The appeal and reason for the harrowing loyalty of President Donald Trump's base largely stems from the fact that he had no political experience. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 22 percent of Trump supporters listed the fact that he was a "Washington Outsider" as their number one reason for supporting him, followed by 16 percent who said it was his business experience that got them to vote for the real estate mogul and reality star. This is coupled with the fact that since the Richard Nixon era of Watergate, trust for politicians and our governmental institutions has increasingly fallen.
Trump has continued to use this strategy once he got to the Oval Office, often appointing cabinet members who seemed starkly unqualified to take on the position in which they were assigned. For example, Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), resigned after a controversy surrounding misuse of staffers, excessive spending and excessive travel. Before that tenure, he worked as a state senator and then as Oklahoma's attorney general. During his career, he sued the EPA and often worked to pass legislation in favor of the oil industry.
However, Ryan Zinke, the recently resigned secretary of the interior, was a former congressman, Navy SEAL and served on the House Natural Resources committee, which focuses on public land in national park use, wildlife, oceans and Native American affairs. The Department of the Interior focuses on land management and conservation, along with Native American Affairs. In theory, Zinke was at least qualified by resume to take the job, though I had serious disagreements on his policies and questioned his ethical standing.
It turns out that Zinke has the same problem as his outsider colleagues, as he resigned in December due to ethical concerns, especially regarding travel and his meeting with oil developers that wanted to build a project on land that would increase Zinke’s personal family assets. James Mattis, a seasoned general, also resigned at the end of 2018, but his resignation was due to rebuking Trump’s promise to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, despite the president's claims that he fired Mattis. Trump's turnover rate, which was reported by The New York Times as unprecedented, shows that it may not be just the outsiders that cause problems. It is clear this president has not appointed loyal or ethical cabinet members, regardless of whether or not they have gained enough experience related to their assignment prior to taking the job.
Will David Bernhardt, Trump's nomination for secretary of the interior, be any different? Time will tell, but the facts and figures surrounding his past say no. While serving as the acting secretary, Bernhardt has joined with Zinke in relaxing the Endangered Species Act and allowing drilling in the Alaskan Arctic, according to a recent Hill report. This policy is directly against what the Interior Department was set out to do: protect the land. He comes from the best of both worlds in terms of the Trump cabinet. A former solicitor for George W. Bush and deputy secretary of the interior under this administration, he also has a history of being an oil and gas lobbyist, which as mentioned is not a new contradiction. He has received endorsements from the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association. Both organizations advocate offshore drilling. He already committed an ethics violation as deputy secretary, by meeting with lobbyists for MGM Resorts International, a casino franchise represented by his former employer. During the government shutdown, while 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, Bernhardt allowed workers to come back to participate in offshore drilling and leasing contracts for the projects to go through. The House Oversight Committee intends to subject this to investigation. As recently reported by The Huffington Post, Bernhardt has promised to restore ethics in the department. This is presumably mere political falsehood spewed in order to be confirmed. Donald Trump's unethical and unqualified cabinet officials should not be confirmed, and the master businessman should examine his hiring practices.