It was a hard-fought race, people. But the results of our Worst Trump Cabinet Member reader poll are in.
And the winner is — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos!
With a near tie for second place between Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “It’s hard to be worse than Sessions or Pruitt. But DeVos deals with … children,” wrote a Michigan reader.
DeVos really hates public schools — something you don’t find often in a secretary of education. Her goal seems to be replacing them with charter schools, none of which will need much oversight because, you know, the choice thing.
Many readers noted that our secretary of education does not seem to be … all that bright. (“DeVos is a solid choice based on irony alone.”)
But I can’t help thinking Sessions might have taken the prize if his appearance before the Senate Intelli-gence Committee had gone on just a little longer. He clearly wowed viewers with his alleged inability to remember things. (“Wins by a Pinocchio.”) Some were taken by his resemblance to a bad hobbit or gremlin (“malevolent pixie”). But others simply found Sessions … bad. (“He is detestable and should have little tiny horns on the back of his head.”)
Pruitt, the head of the EPA, is a former Oklahoma attorney general who prepared for his current job by suing the agency 14 times. His champions in the Worst competition contended that, in the words of a North Carolina correspondent, “he can do major damage which will take years to undo.”
When we last left our runner-up, he was celebrating the nation’s departure from the international climate accord and kicking scientists off the Board of Scientific Counselors. Once again, some voters did get a tad personal. (“I have to pick Scott Pruitt because, besides trying to poison our planet, he always has that damnable smirk.”)
Let’s be extremely clear that this was not a scientific survey. In fact, it was pretty hard to get any count at all since many readers couldn’t resist the temptation to take the easy route and pick all of the above. (“I’ve seen better Cabinets at Ikea.”) Or to name five. Or to complain that selecting one Worst was too hard. (“Trying to pick a winner from this bunch is like trying to knit a sweater with wet spaghetti.”)
It’s not that everyone was negative — there were a few kind words for James Mattis, the secretary of defense, and some mixed reviews on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But a lot of folks still seem to be in a state of trauma over that big meeting President Donald Trump called last week, in which the Cabinet members tried to one-up each other in the fulsomeness of their praise for their commander in chief. (“That Cabinet meeting looked like one of those cheap TV ads you see where people praise a tomato slicer. …”)
Unfortunately, we couldn’t count the Worst Cabinet Member votes that were given to somebody who wasn’t actually in the Cabinet. Trump cannot get the prize. Nor can Jared or Ivanka or Omarosa. Also we cannot name Eric Trump’s wedding planner, even though she has just been named to one of the top jobs in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
One reader was unnerved by rumors that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, after having finished wrecking his state’s economy, is now in line for a federal job and asked if he could be nominated Worst in advance.
Special tip of the hat to readers who chose Rick Perry. I have to admit I didn’t even mention him when I wrote the column proposing the Worst vote-off. But a number nominated him, generally pointing to the fact that when Perry took the job, he was unaware that the Department of Energy’s main responsibility was tending the nation’s nuclear arsenal, not traveling the world to boost the sale of U.S. oil and gas.
Just as balloting came to a close, Perry gave an interview on CNBC in which he downplayed carbon dioxide’s role in global warming, explaining that “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”
This is a man who just keeps on campaigning. Plus, as one correspondent noted, if Perry ever won the Worst award “his acceptance speech would be epic.”
We saw a lot of votes for Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, for his heroic efforts to ruin national health care and the social safety net. And Ben Carson got a surprising amount of support, considering that we barely ever hear about him doing anything. One reader was apparently won over by the painting the secretary of housing and urban development has in his home, showing Jesus with his arm around Ben Carson.
But DeVos is definitely our Worst Cabinet winner. For now. Do you think we should do this every few months? And what should the award look like? Anything’s possible. After all, we’ve got another 3 1/2 years.
Gail Collins writes for The New York Times.