In unusually forceful language, Representative-elect Salud Carbajal condemned Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees this week, maintaining that a president elected with a minority of votes seems intent on tearing down the federal government.
“It is scary,” Carbajal said in an interview with the Independent on Monday. “I’m alarmed. We should all be alarmed.
“We should be alarmed that somebody that so many high profile Republicans and Democrats dubbed unfit to serve is serving. We should all be very alarmed…at the appointments he’s making, right-wing appointments. We should all be alarmed that he is rebuffing 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that have come out and said unequivocally Russia interfered with our election.”
The feisty and fervid tone of his comments was noteworthy for Santa Barbara’s newly elected House member, who typically favors a more conciliatory public face, befitting a transactional politician whose success to date has rested on constantly seeking consensus and compromise.
In moving to Washington, however, Carbajal suddenly will be thrust onto a bitterly partisan political landscape, with minority Democrats, still reeling from being locked out of power by Trump’s stunning upset win, increasingly aghast at the hard line government he is assembling.
Ticking off a list of ultraconservative Trump nominees – for Secretary of Education Betty DeVos, a major Trump donor and religious right advocate who favors education vouchers over public schools; for HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who opposes many government poverty programs; for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate science denier and fierce advocate of the oil industry; for Secretary of State Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, who is close to Vladimir Putin – Carbajal said the president-elect is “appointing gazillionaires and they’re going to dismantle all those things that are important to working, middle-class families.”
“It’s almost like the mission of all these agencies is such that Trump is appointing people who have the antithesis of views on the work that those agencies do,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s an opportunity to dismantle government.”
Covering his bases, however, Carbajal also stressed in the interview that he looks forward to seeking ways to work with the Administration and Republican colleagues on “non-partisan issues,” such as infrastructure and drought relief.
“It would be wrong not to find opportunities for common ground,” he said. “Like I said, I think Trump could be the wild card enigma that we have all come to be surprised about, and I think it lends itself to still trying to find opportunities with Republicans to do what’s best for the United States and make sure as president, with all the rhetoric, all the things he’s trying to do doesn’t destroy our country.”
“If I wasn’t optimistic,” he added, “why did I even consider running?”