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Waelti: Attempt at governing by the good, the bad and the ugly
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It's a lot easier to criticize and tear down than it is to govern, as our new president is finding out. When President Barack Obama was trying to do something good, if unpopular among Republican politicians, like making health care available to the uninsured, he was unmercifully hammered by those same politicians who enjoy taxpayer-funded Cadillac health plans - and by the out-of-touch broadcast media celebrities who ignore the uninsured.

It's easy to forget that Obama was handed the worst economy since the Great Depression. By taking some unpopular steps he and the Democrats did the heavy lifting to get the economy improving. Although much improved, not all is peaches and cream.

Enter Donald Trump. He capitalized on the discontent of those ignored by politicians and the media, while disingenuously trashing programs like the Affordable Healthcare Act that were designed to benefit many of the very voters to whom Trump appealed.

It worked, at least in the short run. Trump won the Electoral College vote. But instead of appealing to the broader electorate, he is still campaigning. He clearly enjoys campaigning more than the arduous task of governing. That would be less serious if he would appoint capable people who were up to the task.

Well, he appointed a few, a very short list.

David Shulkin, the only major holdover from the Obama Administration, is solid as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley affirms that the U.S. favors a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Trump is all over the map on that one.

Gen. H.R. McMaster is off to a good start, solid in the crucial slot of National Security Advisor (NSA). He is correct in affirming that the term "radical Islamic terrorism" is counterproductive and should be dropped. But Trump isn't listening.

Retired Marine General James Mattis, as Secretary of Defense, has the spine to stand up to Trump. He assures Iraq that we are not after their oil. He insists that torture is ineffective. Some of us would like him to also affirm that torture is a slippery slope that cuts the ground out from our professed morality and role in world leadership. But opposing torture on any grounds puts him way above the likes of Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld - and Trump, for that matter.

Another Marine general, John Kelley, Secretary of Homeland Security, counters Trump's assertion that the roundup of undocumented immigrants is a "military operation." Gen. Kelley assures us that "There will be no - repeat, no - use of military force in immigration operations. None."

Whitehouse Press Secretary Sean Spicer informs us that there is no conflict between Trump and Kelley; Trump was only using "military" as an adjective referring to "precision and efficiency." Maybe Spicer should advise his boss that words do matter, especially as Spicer himself is the first one ridiculed when repeating Trump's nonsense.

This brings us to the ugly, two of whom are already gone. Gen. Michael Flynn was sacked after three weeks as National Security Advisor, this after earlier having been sacked by Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn should never have even been considered for this post.

Another terrible selection, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Pudzer, withdrew after several Republican senators affirmed that they would not vote for him. The Secretary of Labor is expected to execute laws designed to protect rights of labor. As CEO of fast food eateries, Pudzer compiled a record of fighting labor. He openly holds robots as preferable to real live workers because robots don't complain. How this would help his president increase employment was left unexplained.

It was discovered that Pudzer failed to pay Social Security taxes on his household help. This was enough to torpedo Clinton nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, during Clinton's term. But this did not affect Pudzer; the criteria for Republican nominees are far more relaxed than for Democratic nominees. Opposition to Pudzer had nothing to do with a transgression that would torpedo a Democratic nominee. It was for other reasons.

Among Trump's worst appointments is Betsy DeVoss as Secretary of Education. Her chief "qualification" was her experience with education, but not public education. She is of a billionaire family and has devoted her career, and some of her fortune, to privatizing education and supporting right-wing politicians.

DeVoss was confirmed by Senate vote, though requiring Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote to push her through. This was an historical first; never before was the VP's tie-breaking vote necessary to confirm a presidential cabinet appointee.

The broadcast media nitwits were baffled and spent considerable air time agonizing over how DeVoss could get confirmed while Pudzer could not. Anyone with a positive IQ who was paying attention concludes that it's because Pudzer had a past domestic violence issue and DeVoss did not.

Among Trump's ugliest, though logical from Trump's point of view, appointment is Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He spent much of his energy as Oklahoma attorney general fighting the EPA. The New York Times reports that energy lobbyists drafted letters on state stationery, opposing environmental rules, for Pruitt to sign and send to the EPA.

When top Republicans are asked how he would protect the environment, they assure us that he will "get rid of regulations." They lost no time - quickly overturning an Obama-era regulation that prohibited dumping coal mining wastes into waterways.

Memories are short. A West Virginia chemical spill, in 2014, poisoned drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. Trump and Pruitt are now busy initiating a review of the Waters of the U.S. Rule by the EPA.

It's not environmental - and/or safety regulations - that reduce coal mining jobs in Appalachia. How about the reduced price of competing natural gas?

But what the heck - just another illusory Trump proposition.

Next week: The good, the bad and the ugly, continued.

- John Waelti of Monroe, a retired professor of economics, can be reached at His column appears Fridays in The Monroe Times.