Vote for the absolute bottom.
Time to vote for the Worst Trump Cabinet Member.
Not Rudy Giuliani! He’s Personal Lawyer. And Best Friend. And, yeah, Raving Maniac. But we’re going to stick to people who are running the federal government.
At least in theory.
One top contender has to be Attorney General William Barr. When Americans make a list of things they’d like the nation’s foremost law enforcement authority to do, how many do you think would start with, “Travel around the world seeking to discredit the Mueller investigation.”
But wait! What about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? He’s the one who fired a much-respected ambassador to Ukraine. And was listening in on the fabled Trump-Ukraine phone call. Career State Department officials are reportedly miserable working under him. But then that’s true of so very, very many parts of our current government — “drain the swamp” is Trump code for “torture the people who actually have to do the work.”
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is on a mission to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
He’s also the one who blurted out “We do that all the time” when asked if there was a quid pro quo between aid to Ukraine and getting dirt on Democrats. Then he tried to retreat. (“That’s what people are saying that I said but I didn’t say that.”)
Ineptitude is an important consideration here. There are lots of cabinet members who would cause immeasurable harm if they weren’t so incompetent. (This is the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos contingent.) Consider Ben Carson, our secretary of housing and urban development, who was asked at a congressional hearing about REOs — a well-known HUD acronym for foreclosed properties — and appeared to think the questioner was talking about cookies.
Trump cabinet-watching is much more exciting than it would be in a normal administration, where, say, the secretary of labor did not have to be tossed out of office for a role in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal. (Alex Acosta, we hardly knew ye.)
You’d probably be able to name the whole cabinet now if it wasn’t for the rapid-fire turnover. We’ve been through four different heads of the Department of Homeland Security. And three in charge of the Department of Defense. Beginning, of course, with retired general Jim Mattis, who said recently that while he earned his spurs on the battlefield, “Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.”
It’s been pretty much downhill since. The current secretary of defense is Mark Esper, a former lobbyist for a defense contractor. Who the president referred to in a recent tweet as “Mark Esperanto.”
I’m sure the president isn’t the only one who doesn’t remember all their names. When the cabinet meets, there are probably a lot of comments like: “I agree with … that guy over there with the green tie.”
But back to our contenders: Anybody having anything whatsoever to do with the environment is a good Worst candidate in this White House. Former winner E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt has slunk away — remember the time he tried to use his influence to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise? His deputy, Andrew Wheeler, is now the top guy.
Wheeler used to be a lobbyist for energy companies and he seems determined to weaken car emissions limits even when the car manufacturers want to keep them. His critics say that if he can’t get rid of environmental protection laws he doesn’t like, he simply stops enforcing them.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has replaced the dreaded Ryan Zinke, another former Worst contender. Previously Bernhardt was — yes! — Zinke’s top deputy and before that —- yes! yes! — a lobbyist for energy companies. One who had so many potential conflicts of interest he had to carry around a card listing all of them.
So, tough luck, endangered species. Bernhardt hates it when you get in the way of fuel extraction. But you have to admit he’s making history. Bernhardt is the first interior secretary to be under investigation by the department’s inspector general since his first day on the job.
And Wilbur’s back! Last season’s winner, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr., is most definitely looking for a repeat. We are thinking here of his threats to fire officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for reassuring Alabamians that a hurricane was not headed their way no matter what crazy maps a certain chief executive drew with his Sharpie.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao doesn’t seem to be doing much on national infrastructure. But she’s been very energetic when it comes to boosting her family’s shipping company and squeezing extra grants for Kentucky, which happens to be the state represented by her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell.
And what about Energy Secretary Rick Perry? He was one of three Trump officials who seem to have been running the Ukraine policy, which would be bad enough even if the trio had not been calling themselves “the three amigos.” On the other hand, he’s resigning, and Trump does seem to be trying to blame him for everything.
What’s Perry’s bottom line? “Let’s face it — he’s not the brightest light,” said Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution.
Well, he seems to be a better dancer than Sean Spicer …