At this point you have to ask: Just what do job postings for the Trump administration look like? Surely they must stipulate that relevant experience isn’t a plus, but that a flexible notion of ethics is. They must demand references who can recount specific instances of demonstrated incompetence. How else to explain the sheer number of poorly prepared or careless or sticky-fingered officials crammed into this careening clown-car of an administration?
Consider the Trump appointees who have been in the news lately.
Let’s start with Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician whom Mr. Trump nominated to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides health care to more than nine million vets and is the second-largest federal department after the Pentagon. More than 20 people who have worked with Dr. Jackson told senators either that he was drunk on the job, handed out sleeping pills, and even opioids, like Skittles, or screamed at his staff. The latest allegation is that he apparently got drunk and wrecked a government car.
Maybe, maybe, you could overlook all that if he had impressive qualifications to run one of the country’s largest and most important health systems — like management experience. But as best as anyone can tell, Mr. Trump picked Dr. Jackson because he is in the military, looks like a grown-up Doogie Howser and gave the president a glowing bill of health, including saying that the president has great genes and could live to 200 if he had a better diet.
The White House has pressed ahead with Dr. Jackson even though several senior Republican senators did everything they could to signal that it should cut bait.
No one should have expected the lack of qualifications to matter to Mr. Trump. That wasn’t an obstacle to his decision to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a portfolio that includes negotiating peace in the Middle East, reforming the criminal justice system and making the government more tech-savvy. Mr. Trump also considered appointing his personal pilot to head the Federal Aviation Administration.
As for the lobbyist-loving wing of the Trump administration, one of its leading members — Mick Mulvaney, who heads the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — was extolling the practice of pay-to-play public service the other day. At a speech before the American Bankers Association on Tuesday, Mr. Mulvaney said that as a congressman he would only meet with lobbyists who gave money to his campaign. He also encouraged bankers — many of whom have given generously to him — to let their needs be known to lawmakers.
Mr. Mulvaney was just making old friends happy. He did that for years as a congressman, defending bankers and fending off consumer protection. Since he took over the consumer agency that Congress created after the financial crisis, he has been working overtime to gut it for his pals.
On the other hand, Scott Pruitt, who runs the Environmental Protection Agency, has been taking care of himself. He got a sweetheart deal for a $50-a-night room from the wife of a lobbyist whose company was seeking goodies from the E.P.A. He has liberally spent government funds on first-class flights and a security detail large enough for a minor potentate. He also spent $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for his office that might remind some of the “cone of silence” from “Get Smart.” When he was an Oklahoma state senator, The Times recently reported, Mr. Pruitt came to own a stately house overlooking the State Capitol, a million-dollar lakeside manse in Tulsa and a stake in a minor-league baseball team. He accomplished all that with the help of a couple of old associates, one a banker and the other a lawyer … both of whom are now on the public payroll, working with Mr. Pruitt at the E.P.A.
Remember when Mr. Trump said he would hire the “best people”? Of course, he said Mexico would pay for his border wall, too.