The buzz phrase “drain the swamp” has been overused in recent days, I think. However, it applies nicely to the Department of Labor. For decades, the DOL has been a bog of oppressive regulations which, among other things, sometimes promote racial discrimination in favor of minorities.
Elaine Chao presided over that swamp for eight years during the George W. Bush administration. She did little to drain, or even disturb, it. Her objective seemed to be to stay out of trouble with the liberal media. In her job, this could only be accomplished by not upsetting the liberal status quo.
How different things might have been if Linda Chavez, Bush’s original choice for Labor Secretary, had not been derailed.
Now, Donald Trump has selected Chao to be Secretary of Transportation. If Trump follows through on his promise to massively increase infrastructure spending, the DOT may become a huge swamp. However, the challenges presented, and the skills required to meet those challenges, would differ from those of the Department of Labor.
Chao may be a competent administrator. However, she was viewed by some as “low energy” in her last Cabinet post.
All in all, Chao’s selection strikes me as uninspired. It seems more like an attempt to check boxes — female, minority, married to Mitch McConnell, avoided trouble for eight years under Bush — than an effort to make a stellar appointment.
That’s pretty standard when it comes to this job. The DOT is something of a backwater and in recent times has often gone to a minority group member and/or a member of the out-of-power party. As noted above, however, this backwater may become a hub if big time infrastructure spending is in the cards.