Wow. It really takes your breath away.
Just when you think you might have seen the limits of Donald Trump’s malevolence, he outdoes himself with an appointment so pernicious that it makes his team of blaggards seem positively noble.
Trump, or whoever scours ocean trenches for miscreants, makes Robert Ballard and Jacques Cousteau look like they were splashing on the surface. Drain the swamp? Trump’s Washington makes the Okefenokeelook like a backyard mud puddle.
Now, give them credit where credit is due: consistency. Trump’s appointments are not the half-hearted nominations of a Reagan or Bush, who sprinkled flickers of competence like George Schultz or James Baker in with scoundrels like James Watt and Ed Meese. No, Trump reliably picks only the bottom feeders, the blowhard zealots, and the mindless myrmidons who lack a scintilla of commitment to the agencies they are sworn to administer.
OK, I’m a bit annoyed. But for good reason.
Look, it’s bad enough to have a coal company lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency, an enemy of public schools managing the Education Department, an oil, gas and water lobbyist sitting behind the big desk at Interior, and the list goes on, pretty much without exception. But here’s the thing. Your Labor Secretary – the guy charged with enforcing the law against child labor and trafficking (among other responsibilities) — is drummed out of office for having sheltered one of the great child sex abusers in history (and perhaps because he reminded people of the president’s own record of sexual predation). And whom does Trump decide is the very best person to protect the men and women who labor under the flag of the United States?
If you’re Donald Trump, you naturally annoint Patrick Pizzella, currently the #2 at Labor, to step into the big shoes. If you never heard of him, I’ll tell you all you need to know to understand that he is an abysmal though hardly surprising choice.
Pizzella was part of the crack team assembled by Jack Abramoff (AKA # 27593-112 at the Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution) whose name was synonymous with the worst criminal lobbying scandal of the last 50 years. Abramoff fleeced Native American tribes, represented Russian goons, doled out illegal gifts and travel to congressional cronies, and happily worked hand in hand with the Reagan and Bush administrations as the consummate Washington felonious swamp dweller.
But what earned Abramoff a very special place in Hell was his tireless flacking for the thugs who ran the Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands (CNMI), a U.S. protectorate in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Back in the 1990s, the local government cut deals with Chinese garment manufacturers to ship their raw material, including hundreds of women (as well as others from Vietnam, Bangladesh and other low-income Asian countries) to labor long hours for virtually no pay in sweatshops located in the CNMI. Why? Because by finishing the product there, under the U.S. flag, the Chinese factory owners would claim the products were made in the USA – in fact, the labels they sewed into their garments declared that was so. And then, as domestic products, those garments entered the US free from the quotas and duties imposed on imports from other nations like China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
The workers were sent over as indentured servants, obligated to pay off not only travel costs but room and board in the companies’ oppressive housing (where they were required to live). Needless to say, virtually none of the pay went into the workers’ pockets. If they protested, which was rare, they were fired and abandoned in the CNMI with no way to earn a ticket home. Many turned to prostitution, nude dancing, and other unsavory forms of survival. When I was in Saipan as part of the congressional investigation that shut down the garment industry, under the leadership of Congressman George Miller, one abandoned worker asked if we could arrange for him to sell his kidney so he could pay for passage home.
For years, Abramoff expended every ounce of his energies defending the dishonest CNMI government that winked at this abuse. Pizzella was part of the team at Abramoff’s firm, and while he escaped the punishment that landed Casino Jack and two dozen of his other cronies in jail or convicted of serious crimes, here’s the question.
Why would you name anyone as the acting head of the Department of Labor whose name, when Googled, connects immediately with Jack Abramoff, CNMI sex trafficking, and fraudulent labor practices? Why? Because just like at Education and EPA and Interior and elsewhere, Trump couldn’t care less about destroying the reputation of government or its ability to fulfill its responsibilities.
I guess it could get worse. After all, Jack Abramoff is out of prison, a registered lobbyist (he tried to arrange meetings between Trump people and foreign governments), and is officially available for public service.