Am I Supposed To Be Upset?

People tend to leave administrations between the mid-term election and New Year’s Day of the following year. For many two years of high level government service is enough. They may well want to get out of the pressure cooker or simply cash in via the revolving door. I haven’t done a study (and don’t intent to) so I cannot unequivocally state whether they are leaving the Trump administration at a greater rate than normal. Considering the positions that were never filled (mainly because Trump never bothered to nominate or hire someone in the first place) and all the previous departures I have to guess the Trump exodus is on the high side. The bottom line is that this administration has served the nation more poorly than perhaps any of its predecessors. There are several hotspot countries that don’t even have an American ambassador because Trump never bothered to nominate one.   My question is just how concerned I should be about the departures. Come along and ponder that with me.

It’s a very rare snowy Sunday afternoon in the metro Raleigh area as I pen this; a good day to stay inside and think. The late week and the weekend news included several personnel moves. Saturday Trump announced that Chief-of-Staff John Kelly would be leaving by year’s end. He also confirmed that he would be nominating Heather Neuter for UN ambassador and William Barr to be the new Attorney General.

To say Kelly has been a major disappointment is one of the biggest understatements of 2018. When Trump first took office many hoped that Kelly would be one of the few “grownups” around him that could get a decent outcome out of the president. All Kelly did is reveal himself as a misogynist, racist, xenophobe. He will probably end up with a cushy high six or seven figure job in the private sector but his reputation is ruined. I feel sorry for the people who were on his staff in the Marines. I wonder how many careers he ruined on his way to the top. Who knows who his successor will be but I doubt it will be anyone with a great track record. Why would anyone sharp want a position in the Trump administration on their resume?

Here is the problem with the three positions I cover above: they are all Cabinet level appointments (Chief-of-Staff does not require Senate confirmation). If anyone is still holding out for a 25th Amendment solution I suggest you stop reading this and get to work on your letter to Santa.

Let’s take a look at why Trump is probably nominating Barr and Neuter. Barr is the most legitimate pick Trump can get for the AG job. At 68, Barr can retire so he doesn’t have to be concerned with harming his career. He is a former AG having been George H.W. Bush’s second to fill the spot. He is a long time right wing Republican having served in the Reagan White House. Bottom line he is a rethread from two failed Republican administrations. He is right up Trump and his base’s alley when it comes to beliefs. He is a staunch defender of presidential powers; Trump needs that! He also is in favor of investigating Hillary Clinton – the right wing’s favorite distraction. He also believes that Roe was incorrectly decided which plays to the Religious Right part of Trump’s base. (I guess paying off porn stars for past affairs is moral in their book.)

My critique of Neuter is shorter. Her only qualification appears to be a stint on Fox News. It sure isn’t her deep knowledge of world history. She cited D-day as the apex of US-German relations.

In a non-Cabinet personnel move last week the Senate confirmed Trump’s nomination of Kathy Kraninger as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kraninger has absolutely no experience in the financial industry or the policing of it. Kraninger’s education is in political science, history (maybe she knows something about D-Day) and law. It appears her main qualifications are blond hair (a huge Trump preference) and a loyalty to Trump. She will look good being interviewed on Fox and Neuter can always give her advice.

Then we have Trump’s personal business practices. Last week there were two stories of interest on that front either of which would be a major scandal in any other administration but they have to fight for coverage in this scandal plagued one.

Trump likes to portray himself as a tough guy on immigration. He has repeatedly said he was a strong advocate and successful user of the E-Verify system. The New York Times reported that Trump’s housemaid at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort is undocumented and her supervisor knew it. She actually made Trump’s bed and ironed his clothes. (That makes me also question security.)

Shortly after Trump’s election American lobbyists representing Saudi interests rented approximately 500 rooms in Trump’s Washington DC hotel for veterans they asked to come to DC to lobby for bills the Saudi government favored. (The bills were far from hotly contested issues.) This was a way to give some veterans all-expenses paid luxury trips to DC and for the Saudis to launder some money into Trump’s pocket. Call it influence peddling, international money laundering or both.

As an interesting aside in this situation, remember that Trump promised to donate any foreign profits his hotel made. That is full of holes on its face which I don’t have time to explore here. However, since the checks were written by American entities I bet these revenues were never considered foreign by Trump’s people.

The common denominators in both of these cases are greed and hypocrisy; two things Trump and his administration have no shortage of. The bottom line is that I’m not overly concerned about people exiting the Trump administration. In most cases they are inferior candidates being replaced by inferior candidates. Whatever happened to the best – only the best?

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