]