Monday, December 05, 2016

Ranting On...Ben Carson & HUD

HUD Secretary-designate Ben Carson (R-MD)
I've been kind of holding back on the Trump cabinet selections mostly because I'm waiting for some of them to actually be announced.  He's taken a surprisingly large amount of time naming candidates, and in a similar fashion to his VP selection, is baiting the media with tantalizing and provocative names (Condi Rice!  Bob Gates!  Heidi Heitkamp!) to deter from the egregious and potentially deadly missteps that he is making in foreign policy in Taiwan and the Philippines.  Particularly when it comes to the Secretary of State, it feels like he's naming every person in Washington or in a corporate board across the country.

I also am holding back a bit because by-and-large I think that the POTUS should get the cabinet that he asks for.  This isn't the same for the judiciary, or other positions that might carry to potentially non-partisan positions that will last longer than his presidency, but in some ways I've always found it a bit pointless to count on a presidential cabinet and its leaders to reflect a president.  The reality is that the president shapes the agenda; if Trump wants to do something, he'll largely be able to do so, even with positions he's supposed to give some sense of autonomy like the Justice Department.

But I have to say, I wouldn't vote for most of these nominees even with that very wide yardstick, because they feel wholly unqualified or even dangerous for their positions.  Part of this stems from the fact that I truly feel Trump is wholly unqualified and dangerous for his position.  His lack of experience is galling and it shows.  Take the situation in Taiwan-there are a lot of issues one can have with the Chinese government, but in terms of the hierarchy of needs, we should probably spend more time working on climate change or North Korea before we address the "One China" initiative, as they feel a far more potent and immediate concern.  Trump's needless escalation in China is perhaps the most idiotic thing of his campaign-the fact that Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus are now making it seem like something they've been planning for months (I find this extremely hard to believe considering they didn't think they'd be winning this election less than a month ago) makes it all the more dangerous.  The man is a sociopath, but perhaps more distressing is that his team doesn't know how to handle when he's being impetuous, and reigning it in.  What's going to happen during the first international incident where, say, a Chinese jet nears a US airplane or there is an incident in the South China Sea?  I honestly wake up in a cold sweat thinking about how ill-prepared Trump is for these scenarios.

Which is why his cabinet is unacceptable to me and grossly reflective of his lack of preparation.  I look at someone like Jeff Sessions, and I see the bigotry and racism that Trump espoused on the campaign trail.  I look at Betsy DeVos, and I see the entitlement that Paul Ryan has had toward only the richest of Americans; the woman would gut the education system in the country limb-from-limb, selling it off to the highest bidder.  Tom Price would leave millions of Americans without their health insurance, and in some cases leaving them to simply die because of greed and hatred.  James Mattis can't even legally hold his position without violating the National Security Act of 1947.

And then, of course, there's Ben Carson.  I had been wondering at what point someone from the "motley crew" aspect of the Trump campaign would make it onto the stage.  I had kind of thought it might be him trying truly for a "Hail Mary" and putting Sarah Palin in a Senate-approved position (sorry, but there's no way she ever gets confirmed by a 52-48 Senate).  Carson being nominated to HUD has to be one of the most idiotic moves from a tactical standpoint that you could possibly imagine.  Had he been put up as Surgeon General, for example, he probably wouldn't have been confirmed, but you could make the argument that he has a medical degree and arguably is qualified for the position.  But HUD?  What does Ben Carson know about HUD, other than he grew up in the inner city and that he owns a home?  Seriously-those are his only qualifications!  Either Trump doesn't care about HUD (likely) or is just trolling the Senate into defying him so he has something to complain about in the middle of the night on Twitter (also likely).

The reality is that the only person in Trump's cabinet so far that is unquestionably qualified for her position is Elaine Chao.  She's also the only person he's nominated so far for the cabinet that I would vote to confirm.  This isn't, for the record, because I think she'll be a fantastic Secretary of Transportation-I don't have confidence in some of her policies and think her tenure at the Frances Perkins Building left mountains to be desired.  But she's undoubtedly experienced in transportation, has worked in three past presidential administrations, and is capable of running an agency of this size.  Like I said above, I don't think senators should vote solely on policy in these scenarios, but also whether the person is qualified and able to carry out these duties, while also not holding any extreme views that could potentially harm their institutions (ideally they'd help these institutions, but I haven't seen a nominee that will do that yet and am not holding my breath).  Elaine Chao wouldn't be my choice for Transportation Secretary, but this is a Republican president, and I can respect that the country (well, the electoral college clause in the Constitution, not the actual voters) made a choice here.  Chao should be confirmed.

The Democrats have stated that they intend to slow-walk these candidates, and in the case of Carson, one wonders if he'll have to withdraw due to early criticism of the selection (most notably from Republican Sen. Susan Collins).  But it says something about Trump that he is willing to fill these positions with people who strike fear in the hearts of countless Americans.  Like the Taiwan call, it's either reeking of bad advice, or perhaps more tellingly, a heartless man who truly believed all of the heinous, reckless, and dangerous things he said on the campaign trail.  HHS Secretary or HUD Secretary or Attorney General may not impact you specifically, but to pretend their policies don't impact the safety and security of millions of Americans (and in some cases, all Americans) is foolish-these are important positions that will have enormous sway on public policy.  All I can say is, I hope that he soon sees the error of his ways or we will be getting many sleepless nights soon enough.

No comments: