Tag Archives: Cabinet

Rick Perry leaves Cabinet under his own power; no small feat

I’ll acknowledge what you may already suspect: Rick Perry wasn’t my favorite Texas politician when he served as the state’s longest-ever tenured governor.

However, as secretary of energy, Rick Perry proved to be, well, a survivor in the sausage grinder that passes for Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

He’s about to leave office under his own power. He’s walking way because he chose to do so, not because Donald Trump kicked him out. Believe me, given the president’s record of booting top-level officials to the curb, that is no small feat.

How has he done as energy boss, running an agency he once targeted for elimination were he elected president in 2012 — and which he (in)famously forgot to mention when he sought to list the agencies he would eliminate? Not bad, but not great.

My biggest bone to pick with him is that he was virtually silent in pushing alternative energy development. That was not what occurred on his watch as Texas governor, when he presided over the state’s ascent to leading the nation in the development of wind energy. OK, so his governorship wasn’t a total loser.

His energy secretary tenure featured none of that kind of leadership, which I find a major disappointment.

However, he is able to walk away from the Cabinet without being forced out. That is a relatively important aspect of his departure from public office.

He wants to come home. I guess he wants to do something else. Maybe spend “more time with the family.” I don’t know.

There might be some questions to answer, though, as his name has gotten entangled in that Ukraine matter involving his soon-to-be former political benefactor, Donald Trump … the man he once described as a “cancer on conservatism.”

Keep your phone close by, Mr. Secretary. Congress might be on the other end of a call.

Incompetence or conspiracy within the White House … or both?

Blogger’s Note: This post has been edited to reflect a correction from the original post.

I heard about this event and my first thought was that it cannot be true, that it’s a phony story from a satirical source.

But oh, no. It’s real. Donald Trump delivered a speech this week with a doctored version of the presidential seal flashed on the wall behind him. Someone associated with the group to whom the president was speaking put a seal up that shows a set of golf clubs and a two-headed eagle.

What? Huh? Is this for real?

The phony eagle reportedly is meant to mimic a Russian symbol of totalitarian government; the golf clubs poke fun at the president’s penchant for golf. There’s also a wad of cash in the eagle’s talons, not the “E Pluribus Unum” slogan on the real presidential seal.

The individual responsible for this ridiculous matter has been fired.

Yet the White House apparently doesn’t believe it was done with “malicious intent.” Eh?

My own takeaway is that this incident reveals a profound lack of competence within the White House, even though the culprit was connected to the group that played host to the event. I get that it doesn’t rise to the level of some other idiotic instances we have witnessed during the Trump administration: the president’s tweeting frenzy, the revolving-door resignations that have plagued the president, the assorted statements from Cabinet officials questioning the president’s competence and intelligence.

This SNAFU, though, does illustrate that the president’s “fine-tuned machine” — specifically its advance team — needs an overhaul.

Still waiting for that ‘presidential’ moment

A critic or two of my blog has noted that I continue to resist referring to Donald Trump by placing the term “President” in front of his name. They don’t like it, calling me disrespectful of the man who was duly elected to the nation’s highest office.

So help me, as the Good Lord is my witness, I am waiting for that moment — or perhaps a sequence of moments — when I can feel as if the president of the United States has earned that honor from yours truly.

It hasn’t arrived. I don’t know if it will. I want it to arrive. I feel like the guy waiting for the bus or the train that’s overdue. I keep craning my neck, standing on my tiptoes, looking for all I can for some sign that the vehicle is on its way.

The same is true with Donald Trump.

As a presidential candidate, the man disgraced himself and the office he sought with behavior that is utterly beyond repugnant. The denigration of the late Sen. John McCain’s heroic service to the nation as a prisoner during the Vietnam War; the mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s serious neuro-muscular disability; the insults he hurled at his Republican primary foes; the hideous implication, for example, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was complicit in President Kennedy’s murder.

Also, we had that years-long lie that Trump fomented about President Obama’s eligibility to run for and to serve as president of the United States; Trump was one of the founders of the so-called “Birther Movement.”

He brought all that, and more, into the White House when he won the 2016 election.

Since taking office, he has acted like the carnival barker he became as a candidate. His incessant Twitter messaging, the manner in which he has fired Cabinet officials and assorted high-level federal officers have contributed to the idiocy that he promotes.

