Above: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo by greatagain.gov.
By Ravyn Salas
Trump's unprecedented campaign now carries over into his cabinet picks. Compared to previous presidents, it has less experience in government, but collectively more experience as CEOs. These members are in charge of departments whose policy choices can influence and even eradicate programs from which Chaffey students benefit.
Arguably, the most notorious of Trump’s recent picks is Jeff Sessions, who will take over as Attorney General of the United States after holding the same title of his home state Alabama, before his role as US senator. Backed by Alabama conservatives, Sessions rewarded their support with a record showing his fierce allegiance to conservative policy. He opposed almost every immigration reform policy brought to him, and even shut down legal immigration initiatives. His policy votes have been against gay marriage, and he voted against expanding federal hate crime laws to include acts that are based on the sexual orientation and gender of a victim, fermenting enough dispute and backlash to receive a score of zero from the largest LGBTQ advocacy group, The Human Rights Campaign.
General James “Mad Dog” Mattis
Mattis, a retired United States Marine Corps general, is a veteran of three different wars. His skepticism of Russian leader Putin contrasts with the president-elect, who views his cordial relationship with Putin as an asset. Though he retired just four years ago, officials provided the necessary waiver, suspending the law prohibiting officers from serving as secretary of defense, until seven years after they’ve retired. Senators across party lines have been enthusiastic about his role.
One of the biggest criticisms of Trump’s team is his denial of climate change, and therefore the refusal to support energy conservation, and his pick for Secretary of Energy does not soften these doubts. During a 2011 Republican presidential debate, Perry called for the Energy Department to be abolished, which he now regrets. The former Texas governor has also served as a board director for Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for developing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education is Michigan billionaire businesswomen, and education activist Betsy DeVos. She advocates for privatizing the public school system. Most recently, clips of her confirmation hearing have garnered her flak. She talks in circles on whether guns should be allowed in K-12 classrooms, citing the premise of grizzly bears in Wyoming as reasoning to have firearms. It is hard to believe that her answer was not, at least in part, influenced by the extreme gun-lobbying of the Republican Party and that grizzlies pose enough of a threat to add firearms into the classroom. DeVos was interrogated in her confirmation hearing by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who pointed out her lack of experience in education. Warren warned DeVos, “The Secretary of Education is essentially responsible for managing a trillion dollar student loan bank and distributing 30 billion dollars in Pell grants to students each year. The financial futures of an entire generation of young people depend on your department getting that right.”
One of Trump’s first picks received extreme backlash in the media, labeled a racist and nationalist, when it was rumored that he would be part of Trump’s team as chief strategist. The owner of Breitbart News, the outlet that caused Bannon the most criticism, used the site as a platform for the alt-right and credits it to, “showing people that they can have a voice and you can channel that anger, where before you were defenseless. You can take that anger. And by the way, I think anger is a good thing.”
The unlikely pick has plenty of international business experience, especially with Vladimir Putin, who even awarded him an Order of Friendship medal. The future Secretary of State is also chief executive of the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, ExxonMobil. The company seems to agree with the president-elect’s diplomatic relationship with Russia, and even lobbied against a bill that would make it harder for Trump to lift sanctions.