Donald Trump was elected president after waging a campaign in which he promised to strip people of their rights on the basis of their race and religion. But he also ran a campaign that targeted corruption in government, and became based around upending “politics as usual” and “draining the swamp” of Washington, D.C. Trump told his supporters that he knew the smartest and the best people. His people could turn things around and would adopt radically different approaches to those lately embraced in the capital.
Among the recipients of Trump’s ire were representatives of the financial class, and their toxic relationship with government. A representative of big business himself, Trump claimed that there would be no place for entanglements between public and private interest in his administration. Nor would there be a place for those members of the political establishment, he claimed, who were compromised or had “sold out” to lobbyists and private interests.
Why people thought the man for this job was this tax-cheating, worker-abusing, student-conning, venomous pustule, who has skin thinner than the wing membrane of a day-old fruit bat, the attention span of a fruit fly, and brains that appear to be made of fruit cobbler, I don’t know.
But even allowing for a few blind spots--racism, hypocrisy, sexism--on the part of the electorate, Trump is nominating people to serve in his administration who should be categorically excluded on the basis of the central promise of his campaign. But it turns out that “draining the swamp” really just meant giving it a makeover to keep its blood-sucking, ossified, reptilian inhabitants happy comfortable.
Trump launched the build-up to his inauguration with the much-heralded Carrier deal, which actually marks the start of a corporate welfare bonanza. Trump both lied about the actual number of jobs to remain in the U.S. after his frenzied negotiations with Carrier, and failed to mention that this “victory” was probably less to do with his blandishments than with the hefty subsidy he offered the company but failed to mention in his public pronouncements.
Carrier offers the corporate world a blueprint for how to deal with this administration. Inflate the number of jobs you claim to need to outsource, go to the administration, take a little bit of a public beating, but walk away being able to outsource the number of jobs you actually want to outsource, your pockets padded by a public subsidy, and sure in the knowledge that you have a corporate tax break coming your way. Carrier and Co can get everything they want and more from this administration, now that they know they can play Donald Trump like a fiddle at an Irish reel.
Trump’s other appointments similarly illustrate the low regard he has for the intelligence of his supporters. He is clearly banking on them being sucker enough to forget that he spent the primary railing against investment bankers and hedge fund managers, and flaying his appointment for talking to Goldman Sachs. Because now his pick to head the Treasury is an investment banker and hedge fund manager who comes from the belly of the beast Trump argued was corrupting our government.
When it comes to foreign policy, Trump is similarly unbound by consistency. He is nominating the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Some people might say this is a problem because it is unintuitive that the head of a giant multinational would have a foreign policy view. They need not worry on that score. Exxon Mobil has a foreign policy, all right. But it has a foreign policy that represents each and every thing that is wrong and toxic about the conduct of international relations and our world more broadly: unrestrained corporate power; serial and systematic human rights abuses; impunity for physical and structural violence; denial of scientific evidence; exploitation of labor; outsourcing environmental destruction; and the subordination of public to private interest.
Trump’s other national security appointees are a collective joke. General Flynn was fired from his last post not because he was some fearless Truth Teller, but because he was an incompetent liar who appears to build the foundations for national security policy on the basis of what internet trolls in his dark and odiferous corner of the internet tell him.
Mike Pompeo is so much of a political insider that in the era of ISIS, a resurgent Russia, troubled US-China relations, the expansion of the War on Terror to Africa, climate change, he still believes that the biggest national security issue of his tenure in Congress was the faux Benghazi ‘scandal’ cooked up by his party leadership.
Trump’s other appointments are singularly noteworthy for the way in which they express a total lack of faith in the public sector and the departments and agencies they intend to run and serve. We can disagree about the appropriate extent of state intervention, but as a collective, people recognize that there are many fundamental services that are best provided by a central, accountable, representative entity that has a broad public rather than narrowly private interest in mind.
We do not, after all, trust the private sector to provide social security checks, military security, our mail, agriculture subsidies, mass schooling, and policing.
And yet Trump is intent on running a Justice Department that doesn’t protect voting rights, intelligence agencies with no pulse on the public interest, a Treasury that ascribes to fantasy economics, and an Environmental Protection Agency that doesn’t recognize the importance of clean air, water, and soil to people’s health and welfare.
He’s staffing an Energy department with climate deniers and denizens of the swamp who are up to their necks in compromising relations with fossil fuel lobbies. Labor goes to a man who represents the corporate world and doesn’t believe that workers have needs and rights. Housing and Urban Development goes to a man who, whatever his accomplishments in the medical field, knows as much about historical, social, and economic reality as I do about quantum physics.
It turns out those brilliant people Trump claimed to know were the titans of the financial world who crashed the market and then asked for a bailout. They were has-been politicians like Rick Perry. They were the detritus of a primary comprised of people who Trump derided as incompetent and stupid, but who are apparently more than good enough to run the country for voters. And they are people who do not believe in public institutions, the public good, or public welfare.
They embody corruption, indulgence, and all the forms of corrupted power that Trump pretended he would destroy. And they will populate a White House headed by a man who brought out the worst in people during his campaign and who has so much confidence in the stupidity of his supporters that he isn’t even bothering to hide the fact that he is constructing a government designed to enshrine corporate power and wealth on an unprecedented and unassailable scale.