In between slamming Saturday Night Live for the comedy show’s “sad” parody of the US President-elect and breaking 40 years of Chinese trade protocol, Donald Trump has also been nominating cabinet members for his first term.

The US presidential cabinet consists of the vice-president (Mike Pence) and the heads of 15 executive departments who are tasked with advising the president.

In what can only be described as classic Trumpian style, it would seem the Donald has based the majority of his selections on business prowess and wealth. It’s been calculated that his current nominee choices have a combined wealth valued of $14.5 billion.

The Trump administration has not yet officially announced the whole cabinet, and most of Trump’s current picks require confirmation from the Senate. It’s expected that he will fill his cabinet by the end of the year.

Trump’s current appointees for cabinet positions have been labelled as “scary”, “anti-woman”, “racist” and “horrifying”. Let’s take a look at why.

Vice-President: Mike Pence. The only confirmed position for the cabinet is VP-elect Mike Pence — possibly the only person as controversial as Trump this election cycle. Currently leading Trump’s White House transition team, Pence is mostly known for allegations that he supports using electroshock conversion therapy for homosexuality (he claims to adhere to religion over Republican policy).

Secretary of state (rumoured): Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Dana Rohrabacher, Rudy Giuliani or Rex Tillerson. Trump hasn’t “tapped” anyone yet for the hallowed secretary of state position, which is unusual, but he’s set to announce his nominee for that position this week. Until the weekend, Mitt Romney was rumoured to lead the pack for this spot; the fiscally conservative former Republican nominee might be the strongest option (relatively speaking) for the spot and aligns with the majority of Trump’s current policy outlook. However, Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson was a late addition to the short list and is now tipped as the overall favourite. Tillerson has extensive business ties with Russia, which would no doubt titillate the Russophile President-elect.

Secretary of the treasury: Steven Mnuchin. The Hollywood producer and former Goldman Sachs investment banker is Trump’s pick for the treasury. His connections to Wall Street could be an issue for the incumbent administration as Trump has vowed to crack down on the industry. His qualifications for the job are as follows: none. Which happens to be consistent with his political views as he has said nothing on public policy. Mnuchin is familiar with poorly performing groups, however, as he was the executive producer of this year’s big blockbuster flop Suicide Squad — a sign of things to come?

Secretary of defence: James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Possibly the most terrifying person to make it into Trump’s good books. The retired US marine general served for 44 years, led the charge in one of the most bloody battles in US military history (Fallujah) and after returning from Iraq said in a panel discussion that it’s “fun to shoot some people”. To Trump’s surprise, he’s against waterboarding — interpret that how you’d like.

Attorney-general: Jeff Sessions. The first sitting senator to approve of Trump, Sessions has had a controversial past after being rejected for a federal judge nomination due to allegations of racism. The appointee has been a pillar against immigration for Trump, he’ll likely lead the charge on the populist push for a Mexico border wall — though still unlikely to be able to convince the Mexican President to fund it.

Secretary of the interior: (rumoured) Sarah Palin, Mary Fallin or Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Another spot requiring Senate confirmation, the secretary of the interior hasn’t been confirmed by the Trump team, but it’s rumoured Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leading his short list. McMorris Rodgers is known for her oil and gas industry ties, denial of climate science and her history of selling off parkland for development.

Secretary of agriculture: Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp is a first-term senator from North Dakota. She’s also a Democrat — though one who happens to oppose the party’s stance on environmental protection for wetlands, and its food labeling protocols for genetically modified produce. Her nomination would be either an olive branch or a fig leaf. We’ll let you decide which.

Secretary of commerce: Wilbur Ross. Successful businessman and billionaire Wilbur Ross is the most similarly minded individual to Trump and the administration he wants to produce. He is worth $3 billion, hates free trade and was an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy.

Secretary of labour: Andrew Puzder. Fast food kingpin and firm opponent of a higher minimum wage, Puzder will oversee the US job market, workplace regulations and employment rates. The Carl’s JR. and Hardee’s CEO has been criticised for labour violations and producing sexist commercials.

“I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he said in a 2015 Entrepreneur interview.

A strong proponent of cheap labour, Puzder, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, claimed that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would push people out of the workforce.

Secretary of health and human services: Tom Price. The former orthopaedic surgeon and six-term Republican congressman has battled Obama on every front of his healthcare policy reform. He has announced he will dismantle Obamacare and has led the charge on objecting to the Affordable Care Act.

Secretary of housing and urban development: Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon and soft-spoken housing nom, Ben Carson, has never held a government position before — much like Trump.

Carson ran for president largely on the appeal of his underdog story and medical qualifications. He stated before the nomination that he didn’t want the cabinet position because he didn’t have the qualifications — guess it does take a brain surgeon.

Secretary of transportation: Elaine Chao. Made history as the first Asian-American woman to become part of a US presidential cabinet, Chao was George W. Bush’s Labor Secretary. She’s was also the CEO of United Way and director of the Peace Corps. Probably his most “normal” pick.

Secretary of energy: (rumoured) Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Ray Washburne or Rick Perry. This one has been a crowded field, with all the candidates sharing one thing in common: none of them are scientists. Yes, Trump looks set to break with a long tradition (how many is that now?) of appointing a scientist as secretary of energy. Bloomberg reports former governor of Texas Rick Perry is now leading the pack.

Secretary of education: Betsy DeVos. A polarising figure for the education system, DeVos is a supporter of the controversial “school choice voucher” scheme, which aims to eliminate publicly funded schools in favour of paying families to send students to private schools — destroying the public education system to please for-profit corporations.

Secretary of veterans affairs (rumoured): Sarah Palin, Pete Hegseth or Senator Scott Brown. Out of all available, Pete Hegseth would be the most logical choice for this spot. Hegseth has spent much of his time establishing the group Concerned Veterans for America, which has attempted to reform the Veterans Affairs department after years of scandals. Sarah Palin has also been linked to the job, it’s been said the “right wingin’, bitter clingin’, proud clinger” will ruin what little credibility the department has left, after its controversial recent history.

Secretary of homeland security: John Kelly. Retired general and former head of the US Southern Command, Kelly spent four years managing security threats from criminal drug networks in South America — an issue that Trump has rehashed constantly. He spent four decades in the Marine Corps and has been very vocal on border protection — Kelly will be the watcher on the wall.

The complete list of cabinet nominations should be out at the end of the month … if you hadn’t soiled yourself already.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW