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.
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.