Tag Archives: Trump Cabinet

Stability? Who needs stability, right, Mr. POTUS?

Donald Trump is showing that he can be a master rationalizer. The guy can seek to rationalize every idiotic circumstance.

Such as the array of “acting” Cabinet secretaries and senior administration officials. The president says he is in no hurry to find permanent replacements, saying something about liking the “flexibility” that’s built in to his current administration makeup.

Ridiculous!

He has an acting White House chief of staff, an acting interior secretary, an acting attorney general, an acting defense secretary, an acting U.N. ambassador, an acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Only the White House chief of staff does not require Senate confirmation.

Now, the president has nominated individuals to become the permanent U.N. envoy, the EPA boss and attorney general.

However, he is being caught in a swirl of legal and political conflicts that are interfering with the “normal” flow of business; of course, “normal” takes on a new meaning in this Era of Donald J. Trump, which is to say that there is a whole “new normal.”

I happen to believe that the presence of so many “acting” executive branch officials begets more chaos and uncertainty. There can be little good side to having all these posts occupied by individuals who just keeping seats warm for someone else.

How about getting busy, Mr. President?

Who’s next at Defense? Will it be a Trump ideologue?

James Mattis’s stunning resignation as defense secretary poses the next obvious question for those of us who are concerned about the future of our national defense policy.

Who in the world is Donald Trump going to find to succeed the man who quit because of serious policy differences with the White House?

More to the point: Will the next defense boss — unlike the warrior/patriot who’s leaving — going to be a sycophant who’ll do the president’s bidding without challenging him in any fashion?

Let’s lay this out right away: Donald John Trump is the first president in U.S. history who has (a) no military experience and (b) no prior government experience. I don’t begrudge the president for lacking any military background; he’s far from the first one to bring that lack of credential to the nation’s highest office. But the absence of both backgrounds, taken together, puts this matter into a whole new context.

Mattis quit over differences on an array of policy matters with the president. The deal breaker appears to be Trump’s sudden decision to pull our troops out of Syria, leaving the battlefield while the fight against the Islamic State is still under way. Mattis opposed that decision. The president didn’t heed his advice, or the advice of any other military or diplomatic expert with access to the Oval Office. What in the world does it tell us that Russia — which is propping up the Syrian dictator — endorsed Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria?

Is the president, therefore, going to look for someone who shares his world view on how to shaft our allies, kowtow to dictators, allow the know-nothing commander in chief to do as he pleases whenever he pleases?

Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general with more than four decades of service to the nation — much of it on battlefields around the world — is none of the above. Moreover, he is revered by the men and women who serve under him. He commands respect because he gives respect to our allies and those who are thrust into harm’s way.

This man’s resignation is a big . . . deal.

I am officially frightened.

Mattis quits; so goes Trump’s last ‘best’ person

I am saddened but not shocked to hear the news that rocketed out of Washington, D.C. today. Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned.

What is astonishing is the tone of the resignation letter Mattis sent to the president of the United States. He calls out the commander in chief for his failure to be more “resolute” in his approach to Russia and China. He also tears into the president for his treatment of our geopolitical allies and then declares that Trump has the right to have a defense secretary whose views “align” more with the president.

Mattis’s views do not, as the letter makes clear.

This is a serious blow to the defense of our nation. Mattis is a serious man, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, a man who has seen combat. He is a patriot, a warrior a student of foreign policy.

That this man would resign effective Feb. 28, just after the second year of the Trump administration, is stunning enough. That he would call out the commander in chief, who makes foreign and defense policy decisions on impulse and whim, is utterly breathtaking in its scope.

Read the letter here

One more takeaway from the letter: Mattis does not express gratitude for serving the president. He does express pride in serving the men and women in uniform and for serving the nation he loves.

Will any of this register in any tangible manner with the commander in chief? I wouldn’t bet my last dollar on it.

Yes, Trump could have been our Person of the Year

I am thrilled with Time’s choice of the journalists who have become the symbols of international persecution of their craft to be the magazine’s Persons of the Year.

It’s an inspired choice. They’re called “The Guardians.” I said so in an earlier post on this blog.

However, let’s talk about the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump Sr. Could the president have deserved such a designation? Yes, by all means.

Trump had bloviated something a few days earlier about how he deserved to be Time’s Person of the Year. Then again, would he want to read Time’s explanation of why it bestowed him with such an “honor”? Oh, I forgot: He doesn’t read.

Then again, consider something. Time’s criteria include those who make the biggest difference in the nation and the world, for better or worse. It has put Josef Stalin on the cover, as it did the Ayatollah Khomeini. Adolf Hitler got the nod one year. Those men all made a profound difference.

I am not equating Trump with those monstrous despots. However, his presidency has continued to spiral out of control. He has sought to redefine the parameters we set for presidential success and/or failure. The chaos that continues to swirl around him provides an astonishing display for all to see.

