The new president has filled the last vacancy in his cabinet by nominating Sonny Perdue as the secretary of agriculture.
Perdue is well known here for the two terms he served as governor. While his administration didn’t produce much in the way of significant policy initiatives, Sonny was always good for a laugh or two. There was the time he held a prayer session at the capitol in hopes of breaking Georgia’s long drought. Perdue evidently was praying to the wrong deity—it didn’t rain that day or for a lot of days thereafter.
I don’t know how good a farmer Sonny is, but he really knows how to harvest tax credits. During his first term as governor, a friendly legislator slipped an amendment into a bill that quietly passed in the closing days of the session. That “midnight amendment” gave Perdue a $100,000 tax credit on some property he had purchased. Sonny signed the bill without informing the general public of his huge tax break.
The tax credit didn’t become public knowledge until a year and a half later, when Perdue was running for reelection. My friend James Salzer broke the story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and it was the kind of scandal that often will get a politician booted from office.
The voters reelected Perdue anyway. He now heads to Washington, where he will soon be sworn in as member of Donald Trump’s new cabinet. It is shaping up as one of the most interesting cabinets in presidential history.
Betsy DeVos, the nominee for education secretary, never attended a public school, and never sent any of her children to public schools. She believes there should be guns in schools because of the ever-present threat of grizzly bear attacks. I am not making this up: When DeVos was asked during her confirmation hearing if she believes guns have “any place in and around schools,” she cited the example of a school in Wyoming: “I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
This prompted the comedian James Corden to comment, “She knows the right to bear arms isn’t about actual bears, right?”
The nominee for attorney general is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a senator from Alabama. As the attorney general, Sessions would be responsible for enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws. But in 1986, when Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by Ronald Reagan, the Senate rejected him after hearing some of the racially charged comments he had made as a U.S. attorney. Sessions called one of his black assistants “boy” on several occasions. He was quoted as saying he thought KKK members were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” He said a white attorney who handled civil rights cases was “a disgrace to his race.”
Then there’s Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas who will head the Department of Energy. When Perry was first offered the appointment several weeks ago, he thought the job entailed being a global ambassador for the oil and gas industry. He didn’t discover until later that the department is a complex agency responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production and radioactive waste disposal.
There is another Georgian, U.S. Rep. Tom Price, who’s been nominated as the secretary of health and human services. Price has been actively trading medical stocks while he was working on health legislation in Congress that could favorably affect those stock prices. This would normally be a huge conflict of interest for an elected official, but in today’s political atmosphere, that’s merely considered to be sound business judgment.
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