To aid her readers in their quest for the most egregiously malfeasant actors in Trump’s cabinet— “Vote for Trump’s Worst!”— Gail Collins inventories the cast of characters and their blatant abuse of the public trust. Her column is a handy reference tool, because the misdeeds and corruption vie for supremacy in venality. Choosing the worst is a real challenge, because, she warns, “the competition is intense.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as Tom Friedman recounts, persuaded Trump to fire the State Department’s inspector general “reportedly because he was investigating … Pompeo’s own efforts to evade a congressional ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and for improperly asking a State Department employee to run errands for him and his wife.” Among many more examples of deceit and corruption.
Chad Wolf, the acting head of Homeland Security, had previous experience as a travel industry lobbyist, which apparently prepared him to be Trump’s yes-man, confining immigrants at the Southern border and tear-gassing peaceful protesters in Democratic cities.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose big donations to Republican causes initially qualified him for the job, now sees as his mission the destruction of the U.S. Post Office to accommodate Trump’s wish to abolish voting by mail.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. shut down the census count a month early, though it had been previously extended to October 31 because of the Coronavirus. Up to 40% of the population has not yet been counted, disproportionately people of color, the disabled, immigrants, and the elderly, all groups difficult to count and likely to vote against Trump. The dramatic undercount of Black, Latino and other minority communities will diminish their federal funding and political representation.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industries, “took a lead in the administration’s massive financial relief package for oil and gas companies.” He was a central figure in the decision to use military police to gas protesters from Lafayette Square so that Trump and his bible could have their photo op.
Andrew Wheeler, former lobbyist for energy companies, Collins writes, is currently engaged in “a crusade” to extend “the life of giant pits of toxic coal sludge.”
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, the very wealthy wife of Mitch McConnell, has close ties to power players in China and benefits from her family’s shipping company. It garnered up to $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Alex Azar, Health and Human Services, whose principal occupation seems to be supervising the dismembering of the Affordable Care Act.
Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary and sister of Erik Prince, favors charter schools and doesn’t like public schools. Her brother founded Blackwater, the military mercenary hit squad in Iraq. The family is very wealthy and has ties to right-wing billionaires.
And the winner is …
On August 12, Collins announced the winning readers who picked “Trump’s Cabinet from Hell.” First place was no contest. Attorney General William Barr won hands down, as he did last year. Second place went to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came in third.
The “smug arrogance” and “ignorant incompetence” of DeVos set her apart from the field.
Reader Martin Benjamin wrote, “Rookie of the year has to be [Postmaster General] Louis DeJoy, for the sheer chutzpah of destroying one American institution (the mail) in the cause of destroying another American institution (democracy).”
For some reason, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin came in near the bottom. One reader noted that he walked away from Goldman Sachs with about $46 million in stock, yet he thinks $600/week is overpaid.”
One reader worried that Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wasn’t “getting enough credit for the wholesale theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans.” Airline passengers weren’t reimbursed for their tickets on flights cancelled because of the Covid-19 emergency.
But Attorney General William Barr earned the most opprobium: ”When the country’s top law officer ignores the rule of law to protect Trump from prosecution and advance the president’s political interests, it is downright scary, not to mention a threat to our democracy.”
VOTE November 3 so that the work of draining the swamp in Washington can begin. The Republic cannot survive another four years of Trump.