Even if a decision defies logic, Donald J. Trump seems to relish the element of surprise. Get used to it, folks.
After calling Mexicans drug peddlers, criminals and rapists, there was a glimmer of hope that our new president might give a brown person a fair shake. After all, he created a Hispanic Advisory Council during crunch time in his campaign, correct? Then came a stab in the back. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the new administration’s cabinet would be void of Latino representation. It was simply Trump being Trump. All show and zero sincerity. As a result, 15 members of the council’s two dozen appointees opted to resign.
Groups like the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials had endorsed Abel Maldonado for Trump’s final cabinet position as Secretary of Agriculture. Even though Maldonado would have been seen as the “token Latino” in a sea of wealthy white faces, superior qualifications seemed to make his selection a no-brainer. The son of a guest worker from Mexico in the ill-fated Bracero program, Maldonado studied at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, bought a plot of land in the area and became a successful strawberry farmer. That led to the cultivation of grapes and Runway Vineyards, a booming wine business he currently operates.
As the former mayor of Santa Maria and the Lt. Governor of California, Maldonado is a political heavyweight too. As a result, the 49 year old father of four children was on Trump’s short list for the agriculture post. He successfully interviewed at the billionaire’s Mar-A-Lago resort at Palm Beach, Florida and the appointment seemed like a slam dunk. One has to wonder however, if the invitation was genuine or just a tease. That’s because the job ultimately went to former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, 70, a Trump political ally with a checkered record who slashed food safety funding in his home state. Maldonado showed class after the news and thanked everyone for the opportunity in a tweet, which seems to be Trump’s preferred form of communication. None the less, Latino kingpins across the country were angry.
“I never thought I’d see this day again,” remarked Henry Cisneros, a pioneer in the Latino movement and Secretary of Housing in the Bill Clinton administration. “There are multiple, multiple talented people (Trump) could have selected. There is no excuse.”
Cisneros, a Democrat and former mayor of San Antonio, Texas presents a good point. Even on the GOP side of the fence, there’s an abundance of top notch Hispanics who have yet to be asked to join Trump’s team. Here are just a few star-studded candidates waiting for an old-fashioned phone call:
Roger Noriega is an international diplomat and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. The 58 year old Mexican-American also served as assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under the George W. Bush administration.
Al Cardenas, 68, is a wealthy big shot attorney and someone Trump might like to cozy up with down the road. The former chairman of the Florida Republican Party is a savvy lobbyist and Washington insider, not to mention a Cuban activist.
Lleana Ros-Lehtinen is the most senior woman in the House of Representatives and a widely-respected Cuban-American. When she talks, people listen and Trump would be wise to pay close attention.
Andy Garcia is a bit of a wild card, but the veteran actor is perfectly tailored for Trump’s love for publicity. The Havana-born Garcia, 60, still has Hollywood star power and is a a die-hard GOP cheerleader. This could be a match made in heaven, at least from a political standpoint.
With countless lower level jobs still yet to be filled, it’s certainly possible that a few Hispanics might be asked to join the “J.V. squad.” So for now, elected officials like New Mexico governor Susana Martinez are taking a “wait and see” attitude. That being said, Martinez and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval are Republicans who rule in blue states, and more of the same Trump shenanigans will further erode any remaining support the new president has out west.
There was another guy who had been considered a front-runner in Trump’s cabinet, albeit with less fanfare. Luis Quiñonez, an immigrant from Guatemala, was seriously considered for Veterans Affairs Secretary. The Vietnam veteran and former Naval officer owns a company called MAQ Diversified, which employs 25,000 physicians in 28 states and is the sixth largest Latino-owned firm in the country.
“I arrived in the USA as a 17 year old with five dollars in my pocket (but) with the belief that the U.S. was a place where dreams could be achieved with hard work and dedication,” Quiñonez recalls.
A cancer patient, Quiñones would later withdraw himself from cabinet consideration due to health reasons. But some insiders believe the respected businessman was forced out due to a legal issue in Virginia, although the charges have been found to have numerous irregularities. And even if Quiñones preferred not to take on more stress, why wasn’t another heath care executive and philanthropist like Mike Fernandez considered for the job? Oops, I almost forgot that he was a Jeb Bush supporter.
As for Maldonado, reliable sources have told me that his political relationship with ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cost him the cabinet gig. Maldonado was appointed Lt. Governor by Schwarzenegger in November 2009, but the actor of Terminator fame has been a flop on Trump’s beloved television show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” The pair have been feuding over low ratings and Maldonado’s mere association with Schwarzenegger in the past was enough to sour the appointment.
The notion that Trump would get pissed off over something so trivial seems bizarre. Maybe he just hates Latinos. Then again, we’re talking about “The Donald.” And one can only say that if this man cares more about a damn T.V. show than running the country, we’re in for a long four years.
-Esteban “Steve” Randel -Headline photo courtesy: independent.com