According to the New York Times, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The threat followed an assessment by NOAA’s Birmingham, Ala., office differing from President Trump’s stated claim that Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama. The Commerce Department’s inspector general and a House panel are probing the events.
If reporters are interested in extracting a quote or two from Ross about the allegations, they can find him on Sept. 19, at Government Executive magazine’s first-ever “Government Hall of Fame” gala. Government Executive is a division of Atlantic Media, the publishing house of Washington establishment pillar David Bradley. The event’s mission: “We are introducing two unique awards programs to honor a select group of leaders and innovators in public service each year — The Government Hall of Fame ™ and The Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards. The Government Hall of Fame will celebrate distinguished civil servants who have demonstrated sustained achievement and unparalleled dedication to public service throughout their careers,” reads a description on the gala Web page.
Mind you: Ross is not among the first wave of inductees to the Government Hall of Fame. They’re people such as Constance Berry Newman, Norman Mineta and Donna Shalala. Instead, Ross will serve as a presenter, introducing Mineta — a former Commerce secretary — to the assembled good-government types.
The lineup for the Government Hall of Fame suggests that the magazine, a division of Atlantic Media, is seeking an inclusive and bipartisan slate of names. That’s a laudable goal. The problem relates to the association between good government and Trump appointees: No such relation exists. The Post’s Dana Milbank recently highlighted how the administration’s plan to disperse the Bureau of Land Management is an expression of contempt for functions that crosses agency lines. “When your goal is kneecapping the federal government, anything goes,” wrote Milbank.
When it comes to governance in the Trump administration, falsehoods are part of the program. In his testimony on the Trump administration’s ambitions to load a citizenship question into the census, Ross alleged that the Justice Department had initiated the request for such a move. The Post’s Salvador Rizzo accorded Ross four Pinocchios for that statement, noting that, in fact, Justice “was taking its cues from Ross all along.” Writing in the Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson ripped away, “Wilbur Ross Lied to Congress About the GOP’s Plot to Rig the Census. This Should Be a National Scandal.”
So should a lot of Trump-era depravities that fail to impress a scandal-fatigued country. In his book “The Fifth Risk,” author Michael Lewis disclosed the disgust of a Forbes magazine staffer upon realizing that Ross had been misleading the publication about his wealth. Somehow, noted Dan Alexander, Forbes counted money of his investors as his own for its famous rich list. “He lucked into a way to be on the list, without deserving to be on the list. But once he gets on the list, he lies. For years.” Ross was among three people who stood out for their efforts to inflate their wealth in the eyes of Forbes, according to Alexander. Another, not surprisingly, was Trump.
When we asked about the propriety of allowing Ross within the environs of a good-government event, a rep for Government Executive responded, “We invited several current and former heads of agencies several months ago to appear at the Government Hall of Fame gala. We included Secretary Ross in that group to help induct former Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta because he is the current secretary and in the spirit of bipartisanship.”
Mineta couldn’t be reached for comment on the honor of being feted as an agent of good government by Wilbur Ross.