Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Bother with Qualifications?

It might be unfair to pick on former Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry. He has long been one of the lesser intellects of the Republican establishment. But there seems to be a pattern here, and a point needs to be made.

Trump wants Perry to be Secretary of Energy, meaning Perry would be running a major department that he swore he would abolish when he was running for president in 2012. But he now says, "after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination." Perry thought the new job would involve being some kind of ambassador for American gas and oil, and was unaware of the department's oversight of nuclear weapons and research into new methods of generating energy. He has effectively admitted that he didn't know what the department did back when he wanted to shut it down, and came to understand the breadth of its functions only after accepting Trump's nomination.

One of the most impressive aspects of modern American politics is that being revealed as woefully ignorant or unqualified generates no shame.

Then there's Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education. Long an activist for "School Choice," a euphemism for siphoning tax dollars away from public schools and into the hands of privately-held corporations, Ms. DeVos has never taught in a public school nor run a school nor managed education standards nor grappled with the many support issues that schools must face, such as transportation or the National School Lunch Program. For her, the department she has been nominated to run has always been an enemy, a stumbling block, that federal agency that might dare to say a publicly funded school can't discriminate against pregnant or LGBTQ teens, or can't organize students into officially led prayer groups.

Ben Carson is an air-head, regardless of whether or not he's directing the department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some of Trump's nominees are, no doubt, better prepared to run major federal departments, but many of his picks are odd in exactly this way. We should not be surprised, as Mr. Trump himself is in much the same category. He has no government experience, and his rhetoric has evinced only the vaguest comprehension of what government does or why. He probably knows a thing or two about agencies that have directly impacted his business dealings, but entities like the Departments of Energy, Department of Education, and Department of Housing and Urban and Development are quite beyond his ken. No President has ever been an expert in all those areas, but most are smart enough to compensate for that by putting experienced, knowledgeable people in key positions. Not so Mr. Trump.

Welcome to the Trumpocene!

No comments:

Post a Comment