Americans need action, not acting, in Trump’s Cabinet

Lee Pulaski
Leader City Editor

Perhaps when Donald Trump leaves the White House, whether it’s in two years or six, he should fund a theater troupe.

Democrats might assume I’m making light of his overdramatic personality, but in this case, I’m talking about all of the “acting” Cabinet members and other key agency directors. With the recent resignation of Kirstjen Neilsen, the Secretary for Homeland Security, we now have more than a dozen Trump officials in acting position, with Kevin McAleenan being the latest one offered a chance at the spotlight.

Trump seems to like having acting directors instead of permanent people who can execute a vision of the future for his administration. He told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “I like ‘acting’ because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility.”

It’s a little hard to run a country, though, when you have the equivalent of substitute teachers, people who know they’re only going to be keeping the seat warm when and if — and you’ll see shortly why I worded it that way — Trump decides to put someone permanently in those spots.

Let’s look at who the “actors” are. Mick Mulvaney, who headed the Office of Management and Budget, took over as the acting chief of staff in January when John Kelly departed the role, and as a result, Russell Vought has moved up as the acting OMB director. We’ve also got acting secretaries for defense (Patrick Shanahan) and interior (David Bernhardt), not to mention an acting ambassador to the United Nations, Small Business Administration head, Food and Drug Administrator and so on.

Most of these acting directors and secretaries fell into the positions in the last few months, but there are a couple, according to a National Public Radio news report, that have been “acting” considerably longer than that. Take Victoria Lipnic. She’s been the acting head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since Jan. 25, 2017. That’s only a few days after Trump’s inauguration.

Wow. I know job security is never a guarantee, but how horrible must it be to not have your boss think you’re good enough to bump the “acting” off your title after more than two years? That’s worse than being picked last to play dodgeball.

I expected there to be an acting director for Secretary of Education after the president quickly quashed Betsy DeVos’ attempt to defund Special Olympics a couple of weeks ago, revealed through a Congressional hearing, but she’s still on the job. I guess it helped that DeVos quickly jumped on board with Trump’s thinking and said, “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue, and that he’s decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”

With Nielsen’s departure, it raises questions about what kind of plan will be put in place about border security. Our own Sen. Ron Johnson said: “As our hearing last week clearly demonstrated, we have a crisis at our southwest border. We need steady, informed and effective leadership in the administration and in Congress to have any hope of fixing our out-of-control border security and immigration problems.”

Johnson’s statement extends to all aspects of the administration. We should have effective leadership to fix any of the crises, and that comes with permanent leadership. Change comes from having someone permanently at the wheel. When you have people “acting” in a capacity, they are not as invested in future outcomes because their own future is so far up in the air.

Trump has said that he likes to shake things up. The problem is that he likes to do that sort of thing at random, sometimes with things we hold dear hanging in the balance. After two years of constant shake-ups with little to show for it, maybe the president should stop treating America like a snow globe.

We need to tell Trump, get permanent people into your cabinet. Task them with coming up with the blueprints for enacting your ideas, and let them do their jobs. That’s how you move America forward. If you want to cast “actors,” go buy a theater.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for the Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at