As a child growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, I used to absolutely love to watch science fiction television shows. Especially the ones that were “safely” scary, like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone in which my mind would be tickled without too much gore and violence. As I explore his Cabinet picks, who would have thought that fifty years later, I’d actually have a front-row seat with an intimate view in a real-life Twilight Zone called the Administration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump?
Many who tuned in to see the swearing in of the 45th President of the U.S. thought it was the beginning of yet another U.S. Presidential Administration. But, this is not just any other U.S. Administration: the Donald J. Trump Presidency has already been declared in the media over 1,000 times as an uncomfortable episode in the 1950s US science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.
“You unlock this door with the key with the key of imagination: beyond it is another dimension—the dimension of sound; the dimension of sight; a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the twilight zone.”
So begins one of the versions (I found three) that introduced the TV series. It is this intro that I read into the Congressional Record about the Presidency of George W. Bush. But, only a few days into his Presidency, I do believe that Donald J. Trump has even surpassed W. After his election win, there was much media speculation on how the spoils of war would be distributed—and who would get what plum positions. On November 15, Trump tweeted that only he knew who his finalists would be; therefore, all the wild speculation was just that. Now, one week into his Presidency, let’s just take a look at who actually got what, focusing on his Cabinet picks thus far.
Alabama U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was President Trump’s first nomination, for the Attorney General slot, taking over leadership of the Justice Department from President Obama’s Loretta Lynch. Although he was the Trump’s first nomination, Sessions is yet to be confirmed by his Senate colleagues. Southerners who are “men of their times” are often dogged by allegations of being racist because they did not rise above that time. I personally know some of those making the most egregious allegations against the Senator whose judgeship aspirations were derailed due to the charges. This time, the Senator seems poised to take office in the Trump Administration—maybe before this month ends.
Next, Trump announced that he was considering General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Pentagon Secretary. Of course, I objected because of the doctrine of civilian control that Trump was just obliterating with his nominations. Then, Dr. Ben Carson was announced as Trump’s choice for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and I complained because despite Dr. Carson’s obvious talents as a world renowned neurosurgeon, and despite his knowledge of health care and how the neoliberal health industry drains dollars from the public, but fails to demonstrate enough care about public care, it appeared to me that Trump had selected the Black man to deal with the Cabinet post perceived to deal with the issues of urban America—a euphemism in polite circles for Black and Brown people in the U.S. So, I tweeted back to Trump, “Why HUD and not HHS [Health and Human Services]??????” This is a classic way to pigeon-hole someone with the intent to “keep them in their place.” Tellingly, Congressman Dr. Tom Price from my home state of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon, was selected by Trump to serve as his HHS Secretary. Trump nominated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, and previous Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush, Taiwan-born Elaine Chao, to serve him at the helm of the Department of Transportation.
In stunning fashion, Trump kicked off nominations on what seemed to be “Billionaire Week” when he selected billionaire Betsey DeVos (who is also the sister of Blackwater founder, Erik Prince) to serve as his Secretary of Education. He rounded out the week by tapping Wilbur Ross to become the country’s Secretary of Commerce; hundred millionaire Steve Mnuchin (who is registered to vote in both California and New York, according to Fortune) to serve as Treasury Secretary; and from a billionaire family, Todd Ricketts, to back up Ross as the second in command at Commerce. A few days later, Trump stuck with the hundred millionaire club when he nominated Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO at ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State.
Serving at Cabinet-level positions, while not formally being in the Cabinet, are Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Haley is already on the job representing the U.S. at the United Nations while President Trump is rumored to be considering an executive order threatening drastic cuts in current U.S. funding levels at the global body. Therefore, as of this writing, President Trump has only two Cabinet officials actually serving in office right now, other than his Vice President: Secretary of Defense General Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, who oversaw torture and illegal detentions at the U.S.-held prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. Thus, so far, the Trump Cabinet can be seen largely as a group of multimillionaires and billionaires and generals. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts says that President Trump needs strong personality types who won’t be pushed around by bullies in the press or in Congress. While that is probably true, too, still I wonder if this is the right mix of leadership to put the U.S. on the right track. And honestly, I wonder if people who have been so consumed with personal interest and bottom line corporate interest even possess the necessary character and personality ingredients to become servants of the public interest—a greater good than the bottom line. I wonder if generals who are trained and prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat should command offices like Pentagon Secretary; and if the general at Homeland Security is willing to work his way out of a job by abolishing that Bill of Rights nightmare after ushering in immigration reform and securing U.S. borders— whatever that means—when a clear and more present danger to the U.S. honestly exists within the U.S. Congress. But that’s another topic for another day. Therefore, I have to end this article exactly where I began it: on the outskirts of The Outer Limits (another popular TV show of the same genre and time period) and on my way to my ringside seat in The Twilight Zone.
Actually, it was a newspaper in Scotland that first intoned The Twilight Zone moniker for the Trump Presidency by publishing this: “After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history.” It was writing about the Trump inauguration. But in an even stranger twist of facts, some intrepid social media maven was able to track down a 1950s-era TV show entitled Trackdown which focuses on the Wild West of the U.S. during the late 1800s. One particular 1958 episode is entitled “The End of the World.” And believe it or not, the star of this episode is a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Trump who claims that by building a wall he can prevent the world from coming to an end by midnight at the end of that very day—November 14th. Robert Culp (1930–2010) plays the role of Hoby Gilman, the Texas Ranger charged with tracking down crooks and criminals—and in this episode, the crook is Dr. Trump. In the end, Gilman gets his man, arresting Dr. Trump for fraud. Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction—including science fiction. And every time I think about the Trump Cabinet of Generals and Billionaires, I can’t help but wonder if I’m a two-bit star in The Twilight Zone, The X Files, or The Prisoner.