Viewers have been able to watch live as Senate Republicans indulge, and Democrats cross-examine, Donald Trump’s nominees for his cabinet. Within a 24-hour period Tuesday and Wednesday, three of the most controversial and quite possibly the least qualified of these nominees paraded across the screen in a cavalcade of misstatements, lapses of judgment, conflicts of interest and from time to time spectacular displays of ignorance and insensitivity.
Where to begin? Our pick is Betsy DeVos, the nominee to be education secretary, whose energies and considerable family wealth have been devoted to promoting privately run charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools in her home state, Michigan. She refused multiple times to agree that traditional public and charter schools should be held to the same level of accountability. She seemed unaware of some of the basic functions of the education department. She seemed surprised to learn, when Senator Al Franken brought up the matter, of a long-running debate over whether and to what extent to use test scores to measure student achievement or student growth.
She also won the tin ear award hands down. When Christopher Murphy asked whether she would agree that schools are no place for guns, she did not give the obvious right answer to a Democratic senator whose state suffered the horrendous Sandy Hook massacre (“Senator, there is no place for guns in schools”). Instead she said that localities should decide, and — in a transcendently odd moment — suggested that schools in places like Wyoming might need a gun “to protect from potential grizzlies.”
Next up, Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general initiated endless lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency, which he’s been asked to run, and who very nearly matched Ms. DeVos in the wrong answer department. One Democrat after another asked whether he would recuse himself in cases involving those lawsuits and cases involving companies that contributed copiously to his campaigns. The obvious response was, “Of course I will!” Instead, Mr. Pruitt would only say that he would do so if the agency ethics officer tells him to. Mr. Pruitt’s answer to climate change questions was equally depressing. Nearly all mainstream scientists say that human activities have been largely responsible for the rise in global atmospheric temperatures. Mr. Pruitt’s response was that the jury was still out.
Lastly, there was Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, a representative from Georgia. Mr. Price made the preposterous claim that repealing the Affordable Care Act really wouldn’t hurt people as long as they had bare-bones insurance policies that paid for treatment only in catastrophic circumstances. He couldn’t offer any convincing defense of his proposals to strip hundreds of billions of dollars from the budgets of Medicare and Medicaid. In response to questions by Senator Elizabeth Warren, he said that spending on the programs was the “wrong metric” to judge them by and argued that lawmakers should instead focus on the “care of the patients.” Quality of care is certainly the most important standard, but why would drastic cuts to those programs magically result in people getting better medical treatment?
Mr. Price also could not explain why he and a broker he hired traded health care stocks when he was proposing and voting for legislation that would affect those companies. He refused to see that even if he didn’t violate insider-trading laws, his investments represented a huge conflict of interest.
And so it went on another episode of Mr. Trump’s unreality show.
OP-ED in the New York Times, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet Picks Stumble By.”
Grizzly fucking bears.