He has lied continuously and gratuitously. He lies when he doesn’t need to lie. He has redefined the way presidents and other public figures communicate through his use of Twitter.

He has fired at least two Cabinet members this year alone. He has burned through his second chief of staff in less than two years. He alienates himself and, therefore, this nation he leads from allies around the world. He has launched trade wars with economic powers and longtime trading partners.

Yeah, this guy has been “consequential” as president. He has made a difference in the nation and the world. Trump sought to made the case for his own significance as an international figure. He did so with typical Trumpian inarticulateness.

If only Time had seen fit to put this guy on its cover . . . and then sought to explain it to the rest of the world. It would have been a hell of a good read.

It’s ‘Secretary,’ not ‘General’ Mattis, Mr. President

I’ve made this point already, but I feel the need to restate it.

Donald J. Trump once again referred to the secretary of defense as “Gen. Mattis.” Yes, James “Mad Dog” Mattis — one of my favorite Trump Cabinet appointees — is a retired Marine Corps general. He’s got four stars on his epaulets.

But that was then. Today, the here and now, Mad Dog Mattis is a civilian, just like the president is a civilian.

Trump’s reference to “Gen. Mattis” came as he was announcing his decision to sh**can the planned June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The president, naturally, followed that reference with a statement that the U.S. military is the strongest in the world and that it is ready to act if the need arises.

Oh, brother, man!

Mr. President, we assign these Cabinet posts to civilians. It’s a time-honored tradition that civilians control the military. President Truman had to remind Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur of that fact when he relieved him of his Korean War command in the early 1950s.

I know it’s a semantics issue. It just bothers the daylights out of me that the commander in chief cannot honor the long-standing tradition of the office with a simple reference to the defense boss as “Secretary” James Mattis.

Get with the program, Mr. President.

Jackson mess seems to fit a pattern

Let’s review for a brief moment some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

I thought it would be worthwhile to look back a bit in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson nomination to become head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Jackson is a fine physician who has a good rapport with the president, which seems to be the major — perhaps the only — reason Trump selected him to lead the VA. He has no experience in leading an agency of such size and importance. His nomination is in dire peril over allegations of drinking on the job and over-prescribing of medicine.

  • Dr. Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His experience in running a huge federal agency? None, although he said he once visited a public housing complex.
  • Betsy DeVos was educated in private schools; she sent her children to private schools. She has no direct experience or exposure to public education. Yet she runs the U.S. Department of (public) Education.
  • Rick Perry once declared he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Now he is the secretary of the agency he once promised to wipe away.
  • Scott Pruitt served as Oklahoma attorney general and sued the federal government repeatedly over what he said were onerous regulations designed to protect our environment. Now he is head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Jim Bridenstine had no science background before Trump nominated him to lead NASA, the nation’s space agency.
  • The Trump administration has burned through four communications directors in less than 18 months. One of them had, um, no experience in the communications field.

Is there a pattern here? Sure there is. The fellow who nominated all of them to their high offices has no political/government/public service either.

The first public office the president of the United States ever sought was the one he occupies at this moment. He has no experience in government. None in public service.

He doesn’t know a damn thing about the value of public service, nor does he seem to appreciate why people serve the public.

There will be more drama and chaos to come. Of that I am certain.

But … the president tells it like it is.

Why the delay in selecting ideal Cabinet?

The White House reaction to David Shulkin’s departure as veterans affairs secretary prompts a question from yours truly.

Donald Trump is moving “closer” to fielding an ideal Cabinet, the White House press office said after Shulkin submitted his resignation — apparently at the president’s request.

So, the question is this: Why didn’t the president pick an ideal Cabinet when he was transitioning into the office in late 2016 and early 2017?

Shulkin is the eighth Cabinet officer or close White House adviser to quit or be fired in just 15 months into the Trump administration. They’re dropping like flies in the West Wing and in agencies throughout the executive branch of the federal government.

The president vowed to surround himself with the “best people” as he was forming the executive branch leadership. If we are to believe the White House’s latest assertion about Trump’s desire to move closer to an ideal Cabinet while filling key White House advisory posts, then are we also to assume that the president has failed in keeping this particular promise?

Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, is the new nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs; Jackson has examined the past three presidents and delivered a sparkling medical critique of Trump’s physical health. That’s fine. I’m sure he’s a fine doctor. He does lack governmental administrative experience, although I’ll endorse the president’s assessment that as an active-duty military officer, Admiral Jackson has a keen understanding of veterans issues. I wish him well.

I want to circle back to my original question: Why didn’t the president select a top-tier roster of Cabinet officials and critical White House advisers when he took office?

Oh, I forgot something. That requires a president to do his homework and to rely on the best advice from the “best people” he has assembled to make these critical decisions at the outset.

Or, to put it another way: The president should have employed some “extreme vetting” techniques in assembling his team.

The door keeps revolving in Trump World

Here’s the latest big shakeup inside the Donald J. Trump administration. David Shulkin is out as secretary of veterans affairs. Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, is the new boss at the VA.

