“Drain the swamp” was how the campaign promise went, as I recall. So, how does an incoming president go about draining the Washington, D.C. swamp? Apparently, in Trumpworld, it is by placing bankers, not economists, in charge of the economy AND by filling his cabinet with billionaires, lobbyists and corporate executives. You know, the common man.
To put it another way, in Trumpworld draining the swamp is accomplished by redirecting sludge through the White House, specifically the president’s cabinet.
Let me elaborate. We can start with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Before being named as Commerce Secretary, Ross was known as the “King of Bankruptcy” because of his record of buying bankrupt companies, primarily in the manufacturing and steel industries, and later selling them for a large profit. He has also been accused of failing to disclose financial ties to Russian interests in his Senate confirmation hearing.
Ties to Russia are not the only things Ross concealed. In his book, “The Fifth Risk,” author Michael Lewis points out that Forbes Magazine reporter Dan Alexander uncovered another rather interesting deceit by Ross. Apparently in an attempt to qualify for Forbes’ top 400 wealthiest Americans, Ross, over a thirteen-year period, told Forbes that he was worth some $3.7 billion.
However, when he filed his financial disclosure forms with the Office of Government Ethics, Ross now claimed he was only worth, and I use the term “only” quite loosely, some $700 million. Regardless of what his true worth is, it is safe to say he belongs in the swamp and not the Department of Commerce. Moreover, when I specifically asked him to distinguish between anti-dumping and countervailing duties, he could not. To use the two terms interchangeably is a critical error recognized by anyone who has spent any time dealing with the Department of Commerce, but enough about Ross.
How about the recently confirmed Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Andrew Wheeler? Wheeler was named to replace former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who left the EPA under a cloud of scandal resulting from mounting evidence of misuse of government assets. Wheeler just happens to be a former coal industry lobbyist. Who better to clean up pollution? Probably not a former coal industry lobbyist. Jump into the swamp, Andy Wheeler!
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is a former investment banker for Goldman Sachs and is worth some $300 million. After leaving Goldman Sachs, now world famous for paying Hillary Clinton for a speech, Mnuchin founded several hedge funds and as head of One West Bank during the 2007 to 2008 recession was the “King of Foreclosures.” He has also backed financially numerous Hollywood movies including “Suicide Squad.” Maybe Mnuchin does belong in the White House after all.
Not so for former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Whitaker was named as Acting AG after Trump fired former AG Jeff Sessions for failing to “protect” him from the Mueller investigation.
Among his credentials for becoming a member of Trump’s swamp was Whitaker’s involvement with the company World Patent Marketing, which was fined $26 million and shut down by the Federal Trade Commission in 2017 for deceiving consumers.
Need I say more? No, because all you would have had to do is pay attention to Whitaker’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8 to understand just how unqualified he is to lead the Department of Justice. His blatant disrespect for the institutions of government was on full display during that hearing.
Stay with me, here. We are just getting warmed up. Alex Azar is the current Secretary of Health and Human Services succeeding Tom Price who, like Scott Pruitt, left under a cloud of scandal for misuse of government assets. Azar is a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and drug company executive. From 2012 to 2017 Azar was president of the U.S. division of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Who better to negotiate the lowering of pharmaceutical prices by the pharmaceutical industry than a member of the pharmaceutical industry? Who better than the fox to negotiate renting space in the hen house?
Patrick Shanahan was chosen to replace James Mattis as secretary of defense after General Mattis’ abrupt resignation in protest to the president’s ill-advised foreign policy decisions. Where did Shanahan work from 1986 to 2017? Boeing, of course. No better experience to lead the Department of Defense than a Defense Department contractor. I’m sure the generals will love that. Welcome to the swamp, Patrick Shanahan.
On the heels of another cabinet member resigning in the midst of scandal for again misusing government assets, Ryan Zinke, Trump named David Bernhardt as acting secretary of the Interior and is now before the Senate to seek confirmation.
As a lobbyist and shareholder with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Bernhardt represented several mining, oil and extractive industries including Rosemont Copper, Cobalt International Energy, Halliburton and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. The fox is once again in the hen house, a.k.a. the Trump swamp.
We could keep going like placing Elaine Chao, whose family owns a major shipping company, as the secretary of transportation and placing Betsy DeVos, with her strong ties to private schools, as the secretary of education, but I think the case for Trump turning the White House into an overflowing swamp has been made.
Well, at least you can say one thing about Republican politics. Republicans are consistent. At least they are when it comes to hypocrisy. Draining the Washington, D.C. swamp by installing billionaire corporate executives and lobbyists in the cabinet is no more hypocritical than evangelicals embracing a profanity-laden adulterer with five children from three wives as president or Senate Leader Mitch McConnell calling for bi-partisanship after eight years of continuously obstructing every single action by former President Barack Obama.