An Analysis of President Trump’s Cabinet

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Alexandra Karimova, guest photographer

Ava Kaufman ‘17 has strong opinions on Trump’s Attorney General.

Soon after his inauguration ceremony in January 2017, President Donald Trump released his picks for his cabinet. Many of these positions required senate approval, and all were approved in February 2017 by the senate (in Republican control) soon thereafter.  Below is my analysis regarding their qualifications for their positions, as well as reaction from the student body to them.

Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson: Many of Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks have been considered quite controversial. Mr. Tillerson is definitely not an exception. Mr. Tillerson has worked with ExxonMobil for over thirty years. ExxonMobil is a major oil company of which Tillerson is CEO. He has closed multimillion dollar deals across the world, causing Mr. Trump to believe he is a good pick. However, there are many who are voicing their doubts about Mr. Tillerson’s abilities. His first priority was ExxonMobil’s interests, and many choices that he made went against American interests. This leaves many people unsure as to what his personal views on foreign policy will be. More importantly, Mr. Tillerson was given the Order of Friendship by Russia in 2013. This award is given to those who have made an effort to improve United States relations with Russia. In addition, Mr. Tillerson has criticized American sanctions on Russia. Given the recent CIA reports of Russia’s role in hacking the election, many high-standing government officials have expressed concerns about Tillerson’s potential role in international issues. Republican senators John McCain, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham have all expressed reservations about voting him in.  Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as Secretary of State.

Energy Secretary – Rick Perry: Many people find Mr. Perry to be an odd choice to head the Department of Energy; during Perry’s presidential campaign, he proposed removing three departments, and the Department of Energy was one of these. Although, the name of the agency causes many to assume that the Department of Energy focuses on fossil fuels and resource extraction, an area in which Mr. Perry is well-versed, it actually focuses heavily on nuclear power. It is not clear how Perry’s experience as a past governor of Texas will benefit him when dealing with this. Bill Richardson, Bill Clinton’s energy secretary, holds an optimistic viewpoint. “Over all, Governor Perry is a sound choice, because you need a strong leader with political stature and a megaphone for the job, and Rick has both,” Richardson said. However, Richardson does voice concerns that due to Perry’s position as a climate change denier, Perry will work to dismantle environmentally beneficial energy programs. Perry was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as Energy Secretary.

Labor Secretary – Andrew Puzder: Puzder is the CEO of the company that franchises Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. The most popular criticism of Puzder is his opposition of a minimum wage increase; however, Puzder said that he would agree to a rational increase in the minimum wage, although he did not specify what he meant by the word ‘rational.’ Puzder holds other questionable views, once stating that machines could be preferable to human workers,because machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.” In addition he has criticized several of the Obama administration’s actions to protect workers including paid sick leave and increased eligibility for overtime. Given that his responsibility is to look out for workers rights, many question how a multimillionaire, CEO can understand the plights of workers. Allies of Puzder argue that as a businessman,he is accustomed to compromise and deal-making, meaning that his views are adjustable to what is necessary.  On February 15th, 2017, Puzder withdrew from the confirmation process due to enough opposition to his appointment from various senators.

E.P.A Administrator – Scott Pruitt: Pruitt was previously the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and he is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt fought hard against Obama’s energy regulations and although he acknowledges that climate change is a firm possibility, he also argues that it is still uncertain and debate should be encouraged. Trump cannot immediately dismantle the Clean Air Act, however, but given Pruitt’s extensive legal background, Pruitt may be able to slowly weaken it. While he was Oklahoma’s AG, he filed a joint lawsuit with Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, showing his willingness to work with major energy companies. Pruitt’s reasoning is that energy regulations belong in the hands of the states. Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as the E.P.A. Administrator.

Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos: Betsy DeVos is best known for her advocacy for school voucher programs and school choice. Vouchers are considered by many to be an assault on public education. In addition, she is a strong supporter of charter schools, and she fought against Michigan when it attempted to include oversight with charter school legislation. She sent both her own children to Catholic schools, and she has been outspoken with her support of the Catholic school system. Many public education workers see her support of vouchers and school choice as a threat to the public education system.  After a narrow confirmation vote, DeVos was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as the Education Secretary.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson: Ben Carson is a successful neurosurgeon, and he ran against Trump in the primaries. Soon after dropping out, he became a loyal supporter. Carson was raised with very little money, and his mother often turned to government food assistance to survive. Carson stressed however, that it was hard work, not government help, that was the key to overcoming poverty for him, and he said that others should follow in this path. In an op-ed article that he wrote for The Washington Post, Carson spoke out against Obama’s ‘Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule,’ which aimed to provide incentives for affluent neighborhoods to build affordable housing. Carson claimed this was government overreach. In addition, Carson has been in favor of community initiatives to help inner-cities, and he has said that the government should avoid anti-poverty programs. He has said that it is the community’s responsibility to build themselves, not the government. However, Carson has also said that America cannot function well with weak inner-cities and that he will take action to end the corruption that occurs. Many people are nervous, due to Carson’s previous sentiments that he was too inexperienced to run a government agency. Carson was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“America is a country based off of immigrants, and having an attorney general who is so proudly against diversity makes me even more concerned about what could happen under the Trump administration,” said Ava Kaufman ’17.

Attorney General – Jeff Sessions: Jeff Sessions was the United States general attorney for the southern district of Alabama and then an Alabama senator. He was known for being one of the most conservative senators. Sessions has a long history of anti-minority rhetoric. For instance, he called civil liberty groups such as the N.A.A.C.P. un-American. In addition he said he was open to considering the ban on Muslims, given the dangerous time we are living in, although, he did acknowledge that this was dangerous territory, given our history of religious freedom. He has been outspoken against immigration, and he condemned the Obama administration for their lack of deportation. He has also said that legal immigration should be slowed, and he has opposed working visas for those particularly skilled in STEM fields, as well as guest worker programs for illegal immigrants. Session’s appointment in particular has brought out strong reactions from the Bronx Science student body. “Trump has already created an environment where difference is frowned upon, and racism is acceptable. By putting someone like Sessions in a position of power, it is furthering this sentiment. He is unapologetically racist and xenophobic. America is a country based off of immigrants, and having an attorney general who is so proudly against diversity makes me even more concerned about what could happen under the Trump administration,” said Ava Kaufman ’17. Sessions was confirmed by the Senate in February 2017 and appointed as the Attorney General.

White House Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus: Priebus is the longest standing chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is viewed as quite uncontroversial by the senate and house members of the Republican Party, and was recommended to Trump by Paul Ryan, the House Speaker. Priebus spoke out against Trump when the clip of Trump and Billy Bush was released. Priebus said, “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.” Priebus has elicited numerous reactions from the Bronx Science student body as well. Evan Strauss, ’17 said, “ I think Reince Priebus is an excellent pick for White House Chief of Staff. One role of the White House Chief of Staff is to negotiate with members of congress to push the President’s agenda.  Since the majority of the members of Congress are Republican, and the Speaker is Paul Ryan, Priebus will have an easier time pushing President-Elect Trump’s agenda because of his familiarity with Republican congressmen, due to his time as being the head of the Republican National Committee, as well as the fact that he is close friends with the House Speaker, Paul Ryan.”  The White House Chief of Staff does not need senate approval; Trump appointed Priebus as the White House Chief of Staff soon after his inauguration ceremony.

Chief Strategist – Stephen Bannon: Steve Bannon previously worked for the Breitbart News Network as the Executive Chairman. Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed this network as an “ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” Bannon himself called this network the voice of the alt-right. Breitbart runs articles that many find offensive, such as articles in favor of the confederate flag, and articles against birth control. Bannon has also been accused of anti-semitic statements in the past, and Breitbart is known by many to be a very antisemitic site. This makes him quite an interesting pick, given that Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are both Jewish. The Chief Strategist does not need senate approval; Trump appointed Bannon as his Chief Stragetist soon after his inauguration ceremony.

 

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