The new president has finished filling the vacancies in his Cabinet by nominating Georgia’s own Sonny Perdue as the secretary of agriculture.
Perdue, of course, 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 — unless you count a fishing center in Houston County — Sonny was always good for a laugh or two.
There was the time he held a prayer session on the front steps of the Capitol building in hopes that prayer would bring rain and break 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 without much notice. That “midnight amendment” bestowed upon 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 re-election. 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 re-elected Perdue anyway. Here in Georgia, we have a soft spot for our scoundrels.
Perdue now heads to Washington, where the Senate will presumably vote on his confirmation and he will be sworn in as a member of Donald Trump’s 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 Jeff 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 Ku Klux Klan 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.”
This was not an instance of overly sensitive Democrats mistreating Sessions. He was turned down by a Republican-controlled Senate.
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 of Energy is actually a complex federal 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. The Wall Street Journal reported that 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.
Looking at the folks he’ll be serving with, I think Perdue will feel right at home in the new administration.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.