Many can­di­dates, but one win­ner for award of worst Cabi­net mem­ber

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - OPINION | - Gail Collins

The votes are in, and the win­ner of the Worst Trump Cabi­net Mem­ber com­pe­ti­tion is … Wil­bur Ross! It’s the first time a sec­re­tary of com­merce has ever won the ti­tle. Don’t let me hear you com­plain­ing that this ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t ac­com­plished any­thing.

The Ross vic­tory is a lit­tle sus­pect, since it came right af­ter he gave an in­ter­view in which he ex­pressed be­fud­dle­ment about why fur­loughed govern­ment work­ers were go­ing to food banks and home­less shel­ters when they could, you know, just go see their banker and take out a loan.

Do you think he was mak­ing a play for first place? Nah, that was just Wil­bur be­ing Wil­bur, the guy who hap­pily mar­veled that when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­ited Saudi Ara­bia, “there was not a sin­gle hint of a pro­tester any­where.” When re­minded that the Saudi govern­ment has a way of mak­ing pro­test­ers dis­ap­pear, Ross ad­mit­ted “in the­ory that could be true” but quickly added, “there was cer­tainly no sign of it.”

Un­til then, Ross’ big­gest claim to Cabi­net fame was per­haps his habit of fall­ing asleep at meet­ings. Hey, the man is 81. Give him a break.

Com­ing in a close sec­ond was Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity Kirst­jen Nielsen, fol­lowed by that peren­nial fa­vorite, Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy Devos.

Nielsen, who one reader called “the queen of men­dac­ity,” got votes for her work sep­a­rat­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies at the Mex­i­can bor­der. The Trump im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies were on so many peo­ple’s minds, they put Stephen Miller in fourth place even though he’s not ac­tu­ally in the Cabi­net.

Miller, a 33-year-old se­nior ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, is a long­time en­emy of bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion re­form who’s a chief ar­chi­tect of Trump’s wall-ma­nia. So it’s sort of pleas­ant to men­tion, just for the heck of it, that lately Miller’s seemed to be try­ing to fight pre­ma­ture bald­ing by spray­ing some kind of black stuff on the top of his head.

Our vot­ing re­sults are not en­tirely sci­en­tific, given read­ers’ de­mand to be able to vote for two, three or 12 dif­fer­ent con­tenders. (“Why not give it to them all? My daugh­ter played soft­ball and ev­ery­body got a tro­phy.”)

Devos, a for­mer Worst Cabi­net Mem­ber win­ner, has faded a bit as her in­ef­fec­tive­ness ap­peared to mit­i­gate some of her bad in­ten­tions. Nev­er­the­less, it’s clear our read­ers have been keep­ing an ea­gle eye on what she’s been up to. One voter cited “her dis­in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing the na­tional stu­dent debt cri­sis; her sup­port of pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions’ shady loan prac­tices; her bungling of col­lege cam­pus sex pol­icy; and her com­plete lack of knowl­edge and in­ter­est in class­room achieve­ment.”

Other high-rankers in the Worst con­test were Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin. Some read­ers men­tioned Pom­peo’s cheer­ful visit to Saudi Ara­bia that was high­lighted by “his boys-willbe-boys will­ing­ness to over­look the sav­age mur­der of Saudi Washington Post colum­nist Ja­mal Khashoggi.”

Sec­re­tary of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Ben Car­son got quite a few votes de­spite a cer­tain lack of, um, pub­lic pres­ence. (“What hap­pened to Ben Car­son? No, se­ri­ously. What hap­pened to him? Did he fall asleep in a chair some­where? Did he ever get out of that el­e­va­tor?”)

Ditto Sec­re­tary of En­ergy Rick Perry, whose most notable re­cent achieve­ment was be­ing the Cabi­net mem­ber who stayed away from the State of the Union ad­dress so he could run the coun­try if ev­ery­body else got as­sas­si­nated. We do not want to pur­sue this thought for any num­ber of rea­sons.

There were vir­tu­ally no votes for ei­ther the head of the Depart­ment of In­te­rior or the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt were big Worst con­tenders in the past, but they’re gone now, thrown into the dark­ness for var­i­ous em­bar­rass­ments along the line of su­per-ex­pen­sive trips on the pub­lic dime and, in Pruitt’s case, telling an aide to in­quire about pur­chas­ing an old mat­tress from a Trump ho­tel.

Now Trump has an­nounced that he’s nom­i­nat­ing David Bern­hardt to be his new sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior. Bern­hardt is a for­mer oil lob­by­ist whose big­gest in­ter­est in pub­lic lands ap­pears to in­volve drilling on them. I’ll bet we hear a lot more of him next time around.

The list goes on and on. There’s hardly a Cabi­net mem­ber who doesn’t seem to be driv­ing read­ers crazy. Some of them are los­ing sleep over the fact that Sen. Mitch Mccon­nell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is run­ning the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion while her fam­ily runs an in­ter­na­tional ship­ping com­pany. (“I’m not con­vinced she would win a prize — there are so many cor­rupt con­tenders. But she might get a (dis)hon­or­able men­tion.”) Chao is also a big fan of pri­va­tiz­ing things — in­clud­ing the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Truly, we should give a shoutout to Trump for cre­at­ing such a mem­o­rable bunch of top of­fi­cials. “I have fol­lowed pol­i­tics a very long time … and this is the first time I can ac­tu­ally name more than one or two Cabi­net peo­ple from mem­ory, be­cause they are so freak­ing dan­ger­ously bad,” moaned one reader.

Think about it. How many mem­bers of the Obama Cabi­net can you re­call? Even when Ge­orge W. Bush was hang­ing out with Dick Cheney, did you know who was run­ning the Depart­ment of Com­merce?

At least we’re all pay­ing at­ten­tion.

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