In 1993 Elaine Chao became Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s second and arguably trophy wife. She comes from a wealthy family most of who still do business in China and in the surrounding region. In 2001 she became George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor, a post she stayed in during the entirety of both Bush terms. In 2017 she became Donald Trump’s Secretary of Transportation. It get more interesting from there, let’s explore.
If done right being a Cabinet Secretary is a grueling job that often demands significant personal sacrifice (mainly financial). It is unusual for anyone to serve a full eight years in that position. In order to “come back for more” there has to be a special motivation. It could be a sense of patriotism and giving back knowing you can afford to do what others simply can’t; or it could be something else.
Unlike most Trump Cabinet nominees, Chao was easily confirmed. Could it have had anything to do with the fact that her husband runs the confirming body? Just in case anyone doubted the outcome Mitch wanted he not only didn’t recuse himself, he voted to confirm.
While I call him evil I also acknowledge that McConnell is a master of the Senate. In my lifetime the only other Senate Majority Leader with his skill was the late-Lyndon Johnson. They also shared an important modus operandi – campaign money. Johnson gained his power over his fellow Democratic Senators because he was the go to guy when last minute campaign (and sometimes not so last minute) money was needed. Remember one of my basic political axioms: Politicians, regardless of Party only care about two things – money and votes.
Especially since these days the filibuster only applies to (most) legislation all a Senate leader needs is 50 people of their Party who they control by philosophy or are beholden to them financially. A few Senators are always able to get elected or reelected by the strength of party affiliation in their state. A few more are personally that popular with their constituents. The rest always need money and campaigns are getting more expensive each cycle.
McConnell, much like Johnson, appears to do very little to personally enrich himself. Both concentrated on accumulating power in the Senate via campaign funding. Mrs. Mitch operates a bit differently. In the Bush 43-era the word on the street was donate to Mitch and if he can’t make sure a bill you don’t like never gets passed his wife can make sure it (or a previously passed law) doesn’t get vigorously enforced; at least against your interests anyway. Secretary Chao 2.0’s operation has expanded a bit. In 2017 when she took command of the Transportation Department she said she would sell her shares in Vulcan Materials because they, as America’s largest supplier of road building materials, represented a clear conflict of interest. Subsequently she reported doing that. Not surprising for a member of the Trump Cabinet, she lied. Her 2018 income from the stock was over $40,000. Not value; income. While Chao is a wealthy lady and that fact should not be held against her, let’s put that in perspective. The median American household income is about $60,000. Her profit from a single investment was about two-thirds of what an entire American household has to live off of. Was she a shrewd investor (in addition to being a liar) or did she help favorably manipulate things in her official capacity? You connect those dots.
While you are at it consider the New York Times reporting that she used her official position to help her family’s business interests. It appears Mrs. Mitch likes to wet her beak and the beaks of her family. Family includes hubby Mitch who happens to be up for reelection in 2020.
Politico was the first to report that Chao hired former McConnell campaign operative Todd Inman at the Transportation Department. That alone is not unusual. Many campaign staffers end up getting DC jobs. However it appears that Inman’s primary function at Transportation was to expedite projects involving Kentucky. I guess Inman did a good job because it is reported that $78 million in Department of Transportation contracts ended up in Kentucky. You connect those dots now.
Instead of draining the swamp Don Trump and Don McConnell have imported more swamp creatures and are allowing them to work above the surface. The only way to solve the problem is to remove the offending critters. Of late all the energy on the American political left has been on removing Trump from office. So much so that it seems there are more Democrats running for the presidency than not. We need to take back the White House but if we don’t take back the Senate in the process we will not stop a substantial part of the evil. (Think of how many things can be done by simple Senate majority.)
People like Stacey Abrams, Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper and Beto O’Rourke need to run for the Senate instead of chasing a presidential nod that won’t happen or sitting it out. My message to them is either be part of the team by playing your spot or leave. It’s about superordinate not individual goals.
If the American voters – with extra pressure on the voters of Kentucky – do the right thing in 2020 we can get rid of Trump, McConnell and Chao. Now that’s a trifecta American needs to cash in on!
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