The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.

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Trump Appointees: Read, Remember, and Take Action

Sarah Myers, '18, Editor

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President Donald Trump is assembling an administration, and the individuals he chooses will have important and enormous power over the federal government. Individual political views aside, American citizens tend to be uninformed about and uninterested in these nominees, despite their importance. The Panther Press has assembled a detailed, but by no means comprehensive, list, focusing on the most important posts being filled. Consider taking a moment today, six months from now, and a year from now in order to check on their accomplishments, failures, or mistakes. Civic engagement does not end with voting.

Rex Tillerson has been confirmed as Secretary of State. He is the former chief executive of Exxon Mobile. He was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2013. His stance on climate change is difficult to gauge- he has said that the impact of climate change could be catastrophic, but he has also worked for an oil company for 41 years (BBC, Dec 13 2016). Pennsylvania’s Senator Pat Toomey voted for Mr. Tillerson, while Senator Bob Casey voted against.

Next, James Mattis has been chosen for Secretary of Defense. Mattis will be the first Secretary of Defense who is also a former general since 1950. Congress needed to waive a requirement that he wait seven years after active military duty to take the position (Boston Globe, Dec 5 2016).

Steve Mnuchin has been chosen as Secretary of the Treasury. He is described as an “entrepreneur, a Wall Street investor and a Hollywood producer,” and has worked for Goldman Sachs and a few other major banks (NY Times, Nov 30 2016). He has not exhibited any interest in public policy or politics prior to now. He served as the Trump campaign’s national finance chairman, and is reputedly a good boss and worker (Politico, Nov 29 2016). The Senate has confirmed has appointment. Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as Attorney General. He has called the Obama administration’s position on immigration “breathtaking” and its refusal to block gay marriage “shameful.” He “will most likely push for wholesale changes and hard-line stances on immigration, terrorism, crime, drugs and guns. Democrats fear he could wipe away progress in civil rights, changes in sentencing and police accountability” (NYT, Nov 18 2016). Mr. Sessions will almost certainly not be able to roll back marijuana legalization, although he opposes it strongly (CNBC Dec 9). More importantly, Mr. Sessions has a controversial record on civil rights: “The last time Sessions faced a confirmation vote, in 1986, his nomination was voted down by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee after they were confronted by Sessions’ extensive history of racist comments and actions… Sessions referred to the NAACP and other civil rights organizations as un-American groups that “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” He was accused of using his authority as a U.S. attorney to disrupt and prosecute civil rights activists who were registering African-Americans to vote. He also reportedly said he thought the KKK was “OK” until he found out its members smoked pot.”- US News and World Report, Dec 7 2016

Wilbur Ross has been chosen as Secretary of Commerce. Ross has worked in “distressed investing”, referring to finding companies which are on the verge of bankruptcy or severely financially distressed, then buying their assets or stock, which are available at a discounted price because the company is desperate. Ross invested in Trump’s casino business in this capacity (WSJ, Dec 27 2016). The commerce secretary traditionally does not do much, although the Wall Street Journal predicts (or hopes) that this is a genius move by Trump. According to the Journal, Ross will use his skills to invest in collapsing foreign companies around the world, which would fit Trump’s isolationist views. Ross, while advising Cyprus’ banking sector prior to his selection by Trump, called Brexit a “god-given opportunity” for Cyprus, Ireland, and Scotland to steal trade from the UK (CNBC, Dec 27 2016).

Tom Price will be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. His proposal does focus on providing more financial and regulatory aid for higher-income Americans buying health insurance. Additionally, he believes that Medicare should be replaced by a voucher system (which essentially means privatizing Medicare which, again, may be extremely harmful for low-income recipients) and objects to government funding of Planned Parenthood (Canadian Broadcasting Channel, Nov 30 2016). The Senate has confirmed his appointment.

Ben Carson has been chosen to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A few days before the announcement, a close friend said that “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience. He’s never run a federal agency.” (NPR, Dec 5 2016). That same friend was interviewed on NPR and asked what qualifies Dr. Carson, a former neurosurgeon, to run HUD. He said “his life.” Dr. Carson did live in subsidized housing while growing up, but he has not since going to college, and has never been involved in housing or real estate professionally.

Rick Perry has been chosen to head the Department of Energy. In 2012, as a Republican candidate for president, Perry “could not recall the name of the third federal agency he vowed to eliminate as president while speaking on a primary debate stage. It was none other than the Energy Department that he will now lead, and the gaffe became known primarily for the word with which he ended his live misery: ‘Oops’” (CNN, Dec 14 2016). Ironically, Perry actively used government involvement in the energy sector to pump money into Texas’ oil industry as Governor of the state. Perry has been a director of the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline since 2015. There will need to be a Senate confirmation.

Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as Education Secretary, by a 50-50 Senate tie which Vice President Mike Pence broke. She is independently wealthy, and has spent millions of dollars pushing to expand educational voucher programs in Michigan, her home state, and beyond over the past few years (Washington Post, Nov 23 2016). The voucher programs which DeVos helped to create in Michigan are widely considered to be a severe failure, and to have significantly harmed the education of students, particularly low-income students, in school districts where the voucher system was used (Washington Post).

As one of Trump’s advisors, Stephen Bannon will be Trump’s chief strategist. He previously ran Breitbart News, infamous for articles which are racist, homophobic, misogynist, transphobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, etc (Washington Post, Nov 15 2016). Glenn Beck calls Bannon a “nightmare” and compared him to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist (Washington Post). Some journalists have pointed out that Bannon rarely makes explicitly bigoted statements, but he helped to build Breitbart News. Whether or not Bannon genuinely believes the ideas Breitbart and Trump spread, he has enabled, promoted, and helped to create both of them. Mr. Bannon is now a member of the White House National Security Council due to an Executive Order signed by President Trump. Trump reportedly did not know that the order included language on Mr. Bannon or that he was adding Mr. Bannon to the council (New York Times, Feb 5).

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has stepped down as Trump’s national security adviser. He has tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” (Vox, Nov 21 2016). Vox summarized the last few years of Flynn’s career, saying that Flynn “was fired from his last job in the military, sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin after giving a paid speech in Moscow, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned, and said Obama was a ‘liar’ with no plan for defeating ISIS.” Recently he appeared at a paid series of events in Moscow (Washington Post, Nov 18 2016). He has been replaced by the far less controversial General H.R. McMaster, who is well-respected in Washington, but differs from President Trump in his positions on many key issues, including how the US should approach dealings with Russia and how to combat radical Islamist terrorism (Reuters, Feb 22).

Reince Priebus will be Trump’s Chief of Staff. Trump called him a “superstar” during his victory speech. Priebus helped to lead the GOP “autopsy” of the 2012 election, which recommended that the party move in exactly the opposite direction that Trump has (NPR, Nov 14 2016). For appointments not made yet, Guardian, Politico, and the Washington Post all have appointment trackers, and I strongly urge you to use them; the individuals Trump chooses will be able to make decisions in relative privacy, and are extremely difficult to remove once they’ve been confirmed or formally appointed. Paying attention and staying involved now is the best way to ensure that your views impact the way in which the country is managed.

The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.
Trump Appointees: Read, Remember, and Take Action