The Republican Senate is attempting to rush hearings for President Trump’s cabinet choices. Everyone has to act now to insist that Congress follow established procedures and law for vetting ethics and conflicts of interest. Several candidates with many interests involving the government have yet to file the paperwork necessary to show how they will separate their businesses from their work in government, led by the President himself who appears determined to skirt rules that should apply to him.
Trump’s cabinet picks are divided into those whose conflicts of interest are so extensive that they may never be able to carry out the public interest with credibility and those who are utterly unqualified, having little or no experience and little knowledge of the work of the departments they are to head. The rest are largely radically rightist ideologues, who have pledged to carry out draconian policies, most supported only by a fanatic minority of Americans. This is my first blog on the cabinet picks, focusing on climate change and the environment. A subsequent one will focus on urban economic and human issues.
Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency
Trump has chosen Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency he and his allies have pledged to eliminate. Pruitt has made a career litigating against climate-change legislation and clean air and water policies, carrying water for the oil and gas industries of his home state. He will be just one member of the Trump cabal pledged to decimate America’s paltry progress in dealing with climate change. He has no positive environmental accomplishments.
Rick Perry, Energy
While President Obama appointed scientists conversant with nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, climate change, and energy efficiency to the Energy Department, Trump has appointed former Texas Governor Perry, who famously could not remember the name of the agency he had pledged to eliminate. On the plus side, he enabled large-scale, wind-energy expansion in Texas, but has said he does not accept climate science, has sued to stop clean-air efforts, and has advocated the teaching of the fake science of Creationism.
Ryan Zinke, Interior
the former Navy Seal Trump picked to run Interior grew up in the shadow of Glacier National Park, and thinks of Teddy Roosevelt as his hero. Unlike Roosevelt, he now advocates for state management of public lands, a gift to well-heeled donors in extractive industries, and resists restrictions on pollution from oil, gas, and coal mining on Federal lands.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State
Then there is Rex Tillerson, Chairman of Exxon, among the largest companies on the planet. New Yorker writer Steve Coll, author of a book about Exxon, wrote that his selection “will certainly confirm the assumption of many people around the world that American power is best understood as a raw, neocolonial exercise in securing resources.” How can he extricate himself from business interests that Coll calls “a power independent of the American government, one devoted firmly to shareholder interests and possessed of its own foreign policy”? How can the man who made deals with Russia’s Putin and other resource-extraction autocrats for Exxon act in a way that is convincingly in the interests of America? Though Exxon and its ilk have had to contend with climate-change effects like stronger storms in the Gulf of Mexico, melting Arctic ice, and rising seas worldwide, Exxon has led the way in global-warming disinformation, putting profits ahead of people for as long as it can get away with it.
Questions senators should ask
Questions you can ask politicians to pose: Since the coal plants that President Obama has sought to regulate are among the nation’s largest sources of pollution, how much pollution is acceptable? What energy and pollution regulations do you deem too onerous and why? Do you accept climate science and the need to aggressively address global warming? If not, are there other areas in which you are selective about scientific endeavor or do you widely reject science, i.e., do planes fly by magic? If client science should prove to be wrong, what would be the downside of investing aggressively to combat it? If client scientists are right, what kind of world do you think our children and your children will be living in? And who will they hold responsible?
Write to Congress now, especially if either of your senators is a Republican. Demonstrate or take whatever action you prefer that can make difference. Need I say, the stakes have never been higher.