The following guest post was written by Walt Sorg, a long time political activist and observer from Lansing, Michigan. Walt was a candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2012 in the 67th State House District. Follow him on Twitter at @WaltSorg.
We look at the cabinet appointments of the incoming President, and we are baffled. It is seemingly one of the most unprepared cabinets in history, people who know little or nothing about the missions they are about to undertake. To understand the appointments, we need to understand the mindset of Trump.
In TrumpLand, you pick successful people regardless of their area of success because they will be successful regardless of what they do (mirroring Trump’s self-image). His definition of success is pretty clear: You are very, very wealthy. Trump judges people’s worth by their net worth (coupled with the intensity of their adoration of Trump). And thus, we get a cabinet with a frightening number of people whose histories demonstrate little actual qualifications for their new jobs:
- Ben Carson, a brilliant and wealthy neurosurgeon whose knowledge of urban housing consists mostly of having lived in a city. Plus Carson gives him a person of color in the cabinet. (Do you think Hillary would have put Jay Z in the cabinet?)
- Friend-of-Putin Rex Tillerson, whose fortune is based on running a company at the forefront of global climate change, and a company with a history of bribing and muscling entire nations to get its way (the new diplomacy model?).
- Betsy DeVos, a woman whose success is primarily her lavish spending of money inherited from her billionaire father and billionaire father-in-law. (Betsy’s Wikipedia biography cites as her major personal achievement: being “one of the architects of the Detroit charter school system” while failing to mention the failure of that system.)
- Five former executives of Goldman Sachs, the investment giant Trump regularly demonized during his blitzkrieg campaign (including his Secretary of Treasury, chair of the National Economic Council and SEC Director). During the campaign Trump attacked Goldman as a “global power structure” that “robbed our working class.” Apparently, if they are robbing the working class on behalf of him that’s OK. Their experience in protecting the people from the economic manipulation of the oligarchy is working the rich-guy side of the equation.
- Son-in-law Jared Kushner and sons Uday and Qusay. All have become fabulously wealthy by brilliantly arranging to have billionaire fathers and moving to the top of the family business. Now they’ll help Daddy with his new business opportunity.
Snarcasm (yes, that’s a new word) aside, there are many examples all around us of wildly successful business people who failed when they tried to spread their wings into unrelated endeavors. Presented for your consideration these examples:
- Tom Monaghan was brilliant in creating and building the Domino’s Pizza empire; his purchase of the Detroit Tigers (and hiring Bo Schembechler to run the team) nearly destroyed the Tigers.
- The Ford family has done a brilliant job in growing the industrial behemoth created by Henry, but they’ve also owned and run the Detroit Lions for decades. Playoff tickets anyone?
- Earvin “Magic” Johnson is one of the most personable, intelligent and engaging people I’ve ever known. He is also a hugely successful entrepreneur. But his television talk show (The Magic Hour)? Cancelled after 8 weeks. (And his stint as Lakers head coach was pretty bad, too.)
- Rick Snyder. You know the story.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the “Rick Snyder of the South”.
- Geoffrey Fieger: uber-wealthy trial lawyer, horrific gubernatorial candidate.
- Jesse Ventura, the how-the-hell-did-that-happen wrestler-turned-Governor. Minnesota survived. Barely.
Of course it’s not an ironclad rule. Some people move from success in one field to success in a governing — John Glenn, Al Franken, Mark Dayton, Jack Kemp and Michael Bloomberg all did it.
But in TrumpLand it is a given that “success” is in a person’s DNA — “smart and rich even without relevant experience” is enough to run the world’s most complex enterprise as long as you haven’t said mean things about Trump (see “Romney, Mitt; Secretary of State”). The Trump administration is providing us with a very frightening test of the theory.
It’s a mindset similar to that of term-limit advocates, which is grounded in the theory that experience in and knowledge of government doesn’t matter. (Former Rep. Lynn Jondahl describes term limits as “mandatory inexperience.”)
Term limits has given us a Legislature that continually mucks up policy, legislative leaders unable to develop bipartisan consensus, and a Governor whose management brilliance has given us a multitude of scandals in unemployment insurance, our prison system, Detroit’s rat-and-mold infested schools and Flint’s toxic water.
We can only hope that the no-relevant-experience-necessary philosophy for running our nation doesn’t bring similar results. But don’t hold your breath.
[CC image credit: Gage Skidmore | Flickr]