There have been moments of lucidity from this president. He pitched a much-needed effort on federal sentencing reform; he struck at Syria when it gassed its citizens.

The rest of it has been not worthy of the office this individual occupies.

I want to be able to string the words “President” and “Trump” together consecutively.  I cannot do it.

Maybe one day. Something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Trump does Mattis a huge favor

Put yourself into James Mattis’ boots for a moment.

You’ve just tendered a resignation letter that scorches the commander in chief’s methods of governing, of managing the nation’s foreign and military policies.

You have told the president of the United States you would stay in your job as defense secretary until Feb. 28.

But the president is so angry with you — with all the attention and love you’re getting from the media and politicians of both parties — that he’s decided to cut you loose early.

You’ll be gone instead by the end of December, just a few days from now.

How do you react to that? If it were me, I would be thrilled to death. Thrilled beyond words. Excited to get my life re-started. Secretary Mattis isn’t married, so he doesn’t have a spouse or children to share his joy, but my guess is that he’s cheering along with his best friends, siblings and other extended family members.

Donald Trump well may have done Mattis the biggest favor he could imagine. He has spared the retired Marine general from the chaos of another two months working within an administration where the cadence is being called by someone who is clueless about how government works. He doesn’t know how to forge and maintain strategic alliances. The commander in chief has no inkling of how his policy pronouncements via Twitter disrupt the normal flow of information.

Mattis brought a retired Marine Corps general’s order and discipline to the president’s inner circle, to his national defense team. He will take it all with him when he departs on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will keep on bumbling his way toward an uncertain future as our head of state.

The newly department secretary of defense will be relieved of the insanity and chaos that now masquerade as presidential governance.

James Mattis is likely smiling broadly.

I know I would be. So would you.

Don’t push ‘Mad Dog’ out the door

There’s been some reporting over the past 24 hours about Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and whether the president is looking past the serious grownup he has among his closest Cabinet officials.

Donald Trump announced the ending of “war games” with South Korean armed forces; he declared the United States was nixing the Iran nuclear deal; the president also announced his desire to form a sixth military branch, which he has called a “space force.”

These initiatives all have something in common. The president announced all of them without consulting Secretary Mattis.

Is this the beginning of the end of Mad Dog’s tenure as head of the Pentagon? Oh, man, I hope it ain’t so.

Of all the individuals Trump has selected for the Cabinet, Mattis is the one who — in my mind — has acted like the grownup. He is a serious-minded retired four-star U.S. Marine Corps general. His combat experience makes him a level-headed deterrent to the chicken hawks — such as national security adviser John Bolton — who seem all too eager to send U.S. forces into harm’s way.

When the president tweeted his decision to ban transgender Americans from enlisting in the armed forces, Mattis held the line, saying that he wouldn’t do a thing to change military policy without it going through the proper administrative channels.

Salon.com reports: The president often leaves Mattis “out of the loop” and “doesn’t listen to him,” according to NBC News, undermining this vital role in national security. Trump allegedly believes that Mattis “looks down on him” and “slow walks his policy directives,” sources told the outlet.

Mattis might “look down” on Trump? Really? So what if he does?

I can understand why Mattis, who has served his country with honor and distinction, might take a dim view of Donald Trump’s world view and his utter lack of understanding of what public service is supposed to mean.

For someone who supposedly has a soft spot in his heart for the generals with whom he has surrounded himself, Trump well might be doing all he can to get his premier Cabinet appointment to hit the road.

If that happens, the nation will be the poorer for it.

VA nominee on the ropes?

So help me I didn’t see this one coming.

Navy Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to become the next veterans affairs secretary did raise an eyebrow our two. Mine weren’t among them initially.

Now we hear that the White House physician allegedly promoted an inappropriate workplace environment and might have drunk on the job. What’s more, the president of the United States has given Jackson some cover, enabling him to withdraw his nomination if he believes it is in his best interest.

It well might be, given the crescendo of criticism that is building.

The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has postponed Dr. Jackson’s confirmation hearing indefinitely. Hmm. I think that spells big trouble. Jackson said he is “disappointed” but adds that he is ready to answer all the questions that will come his way.

What I believe we have here is a developing “distraction” that is going to yank attention away from the work that Dr. Jackson is supposed to do on behalf of the nation’s 20 million military veterans; I am one of them and I believe he needs to be focused exclusively on that important work.

