While the president was overseas sharing America’s vision of peace, prosperity and democracy with international leaders, it must have been reassuring to know a crack administrative team back at home was capably handling the nuts and bolts of governance.
And we’ll ask Barack Obama how that felt the next time we visit with him. Last week, however, Donald Trump was busy embarrassing the nation — what, weren’t you talking about John Podesta? — and being outwitted by Vladimir Putin. And the most unlikely, least fiduciary-minded assortment of billionaires ever assembled for a presidential Cabinet was running amok in their respective agencies.
Sigh. Let’s catch up with some of them.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State . . . was initially welcomed by staffers because as head of ExxonMobil he had considerable corporate management experience. Instead, he has pushed out senior officers, blocked lateral transfers and declined to fill dozens of jobs. Former department staffer Max Bergman, writing last week for Politico, said Tillerson “is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.” Tillerson had a well-publicized meltdown earlier this month and told off Trump’s chief staffer Reince Priebus for pushing political hires on the department. Also last week, Tillerson put his luxury vacation home at the Horseshoe Lake resort north of Austin up for sale for $4 million. Word is the fracking starts next month.
Betsy Devos, Department of Education . . . is being sued by the attorneys general of 18 states for failing to impose rules to protect students from for-profit predatory rules, known as the Borrower Defense Rule. The rules were written by the Obama Administration and slated to go into effect on July 1. The states said the delay is “a mere pretext for repealing the rule and replacing it with a new rule that will remove or dilute student rights and protections.” Devos claims she wants to rewrite the rule, and as she does, taxpayers keep dumping money into for-profit schools.
Rick Perry, Department of Energy . . . confused the law of supply and demand in a speech bolstering the coal industry. “Here’s a little economic lesson: supply and demand. You put the supply out there and the demand will follow,” Perry said. Ever since Muslim scholars recorded the theory in the 14th century, it’s been widely agreed the price of a commodity rises and falls by the proportion of the number of buyers and sellers. Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director, said Perry doesn’t get it. Perry graduated Texas A&M University with a solid “C” in agriculture. “Maybe not everyone takes economics,” he said. “And I know for a fact that not everyone passes it.”
Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development . . . drew the animosity of Rep. Maxine Waters in an Essence magazine conference in New Orleans, charging Carson doesn’t know the difference between an immigrant and a slave. “He doesn’t care about people in public housing. He believes that if you are poor, it is your own fault,” Waters said of the former neurosurgeon. She went on to say she would “take his a—apart” should he appear before her House committee. Carson didn’t respond, but FOX commentator Tucker Carlson opined Waters must be an expert on housing because she lives in a ritzy neighborhood. Last time we checked, Waters was still African-American and represents black voters, whereas Carson is simply incompetent at his job.
Ryan Zinke, Interior Department . . . pledged last week to streamline permitting for oil and gas, and hold more frequent sales for drilling rights on federal lands. Environmentalists called the order a giveaway to oil and gas companies. “As much as Zinke talks about valuing our public lands and emulating Teddy Roosevelt, the truth is that he and Donald Trump share the same priority, giving Big Oil free rein on our publicly held lands,” the Sierra Club said in a statement. Zinke said he would not be an obstacle on creating wealth and opportunity on public lands. He actually said that.
Wilbur Ross, Commerce Department . . . beat out other Cabinet members in the annual Forbes ranking for 2017. “The king of bankruptcy” reportedly has a net worth of $2.5 billion. Trump’s Cabinet is more white and male than any since Ronald Reagan’s day.
Jeff Sessions, Attorney General . . . visited Guantanamo Bay and Dan Coates, director of national security, was along for the ride. The New York Times reported the Trump Administration circulated a draft in February that would affirm the prison would stay open to hold terrorism suspects, but Trump has yet to sign the order. There are 41 inmates at the camp, which Mr. Obama had hoped to close. Sessions was also put on notice that the attorneys general of three states that have recognized the use of recreational marijuana will defend the will of the states against the federal government. Several senators, meanwhile, leaned on Sessions for federal noninterference of the industrial hemp industry, one of George Washington’s favorite crops. Once again, Sessions is on the wrong side of history.
Mike Pence, Vice President . . . though technically not a Cabinet secretary, Pence managed to tick off NASA by putting his big hand on a space exhibit clearly marked “Do Not Touch.” Obviously his impulse control is no better than than Trump’s. Sad.