Some Trump un-appointments

These are a few articles concerning some Trump nominations for important, unfilled positions in the government. The first two concern nominations of people whose records show they are opposed to the mission they are being considered to lead. That would be like appointing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.
But, of course, Pruitt was appointed to that position.
The last two articles concern the position of US Ambassador to South Korea and they raise the question of the conflict between an expert in North Korea, with well-considered views of what US policy ought to be vs. Trump.
We and perhaps many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are the potential the losers when Victor Cha's opinions were rejected by Trump's view, which boils down to Give War a Chance.
-- blj


“A while ago, I wrote that many Trump appointees to science-based positions could be considered to either have deep conflicts of interest, to be fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency they were to lead or totally unqualified. Hartnett-White was all three — a trifecta,” he said. -- Dennis and Eilperin, Washington Post, Feb. 3, 2018



Washington Post
White House withdraws controversial nominee to head Council on Environmental Quality
By Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin
The White House has withdrawn its controversial nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, whose selection failed to gather momentum with some Senate Republicans raising questions about her expertise.
The administration released a statement Sunday in which Hartnett White asked that her name be pulled from further consideration, effective immediately. President Trump had re-nominated Hartnett White for the job in January after the Senate failed to vote on her nomination during the last congressional session, due in part to fierce opposition from Democrats.
“I want to thank President Trump for his confidence in me and I will continue to champion his policies and leadership on environmental and energy issues of critical importance to making our nation great, prosperous and secure again,” she said in the statement.
“I’ve been in this process for more than a year,” she continued, asking that her name be withdrawn “in the best interest of facilitating confirmation of the President’s nominees throughout his administration, as well the needs of my family and work.”
Trump withdrew Harnett White’s name from Senate consideration Monday afternoon.
Hartnett White, who once headed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and now serves as a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has stirred controversy because of her statements on climate change. Testifying in the fall before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she said that while humans probably contribute to current warming, “the extent to which, I think, is very uncertain.”Kathleen Hartnett White
The White House's former nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality failed to answer science questions from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).(Senate Environment and Public Works Committee)
Her comments, which echoed some other appointees of President Trump, contradict the conclusion of an overwhelming number of scientific experts and the findings of the federal government. Leading scientific assessments have repeatedly found that recent climate change is fueled largely by human greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m not a scientist, but in my personal capacity, I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy,” Hartnett White said at her confirmation hearing. “I think we indeed need to have more precise explanations of the human role and the natural role.”
Just days before she testified, the federal government released its Climate Science Special Report, a collaboration among more than a dozen agencies that found “no convincing alternative explanation” other than human influence for the warming the world has experienced in the past 70 years.
“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the document stated.
When asked during her hearing by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) what portion of the heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere is absorbed by the world’s oceans — the majority of it is stored there — Hartnett White responded, “I don’t have numbers like that.”
“But I believe that there are differences of opinions on that, that there’s not one right answer,” she added.
Whitehouse later tweeted that Harnett White “outright rejects basic science.”
Much of the mainstream scientific community agreed. In November, more than 300 scientists from around the country signed a letter urging the Senate to reject her confirmation. It cited her “dangerous” views about climate change, saying. “This is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of defending scientific integrity.” Confirming Harnett White, the group said, “would have serious consequences for people and the ecosystems of the only planet that can support us.”
Her withdrawal from consideration for the Council on Environmental Quality was first reported Saturday by The Washington Post.
The influence of the CEQ, established in 1970 under the Nixon administration, has waxed and waned depending on who occupies the Oval Office. It coordinates activities across agencies and typically holds more power under Democratic presidents. But it played an important role under President George W. Bush on issues ranging from ocean conservation to air quality, in part because its chair, James L. Connaughton, served for the entirety of Bush’s two terms.
On policy issues such as infrastructure, for example, the CEQ typically would convene representatives from a variety of agencies when formulating an overall administration approach. Trump has empowered the council to accelerate the construction of infrastructure projects in the United States through executive orders, and that work is being done at the staff level.
Before being nominated, Hartnett White criticized the 2007 Supreme Court decision finding that the federal government had the legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
“I take issue with that,” she told The Post in an interview in the fall of 2016. “Carbon dioxide has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that could harm human health.”
In 2016, she described carbon dioxide — emissions of which rank as one of the primary ways human activity contributes to climate change — as a key asset to the planet. “Our flesh, blood and bones are built of carbon,” she wrote in 2016. “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the gas of life on this planet, an essential nutrient for plant growth on which human life depends.”
She made similar arguments in a book she co-wrote in 2016, titled “Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy,” as well as in numerous essays questioning climate change, including one last year in which she called President Barack Obama’s efforts to slow global warming by reducing carbon emissions “deluded and illegitimate.”
Her co-author on that book, Stephen Moore, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and an economic adviser to the Trump campaign, said in an email Sunday that she was “uniquely qualified” for the White House environmental post.
“She led the Texas environmental protection agency during a period of rapid growth in the Lone Star state economy and declining pollution levels,” Moore wrote. “That’s what we want for the nation. Faster growth and a cleaner environment. And she shows that prosperity and clean air can go hand in hand.”
Hartnett White is not the first Trump environmental nominee to fail to win confirmation. Michael Dourson, whose nomination to become the Environmental Protection Agency’s top chemical safety official drew widespread criticism, withdrew from consideration in December after it became clear that the Senate probably would not confirm him.
A longtime toxicologist who worked at the EPA from 1980 to 1994, Dourson was closely tied to the chemical industry through a nonprofit consulting group he founded shortly after leaving the agency. Over the years, it produced research for chemical companies that consistently found little or no human health risks from their products. Critics said Dourson had too many conflicts of interest to be considered for an Environmental Protection Agency post in which he might oversee reviews of chemicals produced by companies he once represented.
On Saturday, news of Hartnett White’s withdrawal triggered relief among some of her staunchest critics. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called her a “remarkably poor choice” for such a consequential environmental post.
“A while ago, I wrote that many Trump appointees to science-based positions could be considered to either have deep conflicts of interest, to be fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency they were to lead or totally unqualified. Hartnett-White was all three — a trifecta,” he said.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Saturday evening that it was “abundantly clear very early on that heading up the Council on Environmental Quality wasn’t the right job for Ms. White.”
Instead, he said, “Withdrawing Kathleen Hartnett White’s nomination is the right thing to do, and I believe it is past time for this administration to nominate a thoughtful environmental and public health champion to lead this critical office in the federal government.”



