by Matthew Pertz, Opinion Editor
Donald Trump is now officially the forty-fifth president of the United States, and the policies his administration pursues are largely dependent on the individuals that will surround him. Here’s a look at some of the people who will shape the next four years of the executive branch and the grades I would give them.
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson: C-
Tillerson’s views seem to clash with his boss’s: he favors Common Core and supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite his moderate views, the former ExxonMobil CEO earns a me-diocre grade because of his cuddly relationship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian autocrat who played an unwelcome hand in Trump’s election. With The Sunday Times reporting that the POTUS is planning his first foreign trip to meet Putin, it seems as though the administration’s pro-Kremlin policy could change the world in ways unthought of 30 years ago.
Sec. of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin: B
Critics point to Mnuchin’s Goldman Sachs resumé as hypocritical considering Trump’s constant berating of Hillary Clinton’s ancient Goldman speeches. However, this is Mnuchin’s greatest asset: he knows the ins and outs of today’s financial industry, as seen by his ability to turn OneWest into a profitable bank. He also understands odds and risk-reward payoff; he supported Trump because he knew he could get a greater payout, like a cabinet post, for less capital, like only a three-month stint working for the campaign.
Sec. of Defense Ret. Gen. James Mattis: B
By all indications, Mattis is intelligent and politically balanced. His soldiers admired him on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he has openly praised the foreign policies of both parties, including current Sec. of State John Kerry’s two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. He’s been criticized for calling for more use of force overseas, but that’s to be expected of a military man.
Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): F
The knocks on Sessions are well known: he called the NAACP “un- American;” he prosecuted three black voting organizers under the assumption their assistance of disabled and impoverished voters is illegal (under the voting Rights Act, it isn’t); and he blocked all of President Obama’s picks to fill judicial vacancies in Alabama. Throughout his career, Sessions has shown his will-ingness to prioritize party over production. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund’s report on Sessions claims “any fair and objective assessment of Sessions’ record demonstrates that he is neither qualified nor prepared to vigorously enforce the nation’s civil rights laws,” and given Sessions’ objections to the Justice Department’s progress on hate crimes and police brutality, I can’t imagine he’ll give up his predispositions in order to maintain that trajectory.
Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos: D-
DeVos, a longtime school choice advocate, earns a failing grade because of her hope that compe-tition from charter schools would raise the quality of public schools. While some may disagree, charter schools suffer from a lack of oversight, meaning corruption can slip through the cracks and entire generations of kids can be stricken with a fraudulent education (Do you agree, Trump University grads?). Just this week, the North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board recom-mended shutting down Kestrel Heights, a charter school in Durham that presented as many as 160 of its 399 graduates with unearned degrees. This isn’t a strange concept to DeVos, who watched a charter system crumble in her grasp thanks to business interests looking to make a quick buck at the expense of enthused but misguided parents.
Sec. of Transportation Elaine Chao: A
Assuming she’s confirmed, Chao will become the first person since Norman Mineta in 2001 to be appointed Secretary of two executive departments (the former will have served in Labor and Transportation, the latter, Commerce and Transportation). Chao is generally heralded by the es-tablishment as intelligent and capable. She also has a Kentucky connection: she’s the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell.