The passing of the baton from one administration to another is an interesting process. It involves not only planning for the big inauguration ceremony, but creating a team of players who are supposed to guide the president on how to run the federal government. The more I think about this just completed transition the more it has turned out to be a big joke.
A whole lineup of people appeared before Senate committees to be grilled on their qualifications and their positions on how to deal with the important challenges facing the country. This time around, instead of taking a slow deliberative look at the cabinet candidates, the Republican-controlled Senate was determined to ram through the nominees with or without the information needed to decide whether they had any serious conflicts of interest.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word “cabinet” as “the counsel or group of advisers of a king or other chief executive of a government. A group of individuals who advise the president of the United States.” With any other president in recent memory, the word cabinet would be made up of a group that would play the role of advisor, but not in the case of a President Trump.
A man whose policy statements are defined by a tweet may not be willing to listen to any of his nominees before sending out a 4 a.m. insult.
The next question is whether or not there was even a need this year to hold public hearings on presidential nominees? It should be pointed out that there are a number of highly qualified candidates that appeared before the committees, some of whom I have met and respect. But as I look back at the whole roster of designees, there was glaring evidence that a bunch of the candidates were totally unqualified to run any agency, let alone one in the federal government. And their testimony was shocking and alarming.
The new Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, has as her major qualification being a big contributor to federal office holders, including many who sat in judgment on her nomination. She has been an outspoken voice against the public school system and displayed enormous ignorance on the challenges that the job requires. The most telling question asked of her was by Senator Bernie Sanders who inquired as to “whether you would be here except for your large donations to politicians.” She didn’t fight back on that one. Her comments on whether disabled children were entitled to “equal treatment throughout the system” was disgraceful.
It was hard not to go into a state of disbelief listening to the candidate to run the Health and Human Services agency. Congressman Tom Price, with a straight face, talked about his stock trades and his introduction of legislation that had a favorable impact on the stock value. He claimed that some trades were made with his full knowledge and others were done by his broker without his knowledge. I can’t imagine any comfortable middle class person authorizing the purchase of $300,000 in stock, without the approval of the client. Brokerage firms throughout America have gotten in trouble for a lot less.
I could go on and on talking about my dismay looking at candidates Dr. Ben Carson, Rex Tillerson and many others dodging and weaving in order to avoid taking a public position on crucial public policy issues. Once upon a time, Senate confirmation hearings brought out the best and the worst in testimony, and from time to time candidates were forced to withdraw from consideration. The sad part about this year’s process is that if any criminal conduct takes place it will not have been discovered by the people who ask for your votes every two to six years.
Former State Assemblyman Jerry Kremer is a partner at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.