February 5, 2017

An Alarming Start to an Alarming Trump Administration

Eva Hale ‘20

President Trump’s victory shook the nation to its core and left many people across the country wondering where the country is headed and whether there is still a place for them in it. Trump’s cabinet picks have seemed to confirm their worst suspicions.
His picks have been shocking for their sheer lack of experience, extreme policy stances and countless conflicts of interest.
They can be divided into three groups: bigots and racists, rich business people and people who want to dismantle the very agencies they are supposed to run.
Leading the bigots and racists wing is Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Council. As CEO of Breitbart News, Bannon’s site ran headlines like “Renegade Jew” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” Bannon stood by while a senior editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, viciously harassed a transgender student.
Even if Bannon does not share these views, he has given bigots a platform that legitimizes racism and misogyny. There is a difference between giving people the ability to spread their opinions and giving them the ability to spread toxic and divisive articles.
The other leader of Trump’s bigot wing is soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to the Washington Post, Sessions was once denied a federal judgeship after accusations of racist comments by his former colleagues emerged. They testified that he jokingly used racial slurs and that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
The next class of Trump picks are the one percent.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having a lot of money and some of Trump’s rich cabinet picks have done admirable things with their money. However, others have used their money to do enrich their own lives while hurting those with less money.
Steven Mnuchin, his pick for Secretary of the Treasury and a Goldman Sachs partner, owned the predatory lending firm OneWest, which foreclosed on 36,000 people, including a 90-year-old woman who owed it 27 cents.
In addition, owning a vast business network can create deeply concerning conflicts of interest for cabinet nominees.
Rex Tillerson, the nominee for Secretary of State, is former CEO of ExxonMobil. He was involved in a $500 billion business deal with Rosneft, the oil company created by the Russian government after Vladimir Putin jailed the CEOs of other Russian oil companies and took over their businesses. The deal was only stopped because of sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia after it invaded Crimea. But as Secretary of State, Tillerson, who was given the Order of Friendship, the highest Russian honor available to a non-citizen, would have the power to roll back those sanctions, directly benefiting his former company.
The last group are people picked to gut their agency to the point where it must be dismantled.
Former Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Energy Secretary, promised during his 2012 presidential campaign he would get rid of the Department of Energy if elected president. That he will lead it should be alarming to everyone in this country because it is the department that oversees the safety and maintenance of the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal.
Scott Pruitt, the pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and an avid climate change denier. He has sued the EPA over just about everything. This means that the protection of the planet’s future for future generations is in the hands of someone who doesn’t believe there is any need for protecting the environment.
Not all of his picks are terrible or even at all bad. His picks for Secretary of Defense and United Nations Ambassador, Gen. James Mattis and Gov. Nikki Haley, respectively are generally well-respected and well-liked by both parties.
Yet, the fact that so much of his cabinet is filled with inexperienced or extreme individuals is deeply troubling. Donald Trump is a wild card. We have no idea what he is really going to do. And these cabinet picks are emblematic of this.
Perhaps what is even more surprising than anything else is that Trump has picked so many Wall Street big-shots with a history of sticking it to the very same middle class people who voted Trump into office.

Then again, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man whose opinions and beliefs seems as long-lasting as a Snapchat post appoint people to cabinet posts that are brilliant, crazy, unconventional and wrong all at the same time.


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