The Hill
Trump pick to lead 2020 census pulls name from consideration: report
By Jacqueline Thomsen
President Trump’s pick to oversee the 2020 census has pulled his name from consideration for the job, Mother Jones reported Monday.
Thomas Brunell, a political science professor who advocated for Republican redistricting in several states, has withdrawn from being considered as deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Brunell did not immediately respond to Mother Jones’s requests for comment.
A Commerce Department spokesman confirmed to The Hill that Brunell is not under consideration for the position.
Politico first reported in November that Trump had tapped Brunell for the job. He is a registered Republican and argued in a 2008 book that more partisan districts create better representation for voters than competitive ones, according to Mother Jones.
He was also hired by GOP lawmakers to defend state legislature-drawn maps in states like North Carolina where congressional maps have been struck down by federal judges.
Senate Democrats had blasted Brunell’s reported nomination, with Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) calling him “deeply unqualified.”
“The person charged with operational oversight of the governmental undertaking responsible for apportionment in our government’s highest legislative body should be committed to fair and accurate representation for all Americans,” they wrote in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last month. “Dr. Thomas Brunell is not that person.”
Brunell's withdrawal comes as the Census Bureau faces a number of hurdles ahead of the upcoming survey. The bureau currently lacks an acting director and the Government Accountability Office deemed it a "high risk" program in a report last year.



