Trump’s Ongoing Political Appointments Are a Slow-Motion Car Crash for the Country

There has been a lot of media coverage on President Trump and the GOP’s apparent inability to get anything done. The Republican-controlled Congress (both houses) and executive branch have been stymied again and again on kicking citizens off of health care, cutting taxes for the rich, and more.

Even Trump’s unusually large number of executive orders, a unilateral but impermanent approach to law-making for which he criticized then-President Obama, have frequently been overturned for constitutional violations. Economist Robert Reich even described 2017 as “A year without a president.”

But it would be a mistake to thinkthis administration is simply in a holding pattern. Legislation aside, small, daily decisions with a big impact are being made all the time. Remember that Trump is the head of government, which means all kinds of career government professionals are now ultimately calling him, or his direct appointees, “boss.” Trump’s political appointments, both in thebig-name cabinet posts and in smaller, relatively behind-the-scenes positions, can have an immediate and chilling effect on critical services, from disaster relief to basic infrastructure,toeducation,to agriculture.

You may not have heard of Sam Clovis, whom Trump nominated as Chief Scientist of the US Department of Agriculture if hehadn’t been forced to withdraw from consideration as his ties to Russia became known. Yes, it seems everyone Trump knows is some gradation of white supremacist or Russian spy, but as alarming as that is, that’s not my main takeaway here. Clovis has no science background whatsoever, and if not for the Russia investigation he would likely be sitting in that job.

The application process Clovis went through as a nominee is revealing. If the job title being “Chief Scientist” wasn’t obvious enough to clue one in to the nature of the job, nominees are asked to list all graduate-level courses they have taken in the natural sciences (“none”, Clovis answered), awards received for work done in agricultural sciences (“none” again), and membership or even leadership in professional scientist societies and organizations (obviously “none”).

The expectation is that anyone even remotely considered for this job would not only be a trained scientist with a lot of specific knowledge about and experience with agricultural research, education, and economic organization, but a distinguished and highly successful person in that field.

There is a reason for this high bar: the USDA is responsible for everything from food safety, food security, research on adapting crops to climate change, protecting water quality from the effects of farm waste, the economics of food pricing and subsidies, GMOs, humane animal treatment, even wildlife control where it impacts human communities and industry. It’s a big, important, multi-faceted organization, and every potential appointee needs an impressive skill set to run any part of it.

Trump has thrown that out the window. And his nominees seem equally comfortable interviewing for jobs for which they are eminently unqualified, knowing they have the support of an eminently unqualified president. Behind Clovis (a right-wing radio host before joining the Trump election campaign), there is a line-up of inappropriate choices to fill various government roles waiting for their own appointments (and many terrible appointees are on the job already).

Did you happen to catch some of Kathleen Hartnett White’s senate hearing? Trump has nominated her as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.Watch two minutes of her floundering and try not to tear your own eyes out:

This is what it means to have Trump in charge of the government. Leave aside the cabinet secretariesfor now, terrible as they are. Policy-wise, they are mostly spinning their wheels. The more immediate impact is in these lesser-known, on-the-ground, bureaucratic appointments. The United States government is becoming increasingly less capable and competent.

But hey, I guess that will only matter when you want to eat food, drink water, or breathe air.

Photo credit: US Senate

37 comments

Mike R
Mike R19 days ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R19 days ago

Thanks

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Lisa M
Lisa M21 days ago

More like a high-speed train crash, but much worse!

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Lisa M
Lisa M21 days ago

...and yet it is still far worse than outlined above!!

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Richard A
Richard A23 days ago

And the pretender-in-chief keeps trying to blame his failure on Democrats.

This would be funny if it were not so sad and destructive.

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Winn A
Winn A24 days ago

:-(

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Winn A
Winn A24 days ago

tRUMPie should be inpeched and in jail. What a vile, disgusting and despicable man.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O24 days ago

In about ten years USA will be holding hearings on extreme corruption.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O24 days ago

Politics and running departments are extremely complex.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O24 days ago

th

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