Interior Secretaries Say the Darnedest Things

By Dan Cadman, March 30, 2017

Back when I was working for the federal government, I'd occasionally come upon a person I thought exhibited quiet strength and wisdom when I'd see them sitting through various meetings or whatever. Sometimes on getting to know them, and with closer scrutiny, I'd discover to my consternation that they really weren't very smart at all, but the one single piece of wisdom they'd absorbed is that it's better to stay silent and leave your intellect in question than open your mouth and dispel any doubt whatever that you are shallow or a fool.

News media are reporting that Montana Congressman-turned-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said publicly that since we don't want to spoil our view of the Rio Grande or put the border wall plunk down into the middle of it, we should put it on the Mexican side. Needless to say, opponents of the Trump administration, opponents of the wall, and pundits in general had a field day.

Dear Mr. Secretary: What could you possibly have been thinking of? I know you hail from northern climes, but surely the relevance of international boundaries isn't unknown to you? Will you next be announcing that you've signed and sent a letter to the Mexican government to advise them that we're taking possession of territory south of the river by right of eminent domain?

The problem with such uninformed, not to say patently foolish, musings is that they bring into further doubt the ability of the administration to actually get the border barrier built — not a good sign at all, with evidence of an increasingly restive Congress, and other serious setbacks such as the Obamacare "unrepeal-unreplace" and court restraining orders against versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the travel restrictions executive order.

The Trump administration needs to start establishing discipline and "big, beautiful" verbal boundaries for its cabinet and senior officials: Don't talk outside the parameters of your core mission; stay on script; and above all, for heaven's sake, be sure when you speak that you have some idea what you're talking about.