Friday, January 20 — Inauguration Day — this will be our judgement day. The world will see we elected an orange buffoon to be president.
As the President-elect and his family, the vice president-elect and his family and assembled friends and friendly government officials sat out on the Capitol’s most hallowed grounds listening to music by bands and singers you might have heard of, the people Donald Trump has chosen for his cabinet were going through the U.S. Senate confirmation process.
On Wednesday we got to see a sitting congressman, Tom Price, exchanged his “Hon” title for his “Dr” title — most likely to impress someone, his constituents maybe — as various senators, like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, asked him about how he came into possession of some medical stock and then conveniently introduced legislation to help the bottom line of that company. It was all innocent coincidence. “Just because you decide not to tell them? Wink, wink, nod, nod and we’re all just supposed to believe that?”
Yes Senator Warren, we are all supposed to believe Congressman Price when he tells us everything he and his broker did was legal and ethical.
Then there was Betsy DeVos, of the Amway DeVos clan, although she married into that family. Her husband Dick DeVos is a son of one of the co-founders, Richard DeVos, who also owns the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Senator Bernie Sanders asked the important question, “I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, you would be here today?”
D’OH! You didn’t go there Bernie!
DeVos had the wide, mannequin smile on her face the entire time, unfazed by senators questioning her lack of experience — as in no amount of experience — in the fields of education.
The big story of Betsy DeVos is that she is probably the most unqualified person to ever be selected to a cabinet position (Secretary of Education) — at least in my lifetime, probably much longer than that. Her claim to fame in the educational field: Betsy DeVos wants to use your tax dollars to pay for private schools. She wants to defund public education and fund private, i.e. religious, schools. You know the kind that teach kids mythology is science.
Once again Senator Elizabeth Warren asked deep, probing questions about some basic information a Secretary of Education nominee should know. Like the gainful employment rules, that require for-profit private secondary schools to adhere to standards that ensure students are actually getting a good education. It was clear DeVos didn’t know about the rules so when she was asked about them she told Se. Warren, “We will certainly review that rule, and see if it is actually achieving what the intentions are.”
Warren was … a little upset by the answer. Her reply: “I don’t understand about reviewing it. We talked about this in my office. There are already rules in place to stop waste, fraud and abuse,” adding, “Swindlers and crooks are out there doing back flips when they hear an answer like this.”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked DeVos about guns in schools. “You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?” Her answer provided some late night humor. “I will refer back to Sen. Enzi (Mike Enzi of Wyoming) and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”
Potential grizzlies? The Daily Show with Trevor Noah said they called the school to ask and were told, the school doesn’t have a gun. It has a fence and bear spray and that seems to work. Ray Schulte, superintendent for Park County School District No. 6 (Wyoming), told CNN, “We do not allow weapons on school property.” Apparently it’s against state law to have firearms at Wyoming schools. The school in question has ten students.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia asked DeVos about equal accountability for all schools that receive federal funding. She would only respond with, “I support accountability.”
Senator Al Franken asked DeVos about the ongoing debate about measuring students by growth or proficiency — she had no idea what he was talking about. Franken’s classic comment was, “I was kind of surprised … well not that surprised, you did not know this issue.”
She didn’t know anything about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that guarantees all students equal access to public education, she didn’t know anything about Pell Grants and other higher education funding programs — Betsy DeVos couldn’t answer softball questions about anything related to education.
On top of that she, like many Trump appointees, hasn’t filled out all the paperwork required of nominees for federal offices, including the ethics forms.
The bad news is everyone predicts all these incredibly unqualified or compromised nominees will be confirmed by the Senate. They will become cabinet secretaries. Rex Tillerson, the oil tycoon, will be secretary of state. Jeff Sessions will become the attorney general. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry will become the head of the Department of Energy. He didn’t know the department’s most important role was looking after our nuclear arms and fuel supplies. He thought it was primarily about oil and other fossil fuels. The choice to head the EPA has sued the EPA over rules to keep our air and water clean.
The good news is: Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina knows she is not as well versed on foreign affairs as a U.N. Ambassador should be, but she is smart enough to learn and she know Vladimir Putin is no friend of the U.S. At this point she at least seems like a serious person who wants to do a good job of representing the U.S. at the U.N.
General James Mattis is very well qualified to be a Secretary of Defense. He could be the counterbalance to the conspiracy theory wingnut Trump has chosen for his national security advisor, General Michael Fynn. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the Trump transition has asked Obama appointees to stay on in their jobs (4,000 need to be filled) until the Trump Administration finishes the job.
So, sitting there watching the Trumps and Pences listen to the music playing out from the Mall in Washington, D.C. I couldn’t help but be pessimistic about the next four years. President-Elect Trump actually believes he can take the weekend off and start work on Monday, January 23. No, Mr. Trump, the job is 24/7, 365.
But now, I watch the peaceful transition of power, a ceremony that has never been interrupted — even by a civil war that threatened to tear the nation apart — this transfer of power has continued since 1801, when President George Washington watched as President John Adams took the oath of office to become our second President of the United States, which we have now reduced to an acronym: POTUS.
The peaceful transfer of power — it is reassuring to some degree, despite President Trump’s somewhat divisive and jingoistic speech; his usual campaign promises to make America strong, wealthy, safe and great again.
The rest of America that doesn’t agree with anything Donald Trump represents, we can look forward from today and work towards a better future.
There is an upside to having Donald Trump as president: we have a reason to organize and repeal this GOP-led Congress in two years and then dump Trump in 2020. So, let go of the pessimism as quickly as possible and get busy. Start pestering your representatives. Change the political landscape locally, work from the grassroots up. Download a copy of Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. Use it. Progressives and liberals around America are getting emails urging them to organize — where and when and what to do once we’re focused.
Locally, you can change a lot. If you’re in a state that is plagued by gerrymandering, that’s how you fix it — by flipping districts and counties. When the Electoral College was created they didn’t … well, doesn’t matter, the E.C. is outdated and should be eliminated. But, 200 years ago the Founders weren’t thinking about a hyper-partisan nation with horribly drawn congressional districts. They didn’t even consider letting us common folk vote and definitely not you black and brown folks. We need a Constitutional Amendment to end the Electoral College.
For the fun part: If you really want to scare the right wingers in your life start reading Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. I guarantee none of them have read anything by Alinsky, but Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have the low information right wing voters scared to death of the name Saul Alinsky. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” as old Saul once said. Let’s not stop ridiculing President Trump and his lackeys in Congress, but let’s get to work changing what just took place minutes ago.
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UPDATE: As the Inauguration Luncheon took place in the capital building’s National Statuary Hall, the parade route in Washington, D.C. was ringed with agitated protestors, police in riot gear throwing flashbang and tear gas grenades and then the National Guard. The Trump Administration is off and running.
Photos from YouTube unless otherwise noted