Guest Opinion: Trump cabinet raises concerns

​The Philadelphia Inquirer
Feb. 13
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It’s troubling enough that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was confirmed as attorney general, considering he was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his comments on race. But Sessions joins a list of Trump administration appointees and nominees who have extreme views or lack experience to run the agencies they plan to oversee.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a billionaire, showed an embarrassing lack of knowledge about public education during her confirmation hearing.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, has no experience running a complex $50 billion agency like HUD.

Andy Puzder, the labor secretary nominee, ran a fast-food chain that faced class-action lawsuits for allegedly underpaying or denying overtime pay to employees. He also employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper, an issue that derailed the nominations of two cabinet picks by former President Bill Clinton.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was tapped to run the Department of Energy, an agency he once wanted to eliminate.

As Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt sued the Environmental Protection Agency, which he now expects to run.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobil, lacks diplomatic, military or political experience and has close ties to Russia, which gave him the Order of Friendship award.

New Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, headed a bank that ran a “foreclosure machine” during the financial crisis.

Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, 79, a Wall Street billionaire, is known as the “King of Bankruptcy” after buying troubled companies on the cheap and selling for huge profits.

Other Trump officials lack appropriate experience, including chief strategist Steve Bannon; senior adviser Jared Kushner; United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Small Business Administration head Linda McMahon, co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Sessions at least has government experience, but as a senator, he supported an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and he opposed legislation that would prohibit the military from engaging in torture.

As a U.S. attorney in Alabama, his office wrongly prosecuted three black community organizers for voter fraud. A jury acquitted the men after three hours. Critics called it a case of selective prosecution aimed at deterring black voter registration.

During his nomination for a federal judgeship, lawyers who worked with him testified that he made racially insensitive remarks, and called the NAACP “un-American.” A black assistant U.S. attorney testified that Sessions called him “boy” and said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK, until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions said he was joking.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was blocked from reading a letter on the Senate floor that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta, wrote in 1986. It said Sessions used the “awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” That is a real concern.

The silencing of Warren by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was an act of arrogance and intolerance, especially since he knew Sessions had the votes to be confirmed. But the shabby treatment of a woman senator goes hand in glove with the bullying of opposing views and trampling of basic facts that has sadly taken hold in Washington.