'Government by the Least Qualified or Most Unprincipled Citizens'
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Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker magazine, has given new definition to the phenomenon sweeping the American government as the Trump transition team and incoming administration struggle to get organised. Lizza has labeled it, “Kakistocracy,” which, is defined as, "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens." The American Heritage Dictionary gives the origin of kakistocracy as from the Greek word, kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad.
Lizza's description is extremely apt given absolute chaos surrounding the president-elect and his advisors. Any semblance of an orderly transition now seems on the verge of collapse as each day brings a new revelation that questions Trump's ability to maintain control or even properly direct his apparently unwieldy staff.
From the outset it was readily apparent that Trump and his team were unprepared to take control of the American government. As one White House staffer told NCRM confidentially, the first warning that the transition was in serious trouble was the president-elect's first visit with President Obama. None of the aides who accompanied Mr. Trump seemed cognizant of the fact that outside of White House service personnel, such as ushers, kitchen staff, et cetera, for example, the military aides, and of course the U.S. Secret Service personnel, that they would need to replace folks in the West Wing and the two Executive Office buildings, responsible for smooth operations of the Executive Branch. They seemed, as the staffer put it, "shell-shocked."
Then, as reports filtered out from Transition Headquarters in Trump Tower, which were first described as a palace coup after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was replaced by Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, White House sources noted that requisite paperwork to allow the current administration staff to communicate directly with incoming Trump staff was not executed which ultimately causes delays and lack of communications necessary for a smooth handover of power.
The Christie ouster came as no shock to people close to the campaign who have said privately that the Trump campaign team, which had been led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was merely “repaying a debt” as the New Jersey Governor, when he was a U.S. attorney, was involved in the prosecution of Kushner's father, Charles Kushner. The elder Kushner was sentenced to prison in 2005 on 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations.
There still has been no real public comment offered by the folks surrounding the President-elect and the transition team other than Trump spokesman Jason Miller, who deflected the issue regarding the alleged purge telling journalists that reports of Jared Kushner's involvement, "couldn’t be further from the truth,” but that the younger Kushner is someone whom “obviously the president-elect seeks and respects his counsel very much."
Yet this past Wednesday came word that Kevin O’Connor, himself a former United States Attorney and who had headed up the Justice Department transition team, is now out. Christie and O’Connor, friends, had been U.S. attorneys at the same time, O’Connor in Connecticut from 2002 until 2008 during the period that Christie was serving in New Jersey.
Outside of The White House and its environs is the rest of the Federal Government, of particular concern being the Defense Department and the American Intelligence community. Last week NCRM reported, “In what is being seen as a warning to the Trump transition team to move faster in building a national security team, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, tendered his resignation Wednesday night.”
Sources inside the Pentagon are also expressing deep concerns to NCRM regarding the lack of information or flow of communications from the Trump Transition Team. Trump himself had drawn criticism prior to the election by a cabal of military officials who spoke on background to the various media outlets that there were limitations on “abuse of powers” possible from a President Trump that the military would be tolerant of.
In a poll released Friday by the Military Times/Institute for Military and Veterans Families (IMVF) Survey, nearly one quarter of America’s active-duty troops expressed worry about what orders that President Trump will issue. Twenty-seven percent of service members polled said Trump would negatively affect their jobs or missions, and then one in five troops – including a majority of those who voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – said Trump as commander in chief would make them less likely to re-enlist.
U.S. troops are also skeptical that Trump can end the 15-year conflict in Afghanistan during his presidency, according to the poll, with 28 percent saying he can achieve that but 34 percent saying he can't.
Perceptions are also building that the relationship between the president-elect and Kushner and Trump's adult children will create potential for conflicts of interest between him and his family’s business ventures. Reports have emerged as recently as last week that foreign governments were booking reservations at Trump owned hotels and properties for their diplomatic as well as government officials. According to one official at the U.S. State Department, who asked to not be identified:
“The fact that foreign governments are patronising Trump's hotels, coupled with the fact that Trump has not moved his business interests into a blind trust, instead leaving daily operations of his business empire to his children, with whom he has close relationship, can leave the impression that these foreign governments at the least are currying favour while at the same time putting money in Trump's pockets.”
Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate and former U. S. Army Captain, who helped found several LGBTQI military service organizations, including SPARTA, Knights Out and OutServe, noted:
"If you were uncomfortable that a donation to the Clinton Foundation - which no Clinton was paid by, and which went to lifesaving drugs in developing countries - might (never proven) have led to a meeting with the Secretary of State, I want to hear your outrage about this.
"Trump will be dealing with foreign governments who he is in business with, with his hotels and other holdings. Every decision he in dealing with a foreign government, every tax or budget proposal to Congress, every appointment to the IRS or law enforcement agency, can be contingent on how it helps the Trump business.
"Welcome to kleptocracy. If you think enriching the Trump fortune won't be a condition of Presidential action, you haven't paid attention to what Donald Trump has done his entire life."
The idea of potential conflict of interest if not outright flaunting of long established protocols and procedures and was further reinforced when a photograph was distributed Thursday evening, that showed Kushner and his wife Ivanka, were both present for at least part of a meeting between the President-elect and the prime minister of Japan.
The press corps were barred from covering the meeting, Trump’s first with a foreign head of state, and no summary was provided afterwards detailing what was discussed. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after the meeting that he had a “very candid discussion” with Mr. Trump, although he also did not elaborate on the topics discussed nor commented on who else attended the meeting.
With public outrage already building in progressive and liberal spheres over Trump's selection of former Breitbart Editor Steven Bannon, to his White House inner circle, given Bannon's track record of anti-Semitism and racist statements along with his misogynistic behavior, Trump's pick to be U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, has Democrats in the Senate further inflamed vowing to oppose Sessions.
Democrats and progressive and liberal human rights group list Sessions' anti-immigrant, anti LGBTQI Equality Rights senatorial track record as more than adequate reasons to reject him as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions voted against both the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender and disability. He voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” His statements regarding immigrants, particularly those from Central America have been categorised as xenophobic and racist by some political observers and journalists.
In an email statement Friday, Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutiérrez said:
“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.”
The first time Sessions faced a Senate confirmation, he was nominated to a federal district judgeship in Alabama in 1986 by then President Ronald Reagan, Sessions was soundly rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee after multiple witnesses came forward to report his history of racist comments and hostility to civil rights groups. There are Washington insiders who have told NCRM that there are questions as to whether or not in this go around, in another GOP held Senate, would offer a similar result.
Lending a further impression that Trump is building a Kakistocracy in the federal government are his choices for National Security Adviser, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a man who has publicly stated said he doesn’t believe that all cultures are “morally equivalent” and once described Islam as "a cancer." Also, Kansas GOP Representative Mike Pompeo, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Law School. Pompeo was pointedly asked during an appearance on the NBC News Sunday Morning Talk Show “Meet the Press” in late 2015 why his committee’s inquiry into the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, had dragged on longer than the Watergate investigation. His immediate response to NBC's moderator Chuck Todd was, “This is worse, in some ways.”
Pompeo, an unyielding critic of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a supporter of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk data collection program and sought to restore the agency’s access to the data it had already collected under the Patriot Act from its inception through late last year.
The New York Times wrote in a profile piece published Saturday, that, “If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Pompeo would become one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the C.I.A. — a spy agency that, at least publicly, is supposed to operate above politics and avoid a direct role in policy making.”
As the transition team struggles with selection of cabinet and agency heads, filling routine positions in the White House Staff has apparently been left to application via the transition's webpage and or according to one source, email blasts and text messages. Critical liaisons between the incoming administration and other Federal Departments and agencies has also been limited or nonexistent leaving some federal personnel worried that critical programmes will grind to a halt until the new administration catches up.
On Saturday, as if to illustrate a misplaced sense of priorities by the President-elect, an angry tweet to the cast of a popular Broadway musical over Vice-President-Elect Michael Pence being booed upon entering the theater, and then a public plea post performance directed at him, seemed to further define the clueless tone of the Trump team.
“The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” — Donald J. Trump
If anything though, the short speech delivered at Pence by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor portraying Aaron Burr in the acclaimed musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, seems to capture the fears of many Americans about this new administration.
“Vice President-elect Pence, welcome,” Dixon said, on behalf of the production. “Thank you for joining us at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of all of us. Thank you.”
Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at Brody.Levesque@thenewcivilrightsmovement.com