The following editorial appeared in The (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian:
The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has been unconventional. In altering the norms of leadership and the norms of the presidency, Trump has reminded both supporters and detractors of why they voted as they did during the 2016 presidential election.
With Saturday marking the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, reflection is prudent. That might include a rehashing of his tweets, which acolytes view as engagement while opponents question his fitness for office. Or that might include an examination of policy, which proponents applaud as a repudiation of Obama-era missteps and rivals consider an undermining of what makes America great.
The truth is that any commentary on the first year of Trump’s presidency is unlikely to change the minds of readers. Supporters are just as strident in their opinions as detractors.
But while tweets and tax reform and an ongoing verbal battle with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have garnered the bulk of attention over the past year, it often is the little things that matter most. Therefore, we alert you to three recent stories that might have gone unnoticed yet reflect endemic problems within the Trump administration:
- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has had financial ties to Windham Professionals and Performant Financial Corp., which last week was one of two firms selected by the Department of Education to collect overdue student loans. The contracts are expected to be worth as much as $400 million. As demonstrated during her confirmation hearings, DeVos is embarrassingly unqualified to be the education secretary. The latest revelation further marks her as little more than a deep-pocketed Republican activist treating a high-powered federal position as an opportunity to enrich herself and her cohorts.
- Taylor Weyeneth has been selected as deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. As the Washington Post explains, that White House office is “responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion-dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic.” Weyeneth is 24 and, according to reports, lied on his resume about having a master’s degree. Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief who ran the office during the Obama administration and is a former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said: “It sends a terrible message. It’s a message that we’re not taking this drug issue seriously.”
- Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, boasted in a tweet that his agency has issued 20 deregulatory actions “saving the American people more than $300 MILLION in regulatory costs.” Actually, those savings go to corporations while reducing the accountability of industry to the environment and the public. Pruitt, long a critic of the EPA, was a specious choice to head the agency. He has demonstrated that he is beholden to corporations rather than the people while actively working to reduce the effectiveness of the EPA and eliminate input from scientists.
These are small indications of the manner in which the Trump administration is working to make government fail in its responsibilities to the American people. They are not as eye-catching as his well-proven penchant for lying, his dismissiveness regarding allegations of Russian interference in the campaign, or his criticisms of other nations – friends and foes alike. But they demonstrate how Trump is actually turning the swamp into a quagmire rather than draining it.