Hostile work environment? Over-prescribing of meds? Drinking on the job?

Good grief! This is on top of the criticism that Dr. Jackson hasn’t run an agency anywhere near the size of the monstrous bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Donald Trump is right: Whether he stays in the game is Dr. Jackson’s call. I won’t be a bit surprised if he pulls away from this big job.

And that brings up another question: Why can’t the president find competent and squeaky-clean folks to do these jobs?

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.

It helps to know what you don’t know

One of the gazillion things that have been said of Donald John Trump is that the president of the United States “doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”

He seems to be the Bubble Boy of American politics, insulated from the effects of the barbs and boulders tossed at him. Or so he thinks.

Now comes former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to offer a bit of specificity, which is that Trump doesn’t realize just how “isolated” he has become.

Critics of this blog will recall that I’ve dismissed Newt in the past as a know-nothing has-been, a philanderer who in the late 1990s made a big case against former President Clinton over his, um, philandering. 

On this one, though, Newt might be on to something. He said on Fox News: “On the Hill, he has far more people willing to sit to one side and not help him right now, and I think that he needs to recognize he’s taken a good first step with bringing in Gen. (John) Kelly (as chief of staff), but he needs to think about what has not worked.”

Trump’s term as president is in trouble. He has declared open warfare on fellow Republicans. Democrats detest him already, so they need zero push to resist every single thing he proposes. He cannot fill key deputy Cabinet posts, or senior White House staff jobs. The roster of federal judgeships remains largely vacant.

The president’s legislative agenda has high-centered. It has no traction. Tax reform is likely to get stalled. He won’t get the money he wants to build that wall along our southern border. Congressional leaders are going to increase the budgetary debt ceiling despite what the president says.

Trump once boasted that “I, alone” can fix what’s wrong.

No, Mr. President. You cannot. It is impossible.

He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know … which is dangerous not just for him, but for the country.

Puzder pulls out, thanks to ex-wife’s interview

Andrew Puzder shouldn’t have been nominated as labor secretary in the first place.

He favors automation; he opposes the minimum wage; he is no friend of the working man and woman.

None of that doomed his nomination. Oh, no! The death knell was rung when a decades-old videotape surfaced that shows Puzder’s former wife telling Oprah Winfrey that Puzder abused her. He threatened her, bullied her.

Puzder — a fast-food restaurant mogul — then pulled out.

Vetting, anyone?

I have blogged already about Donald Trump’s lack of vetting as he has looked for Cabinet officers. I thought the worry was overblown.

But here we are. A labor secretary who apparently hadn’t been vetted properly being done in by an old videotaped interview.

It appears that a lot more careful vetting of Puzder’s history could have prevented the president from suffering this embarrassing end to one of his Cabinet selections.

That presumes, of course, that Donald Trump would be embarrassed.

Trump team staggers toward starting line

It’s not going well for Team Trump as it prepares to take command of the most powerful, greatest nation on Earth.

Seemingly across the board, Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections are having difficulty squaring their records with what will be expected of them when — or if — they take some highly visible public offices.

Betsy DeVos,  the president-elect’s choice to become education secretary, seemed flummoxed about questions pertaining to basic education policy.

Health and Human Services pick U.S. Rep. Tom Price is facing scrutiny over legislation he pitched that favored a company in which he had just purchased stock.

Ben Carson, the noted brain surgeon who has been nominated to lead the housing department, is having to explain why his spokesman said the good doctor is unqualified for the job.

Andrew Puzder, the labor secretary-designate (pictured with Trump), reportedly is having second thoughts about even taking the job. Oh, and he’s got a messy divorce settlement hanging over him, too.

Scott Pruitt, picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, told a Senate committee that his views on whether human beings are responsible for climate change aren’t relevant.

And on and on we go.

It’s not all bad. The Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended confirmation for Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis — after he seemed to contradict Trump’s views about the threat posed by Russia.

I get that sometimes these high-level Cabinet picks go awry. Do you remember when two of President-elect Bill Clinton’s picks for attorney general had to bow out because they had employed illegal immigrants?

But that’s OK. Donald Trump assured us he would pick the “smartest people, the best people” to run the government while he concentrates on making America “great again.”

Oye!