43. He’s enlarging the swamp—and poisoning it.
Let’s get one thing out of the way from the get-go: I like swamps. Vital components of the natural world, swamps are complex ecosystems that function as buffers to temper flooding and provide critical habitat for myriad flora and fauna. In short, they are essential to the health of our environment. So when DT the candidate promised in 2016 to “drain the swamp,” I cringed; after all, a drained swamp would be a very sad place, devoid of life. Still, politicians all stripes are entitled to use metaphors, and this unlikely politician was hardly the first one to refer to the federal city as a swamp. He was sending a signal to unsophisticated voters (i.e., the core of his base) that he shared their view of Washington as impenetrably complex and irreparably corrupt, and that he intended to fix it.
Of course, he intended nothing of the sort; it was just another of his con jobs. What he intended—and what he has accomplished—is to replace the old order with a nightmarish new “normal” that has dispensed with time-honored protections against conflicts of interest, cronyism, and outright self-dealing. He has expanded the “swamp” by appointing an unprecedented number of far-right extremists who follow an ideological agenda incompatible with the statutory functions of the agencies that employ them, and he has contaminated the swamp with toxins by steadfastly refusing to observe longstanding norms of transparency, responsibility, decency—and in many cases refused to obey the law. He has interfered with criminal investigations involving his associates and himself, and he has instructed his appointees not to comply with regulations concerning oversight. He has consistently permitted his appointees, including the family members he’s nepotistically appointed, to violate the Hatch Act, the longtime law forbidding federal employees from engaging in political advocacy on the job. And of course, like any two-bit corrupt politician, he has steered government business to companies affiliated with his supporters, his family, and himself.
This level of corruption is unprecedented, and it’s doubtful that the republic would survive another four years of it. It will be a herculean task to clean up this toxic mess—the swamp being now basically a Superfund site—but it would be un-American not to try.
DT and McConnell: conman-in-chief and enabler-in-chief
A comprehensive list of DT’s unacceptable appointments would be beyond the scope of this blog. Over the past four years, they have included dozens of people with financial ties to fossil fuel companies at the EPA; climate-change deniers at EPA, NOAA, NASA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of Energy; civil rights opponents at the Department of Justice and an anti-transgender rights activist at the Office of Gender Equality. A high percentage of these people are wholly unqualified for the positions to which they’ve been appointed. In any other era, the Senate would have declined to confirm many of them, but of course for the past four years the Senate has been controlled by someone whose head is so far up DT’s ass that it’s surprising he can still breathe.