[Opinion] Order of Regression

Wednesday morning, Representative Al Green (D-Texas–wow, they do exist) took to the House floor and voiced his belief that President Donald Trump has committed obstruction of justice and intimidation with regard to the firing of James Comey for investigating the President. Green called for articles of impeachment:

Whoever had “4 months or less” in the “How long into this presidency until official calls for impeachment?” betting pool, please come to the front window to collect your winnings.

This article, however, isn’t about all the things Trump has done wrong or why he needs to be removed–those kinds of articles take up approximately 83% of all news stories right now, and thanks to Trump’s truly impressive ability to keep finding more places to shoot himself in the foot, it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

What I would like to point out is how even in a best case scenario here–say, Trump being immediately and forcibly removed from office and sentenced to life in Alcatrazkaban (it’s really bad)–we’re still not coming out ahead here by any definition. We’re simply trying to put a bandaid over this gushing wound at our executive level that’s bleeding our dignity all over the place, spilling down to the legislative branch like a chain reaction of systemic failure. Think I’m wrong? Take a look at Mitch McConnell; no one could be that pale and clammy without significant exsanguination. We are not going to enjoy any of our options, so our only questions pertain to the central concern: how bad will it be?

I’ve put together this list that identifies the top fifteen executive officials that would be replacing Trump by order of succession, some of their greatest political hits, and a completely unscientific estimation of how likely it would be for them to actually sit behind the Resolute Desk in the nearing months. Enjoy!

