The Churn and Burn of Trump's Cabinet

By Jamie Stiehm

April 3, 2019 5 min read

WASHINGTON — It was famously said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the cheery president who led America through the Depression and World War II, had a "first-class temperament."

President Donald Trump has a tenth-rate temperament. But his flaws always glare at us. The men and few women he chose for his Cabinet have also done much to earn our distrust. Together, they're a testament to Trump's character.

It's a real gallery of rogues. Most notorious are Betsy DeVos and William Barr. The rest fly under the radar.

Education Secretary DeVos tried to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics, which caused such outrage that a wiser head prevailed: Trump's. Yes, he overruled her. This incident showed how inept DeVos is, even insulting senators to their faces. She doesn't hide her hostility toward old-school public schools in favor of charter schools, religious schools and private schools. Born to a darkly conservative family fortune, she shows zero interest in how the other half is schooled.

Attorney General Barr is a star in Trump's eyes. He took the job just in time to run interference on special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly 400-page report on the Russia probe.

Because Barr buttresses presidential power, we know little beyond his sparse four-page summary of Mueller's report. He has given the impression that the report cleared Trump, though Mueller said no such thing. Mueller did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. The House is impatient to see the full report — setting an early April deadline — but Barr's in no hurry to comply with Congress.

Barr is not working for the nation but for the president. It should be the other way around. Prosperous, pinstriped and bespectacled, he looks his part, pickled with pomposity. Trump loves it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually visited the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman after a Saudi journalist writing for The Washington Post was murdered in cold blood in a Saudi consulate. Pompeo's fingerprints all over the Middle East scene are not bringing peace. He blasts Iran every chance he gets. He has given mixed signals on the United States talks with the repressive Afghan Taliban — when the Taliban was a reason we went to war. Like DeVos, he's a Christian Right believer.

Bright as he is, Pompeo has not reined in Trump's fondness for strongmen. First in his class at West Point, the abrasive Pompeo is nowhere near as skilled a diplomat as John Kerry, a Democratic predecessor. If Pompeo were, Trump wouldn't be threatening to close the Mexican border.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the sullen, embattled homeland security secretary, is not up to the difficult job she has. She's the one who approved separating families on the southern border. She sat silently as Trump spoke as only he can about the so-called young immigrant "Dreamers." Does she see her job as enforcing his orders? For all her loyalty, she may be remembered for a radical border closing.

Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and David Bernhardt, acting interior secretary, are meant to champion clean land, water and air. But Wheeler was a coal lobbyist, and Bernhardt was an oil and gas lobbyist. Isn't that a conflict? We can count on them for more air pollution, and drilling and mining on public lands, precious heritage handed down generations.

Alex Azar, health and human services secretary, proposes cutting billions from the National Institutes of Health budget. Born to shipping wealth, Elaine Chao, transportation secretary, did not immediately ground a Boeing 737 MAX model after two crashed. (Chao is married to Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader.)

Wilbur Ross, 81, the vastly wealthy commerce secretary, is set on skewing the 2020 census toward Republican political advantage. He is all about adding a citizenship question to the form — which has never been done. The census is meant to be a fair count of the population every 10 years, to draw the map for Congress.

They are a radical bunch, privileged, pushy and shameless. They refuse to cooperate with Congress.

Let me not forget Mick Mulvaney, once a South Carolina congressman. As acting chief of staff, he just convinced Trump he could destroy Obamacare in the courts.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit the website, creators.com.

photo credit: Andreas Praefcke

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