President-Elect Trump (I got nauseous writing that) has been assembling his cabinet and appointing other positions in between visits from Kanye and trashing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings as host of The Apprentice, even though he’s still an executive producer. He’s been holding court in his faux-Versailles penthouse as those who wish to kiss his ring and get a job trek to Trump Tower in hopes of landing a plum gig as Trump’s umbrella holder or Secretary of State.
Remember, it was only a few weeks ago that a humiliated Mitt Romney joined a jubilant Trump and still-shocked-we-won Reince Priebus for what had to be the longest, most miserable dinner-slash-job interview ever. I can’t imagine Romney really thought he’d be hired as Secretary of State; all it took was an overpriced meal at a restaurant that only a billionaire could afford. (Seriously, Mitt? You called the man a fraud, a failure and a terrible businessman. Now he gets to be President and you get to eat humble pie — for $75 at Jean Georges! Look how gleeful Donny looks!)
Trump voters confidently assumed he’d bring in people just like them to run the country. They firmly believed he’d get rid of the status quo, the career politicians, and remove all the one-percenters from the reaches of power. They laughingly thought Trump would stock the swamp with regular Joes, people to buck the system and turn Washington, DC, on its head. Instead, Trump has been mining Wall Street — and Goldman Sachs — for the whitest, richest zillionaire team ever. When he said “drain the swamp,” he didn’t really mean it, obviously. The only thing he plans to drain are his supporters’ bank accounts with automatic monthly campaign contributions. Trump is the swamp.
His cabinet picks — setting aside Dr. Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development, which even for him is bizarre — are almost all male, white and billionaires. This is pay-to-play in real time. These are not men with government experience or experience in the field they’ll lead. These are Trump’s friends, megadonors. Cabinet picks are thank-you gifts.
Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs alum and the President-Elect’s campaign-finance chairman, will head the Treasury. Trump spent 2016 slamming Hillary Clinton for her ties to Wall Street and her paid Goldman Sachs speeches only to trot down to Wall Street to drain the swamp of…Goldman Sachs. Who else in Trumpworld is from the swamp? Munchin’s buddy Steve Bannon, the Breitbart boss and white knight of white nationalists.
Trump is putting people in charge of agencies they fought or wanted eliminated. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, for example, which he said he wanted to get rid of once he remembered its name. For the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump named climate-change denier Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has spent years suing…the Environmental Protection Agency. Climate scientists are so concerned about Pruitt and the incoming administration’s disbelief in climate change that they’re scrambling to save data before they dismantle the very same EPA that generated it. Breitbart.com might call that fake news (here’s The New York Times on how to destroy their business), but it’s their news that’s fake: here’s the database in question. Poor Breitbart: no integrity since Bannon left. About the same as when he was there.
Billionaire Wilbur Ross, another Trump campaign advisor, the founder of a private equity firm, and at 79 perhaps his oldest pick, will be Commerce Secretary. Ross graduated from those East Coast liberal elite schools, Yale and Harvard, and owns a “house” down the street from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, FL. Just like a regular Joe.
Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary is another swampy billionaire: Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, which includes Carl’s Jr., the fast-food chain. Puzder is notorious for anti-union bias and his fight against a $15 an hour minimum wage. We can assume Puzder believes $7.50 an hour is plenty and, if you can’t make ends meet, learn how to manage your paycheck better. What a great pick to oversee a department that makes sure greedy corporate overlords don’t violate the Fair Labor Standards Act — like Carl’s Jr has done. Puzder has drawn criticism from unions right out of the gate. An American Prospect story has a quote from Kendall Fells, organizing director for the SEIU-funded Fight for $15: “Puzder as Labor Secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the Treasury.” Fells couldn’t have known that Trump actually considered Madoff for Treasury, but he’s serving 150 years for the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Details.
Trump doesn’t care about rules, which we know. But, just to make the point, he’ll name retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to be Secretary of Defense — a civilian position. The Congress will have to waiver Mattis in because, legally, the Secretary of Defense, if not a civilian, must be retired for at least seven years. Having civilians lead the military is what makes the US special — it was set up that way to prevent military coups. To quote Rick Perry, “Oops.”
I assume that because Trump has had a tough time finding anyone qualified for his national security team, he ended up with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn — a strident Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist fired by President Obama for mishandling classified information (mishandle meaning shared with Afghanistan’s military without authorization and lying about it) — as National Security Advisor. According to Trump, its fine for a man to be fired by his predecessor for sharing classified documents — but Hillary Clinton should have gone to jail. “Lock her up, she has a vagina!” should have been what his supporters chanted. Before, of course, Trump grabbed it.
Then there are the longtime politicos. There’s Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama, pride of the racist south, to be Attorney General if he can get through confirmation hearings without firing on Fort Sumter. There’s Elaine Chao, a champion political swamp-swimmer married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to be Transportation Secretary — who previously served as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor. She’s been in DC so long, she built the swamp. And Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, to be Ambassador to the United Nations. Because, to Trump, she looks like it.
Most of this list are aging Richie Richs but there are a few other swell dames. Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, will be no friend of public education. For years she has been a financial and vocal supporter of charter schools in Michigan. Trump said during the campaign that he wants to spend $20 billion in block grants to states to expand the charter school and voucher systems, thus allowing low-income children to attend schools in better neighborhoods. Sounds great, right? Not really: DeVos is against regulations for charter schools and favors poorer educational standards that fail children. According to the Washington Post profile on DeVos:
…Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters.
So, let’s see: Trump has appointed generals, Goldman Sachs billionaires and longtime political animals. Other lurking swamp creatures include his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who will both have roles in the White House. Presumably he thinks Kushner will bring peace to the Middle East because he’s an Orthodox Jew. Trump either doesn’t understand that nepotism in the White House is illegal or doesn’t care. Let’s figure he doesn’t care, since he’ll continue to run his businesses from the Oval Office even as this clearly violates the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution:
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Yet the big, big, big winner in Trump’s cabinet of deplorable corruptibles has to be Rex Tillerson — friend of Vladimir Putin, oil baron and decades-long employee (and now-former CEO) of Exxon Mobil. Tillerson has the Order of Friendship from Russia — and what is Trump’s cabinet missing? A Russian collaborator! Trump has surrounded himself with pro-Russian advisors, at least until they were found out. Which makes it all the more unseemly now that we know Putin sullied the election and made the President-Elect his treasonous stooge. Trump will do whatever Putin tells him to. When Putin tells Trump to end sanctions, Trump will end sanctions. When Putin tells Trump he will steamroll across Eastern Europe, possibly with troops, and prop up Assad as Syria is destroyed, Trump will open the door of his dacha. Putin will ask Trump to the prom and Trump will tweet about it. When Putin says jump, Trump will say “Da.” Romney can’t deliver Putin, but Tillerson sure can, which is why he got the job. Putin put Trump in office and Tillerson will make sure that Trump follows orders. America, bend over.
What Trump voters will find out sooner rather than later is that the man in the ill-fitting Chinese-made suit couldn’t give a damn about them. His thank-you tour was a masturbatory reach-around. His cabinet and advisors are the elite, out-of-touch, rich men that the Republicans voted against. Of course, they are also elite, out-of-touch, rich and white — and for Republicans, one of four is fine. The swamp-draining ended before it began. The swamp has been cleaned, painted gold and filled with Russian caviar.