Rick Perry certainly isn’t the most accomplished person to be named to Donald Trump’s Cabinet, but the choice may be the most curious. The former Texas governor in 2011, in one of the most notable gaffes in debate history, was asked about the three government agencies he had said he wanted to eliminate in his campaign for the presidency.
Perry stumbled and couldn’t come up with the Department of Energy, which was on his list. Now, as if to thumb his nose at the career civil servants who have worked to protect air and water quality and those in Congress who have done the same, President-elect Trump has named Perry to head that department. It’s an appalling choice, but Trump can almost be heard giggling at his political opponents. It also will put the department at risk, with Perry’s absolute lack of experience.
Of course, Trump’s done the same in other departments, where his main measuring stick for qualifications seems to be bank accounts (billionaires and millionaires) or loyalty to Trump. Opponent and then supporter Dr. Ben Carson will head Housing and Urban Development, with zero experience in running any organization of that size. Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross will run Commerce, a place to advance his support for cutting corporate taxes. He’ll have a pal at the Department of Labor, where fast-food executive Andrew Puzder will fight raising the minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and expansion of overtime eligibility.
And Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, will bring to the job business experience, especially in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he knows well.
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U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia is going to head Health and Human Services, where his top priority will be the abolition of the Affordable Care Act. And Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, will head the Environmental Protection Agency, where he’ll have a front-row seat to question climate change and oppose further regulation.
Trump’s relying on generals for many positions, but his Cabinet overall has little diversity and its members mostly subscribe to a hard-right ideology.
The president-elect, who seemed as stunned as anyone else at his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, made some promising statements early on, saying he would seek the advice of President Obama, that parts of “Obamacare” might be retained.
Now, however, with these early Cabinet appointments, it appears the president-elect is listening closely to Steve Bannon, his top adviser and a far-right media executive. He would do well to bring in a more broad-based group of people to help him understand that running this republic requires more than spite and bluster.