And you thought no one could be less suited to public service than power-hungry billionaire Betsy “Vouchers for Private Religious Schools” DeVos. Seems as though Donald Trump was just warming to the task of assembling the most unlikely, improbable, ill-suited, self-obsessed presidential administration in history. In his image.
While hundreds of key positions requiring Senate approval go unfilled, Trump has quietly hired 400 new staffers to work through the auspices of the executive office, yet hold desks at various federal agencies and departments. They are described by federal workers as “Trump’s eyes and ears,” and some of these new hires make the blood of civil libertarians run cold. Their ethical violations and personal prejudices make the Ulysses S. Grant Administration look like harmless hijinks.
Unlike the office of the president, there are laws and consequences for appointees who commit malfeasance and ethical violations. The penalties can be steep, including jail time and high fines. But since violations are under the supervision of the Justice Department, ruled by a little weasel with a history of racial discrimination, appointees may feel free to trample civil rights and rules of law. Let’s party like it’s 1955.
Thugs on parade include:
- The White House has chosen an anti-abortion activist to run the Title X program, which provides family planning funding for poor people without health insurance. Teresa Manning is stepping in as “deputy assistant secretary for population affairs” in the now-weakened Department of Health and Human Service. A critic of most all family planning methods, but especially abortion, Manning was formerly a lobbyist with the National Right to Life group and an analyst for the Family Research Council. Her assistant is Charmaine Yoest, former president of yet another anti-abortion group, Americans United for Life.
- Julie Kirchner is the new ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship service. Kirchner formerly served as president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, the largest anti-immigrant service. FAIR, as it is misnamed, was founded by an avowed white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton. FAIR complains that immigrants are engaging in “competitive breeding” to increase their numbers. Kirchner’s new job is to aid immigrants.
- Meanwhile in the State Department, the new “assistant chief of visits” was accused of multiple sexual assaults — against fellow male students — not long ago while he was a student at The Citadel military college. Steven Munoz will head a staff of 10 organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. The Citadel investigated but declined to press charges. Note to foreign leaders: Leave your young sons at home.
- It’s worth mentioning that Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, has withdrawn his name from consideration. But only after mounting protests. Green had been quoted saying “transgender is a disease” and supported legislation prohibiting mental health counselors from treating LGBTQ people. When asked about a rise in Hispanics in his home state of Tennessee, Green said they were “being bused here probably” and also claimed public school children were being indoctrinated in the tenets of Islam. Hispanics make up about 12 percent of the active United States military, but today only about 6,000 service members identify themselves as Muslim. Hard numbers vary, but there are about 70,000 gay, lesbian or bi-sexual service members, and 15,500 transgender. Trump let this one thug slip away.
The appointment process is designed to allow a president to set his own agenda in reshaping policies he campaigned on. This is the basic flaw. In addition, the process is said to have been slowed by Trump’s insistence on being personally involved — the hiring discretion he enjoyed as a corporate president — and turf wars among his key advisers and cabinet members. (Or as the joke goes, you could have bought a better cabinet at IKEA. Never get tired of that one.)
Apparently the acid test for appointees is loyalty to the boss, so vetting is not so important. Take Michael Flynn — please. The former lobbyists who wormed their way into the administration with a secret memo from Trump aren’t likely to make waves as long as Big Orange protects them. The Trump Administration did not respond to a request for comment.
Closer to home, the flagrant nepotism hires of JarVanka raise the question of not whether there are ethical violations, but how many. It’s not clear who besides Trump these people are accountable to, certainly not the public. Family-wise, the only adult hold-out from the Trump trough is the California-raised Tiffany, as in, the store in New York. But that’s what happens when you’re the child of the middle wife. Or as Ivanka Trump has said, “Obviously we don’t want people around who aren’t trustworthy. We are a (brand) family. It is about trust.” Last heard, Tiffany was dating a registered Democrat.