Column: Unlicensed contractor builds cabinet
It’s official, we have a new president. For some, that fact inspires hope. For others it creates dread. While our new commander and chief promises to have an exciting tenure, some of the most surprising changes are already in the works in President Trump’s cabinet.
A lot has been made of the lack of diversity seen within the president’s cabinet nominations, with an astonishingly low number of women and minorities being assigned to high level positions. In fact, if Trump were to be unable to serve the full four years, the line of succession begins with eight white men. That number may grow to 12 depending on Heidi Heitkamp’s nomination to secretary of agriculture.
This lack of diversity is tragic and underlines existing difficulties women and minorities face when striving for positions of power and excellence. However, a lack of diversity may not be the most concerning component of Trump’s cabinet when many of his nominees seem to have been chosen for their predisposition to undermine the very positions they are being assigned to.
Many of Trump’s senior most positions are being filled by individuals who are categorically unfit for the responsibilities of their offices. The three nominees I believe epitomize Trump’s unconventional choices are former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, former Governor Rick Perry to Secretary of Energy and Dr. Ben Carson to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Of the three nominees listed above, I find Rick Perry’s nomination to be the most humorous. Unlike Tillerson and Carson, Perry does have experience in managing energy policies at an executive level. While governor of Texas, Perry championed a push away from renewable energies and toward fossil fuels. During that same tenure, Perry pushed to triple the nuclear stock pile of nuclear missiles in Texas and open an nuclear waste depository.
While not a conventional choice, Perry does have experience in energy development and management of nuclear assets both in the form of missiles and power plants. What makes Perry an alarming pick for this position is the stance he took during his unsuccessful 2012 Presidential campaign when he promised to eliminate the Department of Energy.
He claims that he has since gained a great respect for the DOE and fully intends to maintain their services without restricting their powers. Whether this is true or not remains an irrelevancy.
A man who once claimed that he would remove a department from existence should not be placed in control of it five years later. There’s undoubtedly a more qualified candidate for the position.
Dr. Ben Carson is another candid example of a questionable Trump appointment. Dr. Carson has never held a political position and were it not for his failed presidential campaign, he would not be a household name.
Despite his sedated personality, Dr. Carson is by all accounts an extremely gifted surgeon with a gifted mind. What makes Dr. Carson’s appointment confusing is that Dr. Carson was appointed to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development instead of Secretary of Health and Human service. Even though he has no education or experience in the former, and a lifetime of practical experience pertaining to the latter.
I see no issue with Trump looking beyond conventional candidates when looking for his cabinet, but assigning him to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development with no formal or practical experience in the department seems to be sabotaging Dr. Carson’s chance of success, and severely under utilizing his unique skill set.
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The final nominee I would like to draw attention to is Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and current nominee for secretary of state, commonly considered the most powerful cabinet position. Tillerson has spent over four decades working in the oil industry and has never held a political position. Trump promised that he would “drain the swamp”—referring to career politicians and DC insiders—when appointing his cabinet and he certainly kept that promise by appointing a man with no political experience to his most powerful position.
My greatest concern for this appointment is that a Secretary of State needs political experience. While Rex Tillerson is a man of the world, having conducted businesses across the globe, the Secretary of State is responsible for maintaining and influencing the United States’ international relations.
Having the nuanced and specialized knowledge necessary for that task requires decades of public political service. Tillerson is certainly an intelligent man, but I adamantly believe that the position which he has assigned requires a Washington insider who has experience with foreign political affairs.
I am a great fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt and allowing them an opportunity to prove their aptitude before judging, but Trump’s cabinet picks scare me. Fortunately, our current president has proven me wrong time and time again as I had written him off as a serious candidate at the start of his election.
Look where we are now. Nothing would make me happier than having Trump lead our country into an age of peace and prosperity, but with what he has shown us not even a week into his presidency, I am beginning to have my doubts.
Follow Jackson Morrison on Twitter.