No President can govern alone. George Washington picked a few of the most prominent revolutionary leaders for his Cabinet, including Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Now the federal government directly employs over 2 million people, and pays millions of others, such as our soldiers.
Candidates tell us they will get the best people. For most of our history, it was assumed that the best meant white men. After Emancipation of the slaves in 1865, black men began to be hired in Washington, encouraged by the early Republican Party. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, reimposed racist criteria on federal hiring early in the 20th century. Only since Lyndon Johnson’s efforts at desegregating American society in the 1960s have African Americans again held important offices in our government.
The first woman to serve in the Cabinet was Frances Perkins, appointed Secretary of Labor by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. President Dwight Eisenhower made the next female appointment in 1953, Oveta Culp Hobby as head of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As the women’s movement intensified in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter appointed four women to his Cabinet.
Although women have almost as many jobs in the government as men, they are concentrated at lower pay and responsibility. In all departments, the salary pyramid narrows strongly at the top in favor of men. So Milt Romney talked awkwardly about “binders full of women” in 2012, to show that his version of best included women.
Donald Trump constantly repeated that he would bring in “the best people” or “the best people in the world”. He said, “I know the best people.” “You’ve got to pick the best people.” He boasted about how good he was at finding the best. Because he rarely mentioned anyone in particular, we never found out what he meant by “best”.
Now we know a lot more.
In Trump’s first 18 months, 8 Cabinet secretaries had to resign, often for spending outrageous amounts of our tax dollars on themselves, a record turnover.
On August 21, one of his campaign managers was convicted of tax and bank fraud, and his personal attorney of many years pled guilty to similar financial crimes. In Trump’s first 18 months, 8 Cabinet secretaries had to resign, often for spending outrageous amounts of our tax dollars on themselves, a record turnover. The constant changes, including many firings, of Trump’s larger senior staff are “unprecedented”: 4 communications directors, 3 national security advisors, 2 chiefs of staff.
Trump drew people near to him who excelled at defrauding others, private and public. Then he evaluated them with a single criteria: do they love him?
Trump explained his hiring policy in a nutshell, after he got mad at one of his best people. He hired one of his reality television co-stars, Omarosa Manigault, as director of African-American outreach for his campaign. She responded by saying in September 2016: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who's ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”
Now she’s gone. Trump says that she is a lowlife and a dog, but he hired her “because she only said GREAT things about me.”
Omarosa was one of the small number of women hired for senior positions in the Trump administration. Despite GOP boasts about how many women he has hired, in fact, his administration is “the most male-dominated federal government in nearly a quarter-century”.
Does he care about crime? After Manafort was convicted of stealing money from banks and from the government to support an outrageous lifestyle, Trump called him “a brave man ... a stand-up guy”. All that mattered was that Manafort had not yet cooperated with prosecutors. Not yet, but maybe soon.
Trump is outraged that the first two House members to endorse him both are under indictment for financial crimes. Not outraged at their apparent crimes, but at the fact that their indictments might hurt Republicans in the elections.
Trump does have some of the best people working in his administration. They have proven themselves by long years of accomplishment, doing the work of running our government in the most non-partisan manner they can, serving Presidents of both Parties, and bringing wisdom and ethical behavior to our federal government.
But there aren’t nearly as many as there were just two years ago. Trump and his appointed Cabinet, his version of the best people, have performed so badly, so incompetently, so corruptly, that thousands of career public servants have quit their jobs. More than half of the top-ranking diplomatsin the State Department had left by January 2018, and applications to join the foreign service have fallen by half. More than 700 people left the EPA by the end of last year, including 200 scientists.
Trump’s best people are corrupting American government at all levels. It may take a long time for us to recover.
Taking Back Our Lives