CONTENTIOUS TRUMP CABINET PICKS UNDER SCRUTINY
February 10, 2017
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Although most seats in our government are democratically elected, a select few are appointed advisers for the many complex and difficult decisions a standing president must make. The character and motive of the presidency to come is affected greatly by the ambitions of the new Presidential cabinet. As per usual, President Trump has stirred up great controversy, but now it is not his word that is scrutinized but instead his cabinet picks.
One of Trump’s most prominent campaign slogans was to “Drain the Swamp,” a promise to end the reign of corruption in Washington. His promise for political upheaval from an outsider was a major hook for Trump on the campaign trail, and a definite contributor to his victory last November. Ron Sexton, a Trump supporter, said for The Washington Post, “I think Trump is smart and has a chance to do good things for the United States. He is more of a doer than a politician. An inclusive president for all.”
However, this promise may have been nothing but a popular motto to get elected on. Many of the President-elect’s cabinet picks seem to be the same establishment he was railing against throughout the entire campaign. Energy Secretary hopeful Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry pledged to eliminate his future department when he ran during the 2011 primaries, a fact that he forgot during Republican debate. Trump’s pick for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson expressed, through aides, in November that “he feels he has no government experience” and thus “the last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.” Something obviously changed, as Carson had his confirmation hearing on Jan. 12.
Even among the likes of those aforementioned, they are not the most contentious picks on Trump’s cabinet; that title is reserved for three other candidates: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Exxonmobile CEO Rex Tillerson, and RNC committeewoman Betsy Devos.
Sessions has been criticized currently and in the past for his decisions on civil rights cases. As the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama under Reagan, three civil rights leaders — Albert Turner, his wife Evelyn and Spencer Hogue Jr. — were unanimously acquitted of election fraud charges brought by a prosecution led by Sessions. The lawyers for the defendants claimed that the government pursued the case to intimidate black voters.
Former Democratic Senator Deval Patrick wrote in a searing letter to Congress, “Pursuing that case was an act of extraordinary quasi-judicial activism. To use prosecutorial discretion to attempt to criminalize voter assistance is wrong and should be disqualifying for any aspirant to the Nation’s highest law enforcement post.”
Sessions has also been under fire for repeatedly amending his questionnaire; one question specifically under contention was whether or not Sessions had been denied from federal appointment, following his abysmal performance at his 1986 hearings. Within the trial he called a white civil-rights activist a “disgrace to his race.” He later denied that claim, despite the audio evidence contesting otherwise.
Tillerson has made many wary in regards to his qualifications as Secretary of State. Tillerson has no previous experience in diplomacy, although his supporters insist past oil deals have prepared him for the position. These negotiations include a billion-dollar deal with a Russian state oil company to explore and drill in Siberia, which was halted after Obama raised sanctions on Russia. These sanctions could be lifted, which would directly benefit the company Tillerson has promised to retire from in the near future.
Alleged connections to the Kremlin, specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also worrying. He was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, the highest honor that can be given to a foreign citizen.
Although the proposed cabinet has raised many concerns about deceit on Trump’s end, Trump supporter Michael Bishop stands firm in his faith in Trump, as he said, “Trump has been criticized for promising to drain the swamp. . .[but] if [his nominations] have money, they’re not bound by money. Just like Trump himself.”
Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, school-choice philanthropist and Republican donor Betsy DeVos, has also come under criticism after her confirmation hearing on Jan. 17. She seemed ill-prepared for the hearing, as she was confused when Wisconsin Senator Al Franken asked for her opinion on the debate between measuring a student and teacher’s performance on either growth or proficiency, a major argument in education.
After an objectively meandering and digressive response, Sen. Franken said, “I was kind of surprised, well I’m not that surprised, that you did not know this issue.”
Sen. Franken’s quip was most likely derived from concerns raised by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the hearing about the legitimacy of Betsy Devos’ nomination. She has never attended public school herself, her children have never attended public school, she has never participated in the management of a scholarship loan program, and neither she nor her children have had to apply for financial aid, yet she was appointed to a position in that administers federal financial aid and governs over public education. Coincidentally, her family has contributed $200 million to the Republican Party.
51 million people voted for Trump, looking for a change in how this country is run, challenging the political establishment, and hoping to finally no longer be the silent majority; it’s hard to say that their wishes will be delivered.