During the 2012 presidential campaign, Rick Perry was the one who said that he would eliminate three departments of government, all unnecessary. He remembered the first two but couldn’t remember the name of the Department of Energy as one he would delete, and guess what? That’s the one he has been given.
It was daring and almost charming of him to aspire to “Dancing With the Stars.” He wasn’t a great dancer and won no prize but he wanted to learn to dance only for his daughter’s wedding. That’s kind of a sweet thing. It doesn’t much matter if he’s not a Baryshnikov. He had fun and he learned something about dancing. Nothing wrong with that.
First he thought the Department of Energy was all about fossil fuels – oil and gas – and he was cozy with those and knew they could do without so much regulation. But then he found that he would be responsible not only for the old stuff he knew about but that he would also be in charge of our nuclear arsenal.
The men in whose footsteps he will be following had résumés somewhat more suited to this task. Ernest Jeffrey Moniz (Perry’s immediate predecessor), is a nuclear physicist who previously served at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, as the Director of the Energy Initiative and as the Director of the Laboratory for energy and the environment. Before Monitz, the Secretary of the Department of Energy was Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics.
These are tough acts to follow and Perry’s daring in dancing is not quite the same as daring in nuclear matters. I doubt he can tango his way around this.
* * * *
Throughout the campaign against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump railed about Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street. He raised again and again the question of her speeches before the big Wall Street firms. That’s fair enough, except that the man he chose to head the Department of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, was formerly a partner at Goldman Sachs, the epitome of Wall Street.
Here’s someone who is not making money from speeches but is the very stuff of which Wall Street is made. After Goldman Sachs he ran his own hedge fund and led investors in the buyout of a failing mortgage lender during the financial crisis. The renamed company, OneWest, was notorious for its ruthless foreclosing on thousands of homes, but turned out to be very profitable for Mnuchin himself. He definitely knows how to make money for the well-connected but is hardly an advocate for the people who voted for Trump believing he would look out for working people.
* * * *
Then we have billionaire Betsy DeVos, a heavy donor to the Republican Party. Nominated as Secretary of Education, DeVos is no believer in public education. She believes in privately run, for-profit charter schools. She is also a strong advocate for school vouchers, which can be used to subsidize the cost of private, for-profit, online, and religious schools. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called DeVos “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee” since the position became a cabinet position.
Despite having displayed such ignorance of major provisions of education law that two Republican senators (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) voted against her confirmation, she was approved by a 51-50 margin, the first cabinet appointment ever to have needed a Vice President to break a deadlocked Senate.
So here we have three of the Trump’s cabinet appointments, one of whom knows nothing about the Department of Energy he will be heading, one who disagrees with the Department of Education she is heading, and one heading the Department of the Treasury, coming from that very Wall Street that Trump ranted on about.