With less than a month left in his tenure as president, Donald Trump has been scrambling to install his favorite allies in plum governmental positions. Mere days before Christmas, he released another list of appointees assigned to “key administration posts” (read: cushy and prestigious board and council memberships).
It’s no great leap of logic to recognize that Trump is making these appointments to reward his greatest supporters, NYU professor Paul Light explained to the Associated Press. Every administration does it to some degree, he says, but nobody does it quite like Trump:
Light said that he believes past administrations have put in sincere work to match up people with the kind of credentials and experience Congress envisioned when it created those boards. He doesn’t see that same effort now.
“This is all favours repaid and favours earned,” Light said of Trump’s picks.
Light said some of the picks struck him as Trump declaring: “I’m on my way out and I’m going to slap you one more time. … You laughed at me on the way out, but I got the last decision.”
If you’re looking for a case study in that slap-in-the-face maneuvering, look no further than the appointment of Marcus Bachmann, husband of former representative Michele Bachmann, who’s been appointed to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, an advisory panel within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. Bachmann is a Christian therapist. He’s not a medical doctor or even a licensed clinical psychologist. He has no apparent background remotely related to disabled people of any flavor (though, in the past, his wife has argued that vaccinations can cause, in her words, “mental retardation”).
What he does have is a history of anti-gay remarks and a counseling clinic that’s been accused multiple times of attempting conversion therapy on LGBTQ patients.
The allegations of strong anti-LGBTQ sentiment go back as far as 2005, when Bachmann gave a presentation at the explicitly anti-LGBTQ Minnesota Pastors’ Summit. His subject? “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda.”
Recordings from a 2010 interview have him calling gay people — children in particular — “barbarians” who “need to be disciplined” into heterosexuality:
We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps…
And let’s face it: what is our culture, what is our public education system doing today? They are giving full, wide-open doors to children, not only giving encouragement to think it but to encourage action steps. That’s why when we understand what truly is the percentage of homosexuals in this country, it is small. But by these open doors, I can see and we are experiencing, that it is starting to increase.
Bachmann claims the clip was doctored, patched together from unrelated content about child discipline to make him appear homophobic. But people who know the family say the quote is definitely in alignment with the Bachmanns’ beliefs on the subject.
And of course, later investigations into Mr. Bachmann’s clinic only strengthened the accusation, as hidden camera recordings caught counselors offering patients at his clinic such pearls of wisdom as “in terms of how God created us, we’re all heterosexual” and “God has designed our eyes to be attracted to the woman’s body, to be attracted to her breasts.”
All that homophobia would be troubling and unpleasant no matter which position he had drawn. But it’s particularly troubling to have such a virulent anti-LGBTQ bigot advising a committee that deals with the needs and issues of neurodivergent people given the growing evidence for a link between autism and gender diversity.
Put simply, Bachmann has been given responsibility for helping the government make decisions impacting a group people he knows nothing about… and within that group, there’s an entire robust sub-group of gender-diverse people whom he actively rejects as part of an “agenda,” as “barbarians” who need to be taught godly gender norms.
Probably Trump doesn’t know enough about autism or gender diversity to have made this appointment on purpose. It’s a deeply unlucky coincidence.
But we all could have done without that one more slap on the way out the door.
(Screenshot via YouTube)