WASHINGTON – Robert Mueller brought to light a huge scandal this week, and it has nothing to do with Russia.
He has introduced the world to Sam Clovis.
Clovis, we now know, was the Trump campaign official who oversaw George Papadopoulos and encouraged his efforts to meet with Russian officials. But what’s more interesting than what Clovis is is what Clovis isn’t.
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For those who had not heard of Clovis before (which is pretty much everybody), he was nominated to be the chief scientist at the Agriculture Department, a position that by law must go to “distinguished scientists,” even though he is, well, not a scientist. [He withdrew his nomination Thursday.] He is a talk-radio host, economics professor (though not actually an economist, either) and, most importantly, a Trump campaign adviser.
President Donald Trump promised to “hire the best people.” And, as scientists go, Clovis is an excellent talk-show host. Among his scientific breakthroughs: being “extremely skeptical” of climate change, calling homosexuality “a choice,” suggesting gay rights would lead to legalized pedophilia, pushing the Obama birther allegation, and calling Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”
Trump may want “extreme vetting” of immigrants, but he’s rather more lenient with his appointees. On Wednesday, he named Robin Bernstein to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Bernstein speaks only “basic Spanish” (it’s so hard to find Americans who speak Spanish), but she does have this – membership at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.
A group called American Oversight had the foresight to make records requests for resumes of those hired by the Trump administration, and the group searched for those who worked on the Trump campaign. Among the “best” Trump hires American Oversight found:
– Sid Bowdidge, assistant to the secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Before working for the Trump campaign, Bowdidge, from 2013 to 2015, was manager of the Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, N.H. He previously was service and branch manager for tire shops. I don’t know what qualified Bowdidge for his position, but I do know this: He is not going to pay a lot for that muffler. (He had to hit the road, losing his job after it was discovered he had called Muslims “maggots.”)
– Victoria Barton, congressional relations for Regions II, V and VI, Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to working for the Trump campaign, Barton was an office manager and, between 2013 and 2015, a “bartender/bar manager.” The expertise in housing policy possessed by Barton is no doubt invaluable to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon.
– Christopher Hagan, a confidential assistant at the Agriculture Department. Before working on the Trump campaign, he was, between 2009 and 2015, a “cabana attendant” at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y. According to his resume, he “identified and addressed customer’s needs in a timely and orderly manner.”
This is important, because you never know when somebody at the USDA is going to need a towel.
Some of the other “best” people Trump has hired are well known. Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator, previously arranged Trump golf tournaments and arranged Eric Trump’s wedding, among other things. Callista Gingrich, just confirmed as ambassador to the Vatican, prepared for this by writing children’s books, singing in a church choir – and being married to Trump ally Newt Gingrich.
Others now in high office are less known: an office page, the author of an anti-Clinton book, a Christian-school librarian, a couple of real estate brokers and a landscaper. Many don’t appear to meet the educational qualifications for their positions. But they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
One can imagine the chairman of an interagency task force going around the table asking each department what should be in the infrastructure bill:
“Don’t know, sir. I was an Uber driver before I joined the campaign.”
“Army Corps of Engineers?”
“Pass. I ran a coin-operated laundromat.”
“Surely somebody here knows something about infrastructure?”
“I was a toll-taker on the New Jersey Turnpike before the campaign. Now I’m in charge of climate science at the EPA.”
“I was a plumber. But they made me chief medical officer at NIH because I watched a lot of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”
“What, they had no doctors for NIH?”
“We had one chiropractor on the campaign, sir, but they needed him to run NASA.”
“A chiropractor running NASA? What next, a musician at Strategic Command?”
“Actually, sir, the Stratcom commander was a hairdresser.”
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.