The Hill
Trump pick for South Korea ambassador will no longer be nominated: report
By Avery Anapol
A distinguished expert on North Korea is no longer being considered for nomination by President Trump as ambassador to South Korea after he expressed disagreement over the administration's policies toward Pyongyang, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Victor Cha, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, was expected to be Trump’s nominee for ambassador, until Cha privately told National Security Council officials that he objected to certain aspects of the president's strategy, people familiar with the situation told the Post.
Cha reportedly objected to the consideration of a limited strike on North Korea, as well as Trump’s threats to withdraw from a free trade agreement with South Korea.
A source familiar with the nomination process told the Post that a “flag was raised” during Cha’s background check process, but did not comment further. A former Obama official who knows Cha told the Post that it was “inconceivable” that such a situation would occur so late in the process.
A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to the Post that the administration is now considering other candidates.
“We have yet to nominate anyone for the post, but it is our intention to do so as soon as we can find the appropriate candidate,” the official told the newspaper.
According to the Post, Cha’s nomination was relatively far along in the process, as the White House had formally notified Seoul of the nomination. The South Korean government had reportedly accepted it.
The Post's report comes just weeks before the Winter Olympics, which will take place in Pyeongchang amid rising tensions between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that his nuclear button is “much bigger and more powerful” than Kim’s.
The Hill has reached out to both Cha and the White House for comment.








Washington Post
Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans
By Victor Cha


Victor Cha is a professor at Georgetown University and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


North Korea, if not stopped, will build an arsenal with multiple nuclear missiles meant to threaten the U.S. homeland and blackmail us into abandoning our allies in Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will sell these weapons to state and nonstate actors, and he will inspire other rogue actors who want to undermine the U.S.-backed postwar order. These are real and unprecedented threats. But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.

When I was under consideration for a position in this administration,
Japan’s capital practiced its first North Korean missile evacuation drill on Jan. 22. Hundreds of people participated in the drill. (Reuters)
Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake. But a strike (even a large one) would only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs, which are buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.
I empathize with the hope, espoused by some Trump officials, that a military strike would shock Pyongyang into appreciating U.S. strength, after years of inaction, and force the regime to the denuclearization negotiating table. I also hope that if North Korea did retaliate militarily, the United States could control the escalation ladder to minimize collateral damage and prevent a collapse of financial markets. In either event, the rationale is that a strike that demonstrates U.S. resolve to pursue “all options” is necessary to give the mercurial Kim a “bloody nose.” Otherwise he will remain undeterred in his nuclear ambitions.
Yet, there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind? And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?
Some have argued the risks are still worth taking because it’s better that people die “over there” than “over here.” On any given day, there are 230,000 Americans in South Korea and 90,000 or so in Japan. Given that an evacuation of so many citizens would be virtually impossible under a rain of North Korean artillery and missiles (potentially laced with biochemical weapons), these Americans would most likely have to hunker down until the war was over.
While our population in Japan might be protected by U.S. missile defenses, the U.S. population in South Korea, let alone millions of South Koreans, has no similar active defenses against a barrage of North Korean artillery (aside from counterfire artillery). To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.
An alternative coercive strategy involves enhanced and sustained U.S., regional and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. This strategy is likely to deliver the same potential benefits as a limited strike, along with other advantages, without the self-destructive costs. There are four elements to this coercive strategy.
First, the Trump administration must continue to strengthen the coalition of U.N. member states it has mustered in its thus far highly successful sanctions. is a time capsule to the past — and offers lessons for the Trump era
(Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor, Daron Taylor, Monica Hesse, Thomas LeGro/Photo: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
Second, the United States must significantly up-gun its alliances with Japan and South Korea with integrated missile defense, intelligence-sharing and anti-submarine warfare and strike capabilities to convey to North Korea that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Third, the United States must build a maritime coalition around North Korea involving rings of South Korean, Japanese and broader U.S. assets to intercept any nuclear missiles or technologies leaving the country. China and Russia should be prepared to face the consequences if they allow North Korean proliferation across their borders.
Lastly, the United States must continue to prepare military options. Force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war.
In the land of lousy options, no strategy is perfect, but some are better than others. This strategy gets us out of crisis-management mode. It constitutes decisive action, not previously attempted, by President Trump. And it demonstrates resolve to other bad actors that threats to the United States will be countered. Such a strategy would assuredly deplete Pyongyang’s hard currency, deter it from rash action, strengthen our alliances in Asia for the next generation and increase the costs to those who continue to subsidize Pyongyang.
A sustained and long-term competitive strategy such as this plays to U.S. strengths, exploits our adversary’s weaknesses and does not risk hundreds of thousands of American lives.