Unvetted Government Run Amuck
Throughout last year’s Presidential campaign and in the opening weeks of his Administration, Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his opinion that a new form of what he refers to as “extreme vetting” needs to be used to keep America safe from the threat of Islamic Extremist Terrorists immigrating to this country. Apparently, he does not think the same care should be used in filling his own cabinet or other high-ranking positions in his own Administration. Judging from the way in which nominees have been confirmed so far by the Senate, Congress seems to agree with him.
Prior to this year, the sitting Vice President had never cast a tie-breaking vote for confirmation of a cabinet nominee. Mike Pence set a new precedent when he put new Education Secretary Betsey DeVos over the top. Mike Flynn, who did not require consent of the Senate to hold his role of National Security Advisor, was forced to resign less than a month into his tenure – having lost the trust of the President and many others within the Administration and public at large for his role in a still-evolving situation involving Russia that some are comparing to the Nixon era Watergate scandal in severity.
The American voters did not do a particularly good job of vetting Donald Trump prior to his election. We still have no idea what’s in his income tax returns. He has steadfastly refused to make them public, contrary to the fact that such disclosure has been standard procedure for US Presidential candidates for decades. Maintaining this secrecy did not cost him the election, and Congressional leaders who could have legally demanded those records in the meantime have refused to do so. Any potential conflicts of interest which could have been exposed by releasing these tax returns still remain undiscovered as a result. The same may be true of Cabinet nominees (some of whom have already been confirmed by the Senate) who likewise refused to provide standard documentation prior to hearings and Senate confirmation. The recently confirmed EPA head, Scott Pruitt, has been ordered to turn over thousands of emails since his confirmation which could have made a negative impact on his confirmation had they been made available sooner. Perhaps another scandal in the making which could have been averted.
The new Health & Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, has also been accused of using the insider information obtained by being a Member of Congress able to move legislation beneficial to certain companies to make himself additional money trading in their stocks. This became known during the confirmation process but did not prevent his confirmation to the post. On the other hand, Andrew Puzder, CEO of a fast food empire ( a sector of our economy not particularly noted for stellar employee relations), removed his name from consideration when his suitability for the position became widely publicly disputed. The process may have worked in his case, but this has been the exception rather than the rule concerning Trump nominees so far.
Others named to key posts appear to have been named to do some serious face-lifting, if not outright destruction, of the departments they’ve been chosen to lead. For example, Rick Perry, former Texas Governor and two-time failed Presidential candidate, was named Energy Secretary – to oversee one of the departments he vowed to eliminate if elected President. The aforementioned Tom Price, who spent much of his Congressional tenure writing legislation attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has been put in charge of the department which is supposed to assure Americans’ health care. DeVos, with virtually no experience in the realm of public education, seems to be coming with an agenda aiming to privatize as much of it as possible. Scott Pruitt, appointed as the new Environmental Protection Agency Director, after spending much of his time in prior public service suing the EPA in an attempt to remove “burdensome regulations” imposed to protect the environment in order to allow dirty energy producing corporations to maximize profits without the hindrance of having to protect workers or the general public from the harmful effects of the poisons they create and/or dispose of.
President Trump rose to power on a wave of dissatisfaction and disillusionment among many of our citizens when it comes to the establishment politicians who comprise sizable majority of our elected officials. Many of his cabinet picks were chosen precisely with shaking things up in Washington in mind. Unfortunately, it appears that he garnered million of votes from working people who thought he meant it when he said he would make America great again by bringing back good manufacturing jobs for them from abroad and cracking down on undocumented workers here who were taking their jobs and keeping wages low. He played to xenophobic fears of foreign terrorists desiring only to come to this country to kill Americans. Now, apparently, he thinks he has a mandate to do pretty much as he pleases as he pursues an agenda aimed primarily at benefitting oligarchs such as himself and some of the other billionaires and multimillionaires he has surrounded himself with in his cabinet.
Some of the worst appointments our new President has made include those among his inner circle who have been given great power and access to both himself and vital information necessary for conducting foreign and domestic policy implementation, with or without Congressional approval. Steve Bannon was appointed as a key advisor, Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff, Kellyanne Conway as Counselor, and others who have been and will continue to perform key roles in the future functioning of the Trump Whitehouse. Bannon, a key element of Breitbart and spokesperson for the alt-right, has been given unprecedented access to state secrets and National Security operations by being added to the National Security Council. Perfectly legal, but totally bypassing Senate confirmation. Same was true of Mike Flynn, short-lived National Security Advisor, and his successor. Members of his family (most notably Jared Kushner, his son-in-law) have also bypassed scrutiny and oversight to potentially wield greater influence over the course of national policy and international relations than ever before.
The apparent lack of any sense of accountability to other government entities or the public at large by this President and his Administration, at least to this point, is deeply disturbing to many of us. His incessant harangues against the media, political opponents or anyone who dares to criticize or question the veracity of his pronouncements or the wisdom of his actions does little to put most of us at ease as to what will come of us as a nation under his rule. Rather than continuing to bully his way forward using the methods he used to get to where his stands today, he would be well-served to listen to some of the criticism that has been forthcoming from those who refuse to be cowed by his bluster.
The American people need and deserve an Administration in Washington that is far more forthcoming than this one has been willing to offer so far. Way too much information that we deserve to have and need access to in order to make informed decisions going forward. This has been true of every Administration I have lived under, but this President is taking it further than ever before. The fact that Trump blames leaks and leakers for merely informing us of what is being done in our names behind our backs (rather than the acts that caused us to be alarmed at what was leaked) for Flynn’s downfall shows a severe lack of moral fortitude pervading this Whitehouse. That starts at the top and works its way down the chain of command. Trump admitted he wanted his National Security Advisor to do the stuff he did that got him fired. The plugs Kellyanne Conway made for Ivanka’s line of products were part and parcel of behavior exhibited by Trump himself on many occasions on Twitter.
We need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff in the Whitehouse as much as we do among potential immigrants and refugees wishing to come, live and work in this country, if not more so. We also need leadership from a person who can take a joke or constructive criticism, rather than just spouting forth undeserved and destructive criticism to others. This administration is producing far more fake news than the media President Trump regularly rants about. We need an informed citizenry in a truly democratic society to move forward in the future. Time will tell if Donald Trump is willing and able to facilitate that or is hell-bent on destroying any semblance of it while he presides.
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