Job-seeking wingnuts keep filing into the Oval Office, invitations in hand, even as the Trump administration collapses under the weight of its incompetence, corruption and bad faith.
Hey, folks, the West Wing is a huge dumpster fire, but it’s still hiring!
The latest applicant is Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., who has been crowing that he’s been chosen as an assistant secretary within the Department of Homeland Security. At this writing, it hasn’t been officially confirmed, so perhaps there is time to forestall his apotheosis in Washington.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, it’s likely you’ve seen his image. Clarke is known for his big cowboy hats, brash law-and-order rhetoric and savvy use of social media. And he is one of the few prominent African-Americans with a following in conservative circles. An unapologetic Trump loyalist, he spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland — interesting not least because he is purportedly a Democrat.
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Clarke was seemingly tailor-made for the era of Fox News style populism. It’s not just what comes out of his mouth, but the reassurance his words provide for Trump followers.
A classic example is Clarke’s dismissive take on Black Lives Matter. He labels the loosely organized activist movement a “terrorist organization” and a hate group, and he claims it will eventually join ranks with the Islamic State. He likes to mock it with the phrase “Black Lies Matter,” and in a pithy and often cited putdown, Clarke chided: “Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”
Clarke’s sweeping generalizations are a joy to those who wish to dismiss racially biased police misconduct, who regard every use of force as justified and above reproach. After all, they can point to Clarke and proclaim, “See, the black guy said it, so it must be OK!”
Clarke provides an excuse to discount the inconvenient truth that the vast majority of African-Americans (and many police for that matter) hold far more nuanced views about tensions within urban communities and police-involved shootings.
For the red-blooded Trump supporter, Clarke ticks all the boxes. He’s an NRA member. He supports a muscular policy of catching and deporting undocumented immigrants. He vilifies the mainstream media (except for Fox News, where he is a frequent on-air guest), disdains former President Obama and can be counted on to belittle any charge of racism made by anybody, anywhere. He allegedly allowed an evangelical Christian group to proselytize county employees at a mandatory meeting.
But there is another side to Sheriff Clarke. If he gets his Washington gig he will be escaping a jail full of troubles — the jail that he has administered since 2002. An inquest into conditions at Milwaukee County Jail recommended criminal charges for seven staff members in the case of an inmate who died of dehydration. The investigation found that withholding water was a common way jailers punished inmates.
And that’s not the only death at Clarke’s jail. There have been three others in the past year, including that of a baby born to a woman with paranoid schizophrenia. She had given birth, unbeknownst to the jail staff.
Others might be fired, their career certainly tarnished if not ruined, by such deaths. But, apparently, the scandals made Clarke’s resume that much more appealing to Trump.
A real law-and-order man, that guy — except when it comes to certain constitutional rights. As The Nation reported, Clarke “proposes ‘a suspension of habeas corpus’ so that ‘suspected’ Americans can be jailed indefinitely as part of his war-at-home program for ‘bold and aggressive action.’ ” He also advocates “rounding up Americans who are perceived as threats, suspending their rights, holding them indefinitely and handling cases with military tribunals rather than the courts.”
He’ll fit in well with the band of flamethrowers that Trump has already surrounded himself with, kind of like bubble wrap.
If he ends up joining the Trump administration, we can count on Clarke’s flamboyance to draw scrutiny from the media. Expect controversy. (Somewhere in his Twitter timeline is a tweet in which he brags about having met with the Russian foreign minister.)
Stay tuned, because there’s plenty more fuel for the dumpster fire.