  1. Vice President – Mike Pence
    Qualifications: Thinks gay people are diseased deviants and tried to keep them from being able to be employed; tried to withhold funding to HIV clinics that treated LGBT patients; has signed or introduced legislation to defund women’s clinics over a dozen times; probably wasn’t going to win re-election for Indiana governor.
    Odds: 4/1 Pretty good if the GOP ends up going the 25th Amendment route, but bad if Trump’s impeachment goes to trial. Pence isn’t exactly clean in many of the ongoing investigations right now, and Trump is well-practiced at throwing any and all allies under the bus to avoid recrimination.
  2. Speaker of the House – Paul Ryan
    Qualifications: Notorious granny-starver; created budget proposals that the CBO laughed out of the room for being both impossible and terribly harmful to American citizens; introduced legislation to restrict women’s healthcare access numerous times, even in cases of rape and incest; unironically loves the works of Ayn Rand.
    Odds: 10/1 Ryan has been a textbook example of Republicans failing upwards–after having a record of authoring 2 successful legislative bills out of 70 (both inconsequential), he was picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate but still managed to not help win the electoral college in his home state; he then returned to Congress only to become Speaker at repeated party insistence after John Boehner bailed.
  3. President Pro Tempore of the Senate – Senator Orrin Hatch
    Qualifications: Typically one of the “moderate” GOP voices; supports a Balanced Budget Amendment; supports immigration reform and sponsored the DREAM Act making it easier for children of immigrants to become naturalized; does not support Trump’s Muslim ban; suggested the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court; hard-right religious conservative, opposed same-sex marriage; accomplished musician.
    Odds: 10/1 If Pence and Ryan are held accountable for their status as Trump dignity wraiths, Hatch is first on deck due to being completely unattached to the Trump investigation (so far, anyway). I’m no fan of Hatch’s religiosity and views towards my fellow LGBT siblings, but he’s got an extensive history of public service and is at least not an angry insane person.
  4. Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson
    Qualifications: Likes money, hates the environment and corporate taxes; former CEO of Exxon; does a lot of business with Russian interests; has a mixed record on climate change; has donated over half a million dollars to various conservative campaigns.
    Odds: 20/1 Tillerson has no prior experience with public service and has never served in the armed forces. Also, with his strong ties to Russia I doubt the GOP would want him anywhere close to the podium. He possibly might go to jail, too, if Trump starts naming names.
  5. Secretary of the Treasury – Steven Mnuchin
    Qualifications: supports substantial bank deregulation; former executive of Goldman-Sachs; bankrolls movie studios with Brett Ratner; ran a shady foreclosure farm; found to frequently use offshore tax havens for clients.
    Odds: 20/1 Mnuchin has no experience in politics, and doesn’t seem to want any. Republicans would like his views on tax reform… as long as there’s no connection to Trump and Russia to get caught up in. Mnuchin would likely remove himself from consideration, foregoing the executive branch for whatever it is ultra-wealthy people do.
  6. Secretary of Defense – James Mattis
    Qualifications: Marine Corps general, served in Iraq & Afghanistan under Bush and Obama; picked to lead Joint Command by President Obama; not a fan of Russia; supports creation of Palestinian state; supports maintaining Obama-era policies for LGBT service members.
    Odds: 10/1 We haven’t had a combat-tested military officer in charge of the nation since George H. W. Bush, and the last high-ranking officer to be president was Eisenhower. Mattis is respected by both sides of the aisle and is known as being both fairly apolitical and intellectual, which definitely makes him the best choice for the country in this line, and along with Sen. Orrin Hatch probably the only truly qualified person for the job.
  7. Attorney General – Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
    Qualifications: is a lawyer, for now; failed bid for US District Judge in 1986 after being deemed pretty racist and not very good at being impartial; perjured himself during his own Senate confirmation; along with Deputy AG Rosenstein, crafted letter suggesting the termination of FBI director James Comey–possibly setting himself up for obstruction of justice charges; supports failed policies already proven not to work that make minority communities worse; supports the wrong side of basically every policy you can think of; is possibly the actual devil.
    Odds: 0/1 There’s no way Trump goes down without dragging Sessions (and probably a few others) down with him. Sessions has been the architect for many of Trump’s terrible domestic policy ideas, and is tied to the ongoing Russia investigations in about eight different ways–none of them good.
  8. Secretary of the Interior – Ryan Zinke
    Qualifications: doesn’t have a lot of scandals attached to him; standard-issue Republican values; former Navy SEAL; likes guns; waffly on the environment; super-religious; named his kids “Wolfgang” and “Konrad,” tied to white nationalists in his home state.
    Odds: 20/1 We could do worse, and we currently are, but all Zinke would likely bring to the table is stability and maybe some compromises on education reform and national parks. I mean, I’d take it, though. I’d take it right now.
  9. Secretary of Agriculture – Sonny Perdue
    Qualifications: life-long politician, serving as state senator and then governor of Georgia; many instances of using political leverage for personal gain; his cousin is David Perdue, Georgia’s Senator; tried to block EPA regulations, is a climate-change denier.
    Odds: 50/1 Perdue is the quintessential Southern Politician grifter stereotype, using everything in his power to enrich himself and his friends, doing very little in the way of actually governing. Even his positions on policies come from a place of protecting his financial stakes, not real convictions. He’s Trump, but with a folksy drawl and a hankerin’ for mama’s biscuits.
  10. Secretary of Commerce – Wilbur Ross
    Qualifications: served as Russian financial liaison during Clinton Administration; worth more than the GDP of Belize; helped Trump squirrel out of the failure of his Atlantic City casinos; part-owner and liable party for the Sago Mine explosion that killed 12 workers–the mines had hundreds of unaddressed federal safety violations prior to the incident.
    Odds: 50/1 No real public service experience that doesn’t involve making financial deals with Russia and a long history of helping out Donald Trump, I would think the GOP would probably only accept Ross if the other 14 people on this list were otherwise unavailable.
  11. Secretary of Labor – Alexander Acosta
    Qualifications: clean rap sheet; actual lawyer who prosecuted bad bank deals and tax cheats; leans right, but has sided with democrats in the past; noted by liberal colleagues as being apolitical, smart, and rational.
    Odds: 20/1 The guy is pretty clean, doesn’t have the Russia taint on him (yet), and has served the US Attorney’s Office under Obama and George W. Bush. He did clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, which isn’t ideal, but honestly I didn’t think there was anyone in Trump’s court retinue that had ever been described as “smart” or “rational,” so maybe this guy has a shot. Also, he’d be the first Latino president, so that’s cool, right?
  12. Secretary of Health and Human Services – Dr. Tom Price
    Qualifications: is somehow not even the only medical doctor that opposes mandatory vaccinations on this list; strident opponent of abortion rights; has a perfect 0% rating from the Human Rights Council on his voting record against virtually all pro-LGBT and pro-women legislation; failed to disclose ethically shady financial history to Congress; avowed climate-denier; voted against the FDA regulating tobacco products; vehement opponent of socialized healthcare.
    Odds 40/1 He has been in Washington for over a decade so he knows the system, but he is also an animated trash golem, which the GOP may not be looking to defend right now. Price somehow went to medical school and graduated despite being wrong on virtually every medical political argument of the last 20 years.
  13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Dr. Ben Carson
    Qualifications: none. Carson isn’t even qualified for his current job, which is his only experience in the public sector; makes so many wrong-headed statements about biology, sociology, history, and politics that it happens basically every time he opens his mouth on-camera; has spent the last twenty years grifting people through books sales and motivational speaking tours; thinks queer people are super awful; is the other anti-vaxx doctor on this list.
    Odds: 100\1 Carson gets the POTUS gig only in a Game of Thrones “Dragonfire at the Great Sept”-type situation. Maybe. And he’d just fall asleep during the swearing-in, anyway.
  14. Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry
    Qualifications: surprisingly more than you’d expect. Has run two presidential elections; served three terms as Texas governor; supported 2nd-amendment expansion but has since backed off; tried to get a massive privately-funded high speed transit project approved; bad record on LGBT rights; supportive of outreach to immigrants; crossed the aisle several times to enact meaningful education reforms; weirdly evangelical for a guy raised in the traditionally-genteel Methodist church; has a tendency to sound stupid when saying words aloud; wanted to abolish Department of Energy, did not actually know what it did.
    Odds: 100/1 I mean, Perry is more qualified than half the people on this list, but his placement down at the bottom of the order kinda precludes him. However, he’s the ideal kind of cornpone huckster that the GOP often embraces come election season, so his odds as getting a VP appointment aren’t all that terrible, really. He’s a terrible person to run this country, obviously, but he’s the kind of terrible we’ve been comfortable and familiar with since Nixon.
  15. Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVos
    Qualifications: none. Like Carson, not even qualified for her current position; “earned” that position via massive political donations to GOP; her family runs the nation’s largest pyramid scheme; supports school vouchers, probably because she’s a racist who believes in “reverse racism.”
    Odds: 200/1 She’s last on the list. Thank goodness for that.

Well, there you go, folks. I know the Trump/Russia/Comey epic poem rages on even still, but this is the hand we’re dealt. We’re not getting 2016 back, as much as we would all love a do-over. Take a look at your options above and despair accordingly.

Then remember to get your ass out there and vote.

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