Trump pushed out Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration. Admiral Jackson will inherit a department in relatively good shape, if we are to accept the president’s tweet announcing the latest big personnel change. He thanked Shulkin for his service to the country and for the work he did on behalf of our “great veterans.”

I do expect the president to have an unkind word or two to tweet, however, regarding Shulkin’s Obama connection, given that’s Trump’s modus operandi: anything to do with his immediate predecessor is a bad thing.

Shulkin got caught up in a controversy over excessive spending on personal and department travel. I would caution the president to avoid blasting Shulkin just because Barack Obama appointed him; Trump, remember, did keep him on board.

As one of those who receives care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, I do appreciate that the agency has recovered a good bit from the shameful episode it went through with reports of veterans dying while awaiting health care in some hospitals. The shameful chapter cost retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki his job as veterans secretary. Indeed, he needed to go.

Is this the end of the Trump shakeup? Well, I am not holding my breath. I expect some more “bodies” to be thrown over the wall. Then again, that’s almost becoming normal in the world of Trump, who actually has acknowledged how he thrives on chaos.

I do hope Admiral Jackson can keep the VA ship moving forward while continuing to provide care for our nation’s “great veterans.”

Dr. Carson approved for HUD post; more OJT for key Trumpster

OK, let’s review for a moment the nature of some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

Betsy DeVos, who has zero exposure to public education is now head of the U.S. Department of (Public) Education. She didn’t attend public schools, her children didn’t attend them, she favors vouchers that would spend public money to allow parents to send their kids to private schools.

Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly, is now head of the EPA. He wants to dismantle the rules and regulations designed to, oh, allow for a clean environment.

Ben Carson, whose spokesman once said is not qualified to run a federal agency, today has been confirmed to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson is a renowned retired neurosurgeon and is a former Republican primary opponent of the president of the United States.

Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, has not a lick of experience in international diplomacy. But there he is, serving as secretary of state.

These folks all have something in common with the person who picked them for their high-profile government jobs. The president doesn’t any experience, either, in the job to which he was elected.

Trump is holding the first public office he ever sought. He has zero public service experience. He has focused his entire adult life on one thing: personal enrichment. He doesn’t know how the government works. He doesn’t seem to grasp the complexities of governance and legislating.

Hey, that’s OK in the minds of millions of Americans who voted for him. He told it “like it is” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Can all of these individuals learn how to do their jobs? I damn sure hope so … for the sake of the nation they are leading.

Trump’s Cabinet: at best, a mixed bag

Donald J. Trump hasn’t picked a gang of losers for his Cabinet.

He’s got some winners in the bunch. I am not equipped just yet to assess all of the president’s team members. Some have yet to take office, such as Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry.

But I do feel driven to offer a word or two on a few of the more visible selections Trump has made.

First, the good picks.

James “Mad Dog” Mattis at Defense might be the best of the bunch. The retired Marine Corps general has turned out to be a seriously mature and thoughtful fellow. Imagine someone with the “Mad Dog” nickname earning that designation.

Gen. Mattis has declared that the United States won’t “torture” enemy combatants, nor will it seize Iraqi oil. He has managed to contradict the president directly on those two key elements. Semper fi, Gen. Mattis.

John Kelly, another Marine general, is a plus at Homeland Security. He’s kept a low profile so far, but has toured the southern border to take a first-hand look at the so-called “porous” border.

Rex Tillerson might be the big surprise at State. The former ExxonMobil CEO brought some serious baggage to his job. I remained worried about whether Tillerson’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to skew the U.S. policy toward Russia.

But he is talking reasonably and thoughtfully about U.S. foreign policy so far. His political foes have been quieted somewhat now that he’s on the job.

Let’s look at three Cabinet clunkers.

Betsy DeVos at Education shouldn’t be there. She has no experience — let alone understanding — of public education; she never attended public schools; nor did her children. She favors voucher programs that peel away public funds to pay for private education for parents and their children.

My friend, 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, has invited DeVos to visit public schools here in Amarillo, hoping she can collect some level of understanding about the hard work that’s going on in public classrooms. I do hope the secretary accepts Shanna’s invitation so she can learn something about the agency she is now leading.

Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development is another loser who has no business running an agency about which he knows not a single thing. The retired — and famed — neurosurgeon said so himself, through a spokesman; he isn’t qualified to run a federal agency. Trump picked him anyway. Enough said there.

Scott Pruitt, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, might be the worst of the bunch. How does the president justify selecting a sworn enemy of the agency he now is leading. Pruitt hates the EPA and sued the agency 14 times while serving as Oklahoma attorney general. He’s a friend of big oil and he detests EPA’s efforts at developing alternative energy sources for the purpose of, that’s right, protecting the environment.

Sheesh, man!

I am hoping for the best. My fear, though, falls short of that. As for the Trump Cabinet winners, I hope their strength rubs off on their weaker colleagues.