At his annual "issues meeting" with constituents from his 9th Congressional District on Monday, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen called the roll of what he saw as unsatisfactory or outright dangerous cabinet officer-designates named by Donald Trump, and Cohen's list was fairly inclusive of the President-elect's entire list.
Those singled out by the Congressman included Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, who, he said, had been wrong on civil rights and civil liberties issues when the Senate rejected him as a potential federal judge in the 1980s and was "no better" now; climate-change rejector Scott Pruitt as director of the Environmental Protection Agency; Betsy DeVos, an advocate of for-profit charter schools, as Secretary of Education; and former Texas Governor Rick "Oops" Perry, who has extensive ties to the oil and gas industries, for Secretary of Energy.
Not mentioned specifically by Cohen but equally suspect, surely, are Secretary of the Treasury-designate Steven Mnuchin, a banker with close ties to financial-industry members who advocate loosening government restrictions on Wall Street; Secretary of Labor-designate Andy Puzder, a disbeliever in the minimum wage; Secretary of Commerce-designate Wilbur Ross, an investor best known as a "turnaround artist"; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, who publicly confesses knowing nothing about his subject; Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Tom Price, a former congressman known for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and public health measures; and Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil oil mogul whose ties with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin are notorious.
Most ominous of all is probably Trump's choice for National Security Advisory, former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, whose erratic views caused him to be forced out as Defense Intelligence Agency head and whose son, with apparent paternal approval, has been a public advocate of some of the more monstrous examples of "fake news," like the canard that Bill and Hillary Clinton were running a child-kidnapping ring out of a Washington D.C., pizza joint.
Unfortunately, the senior Flynn is not subject to Senate confirmation. The other mentioned Trump appointees are, however, and can in theory be rejected in the formal hearings that begin this week. The chances of that happening in a body dominated by Republicans is not great, but Cohen raised at least a modicum of hope when he suggested the names of several Republican senators who might be moderate or open-minded enough to join Senate Democrats in holding up some of the more noxious Trump nominations.
The names were those of Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Cohen added, with what sounded like genuine wistfulness, the names of Tennessee's own Republican Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander.
Though it is axiomatic these days that no Republican will admit to being "moderate" or anything quite so sissified-sounding to GOP ears, Corker and Alexander do, like Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, enjoy a reputation for relatively fair-mindedness. We join Cohen in hoping that our two senators can rise to the occasion in applying a genuine acid test to the nominees of President-elect Trump.