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Cabinetry

So. Back in 2005, Your Humble Blogger wrote (in reference to Condoleezza Rice):

On the whole, I think that the President of the United States should be able to choose the Cabinet he wants to govern with. Yes, the Senate should advise before it consents, but for me the bar for turfing a cabinet member has to be actual incompetence. Certainly, a nominee should not be dismissed for sharing policy views with her President.

I find myself thinking about that these days. I still, you know, agree with myself: a nominee should not be dismissed for sharing policy views with her President. I would add that another reason for blocking an appointment would be ethical questions—or I suppose the John Tower rule that we don’t really want a falling-down drunk in the Cabinet if we can help it, but perhaps we could include a basic sobriety in with competence. Anyway, thank goodness, that doesn’t seem to be an issue with any of this slate of appointments.

Anyway, I have been thinking—look, Betsy DeVos is unqualified by any sense of the term. But does she share policy views with the President? Does Our Only President-Elect have policy views? I’m not even convinced that Ms. DeVos has policy views, at least that I would call policy views. Yes, she wants to replace our secular public schools with privately-run religious instruction accountable only to shareholders and Divine Vengeance, but in terms of actually running the Department of Education, she doesn’t seem to have any notion of how she plans to do it or even what it is.

And to be honest—I haven’t really any idea of what the Secretary of Education does every day. I’m sure there a lot of politicking. I imagine there are aspects that are similar to running any large bureaucracy, making sure that information is gathered, that reports are done and delivered at the right time, that allocated money is spent, all that sort of thing. While I hope that granting waivers for individual districts is not done at the Secretary level, the boss should be providing some guidance for the criteria and stepping in on the toughest cases. When the various constituencies are leaning on her staff, she should be leaning back, or perhaps leaning with them, depending. Looking for people who should be moved up, moved forward or moved out. All of that sort of thing, in addition to advising the President on any Education-related issues that are becoming politically sensitive so that he isn’t blindsided, and most importantly advocating for the budget. Right? Maybe a lot of other stuff, too.

Is Betsy DeVos capable of doing all of that? Some of it? How much of it is affected by her loathing of secular public education? How much is affected by her contempt for Congress and legislation? How much is affected by her lack of experience in any public service job of any kind?

What gets to me, really, is that Betsy DeVos is so utterly and thoroughly unconfirmable that it’s almost difficult to put her in the context of the rest of the Cabinet nominees. And that drives me kinda crazy—I mean, if it were to happen that two or three Republicans were willing to break from the Party and block a nominee or two… let’s imagine this, shall we? This is a Party that nearly unseated John McCain in the last election. There are a small handful of what we might call moderates, and even those are not moderate in policy preferences, merely unwilling to use immoderate language and destructive tactics. If a Senator were to be willing to vote against a Cabinet nominee, specifically one who would then be blocked and have to withdraw, I cannot easily imagine that Senator being willing to vote against several nominees. That person would have to go back to his (or her) constituents and say: yes, I had to block so-and-so, but I stood united with the Party on this and that and the other. This nominee, however, was where I had to say no.

So, what I’m saying is, I can’t imagine that Senator taking that kind of heat to block Betsy DeVos. Rex Tillerson, I can imagine some Republican senator feeling so strongly about that he would join the Democrats to block. It’s just possible that something will turn up in the Jeff Sessions file that will make a different Senator or two feel like a vote in favor would hurt them more than help. But Betsy DeVos? And again, any Senator who joined the Democrats in blocking Mr. Tillerson or Sen. Sessions would be unlikely to join on multiple nominees, based purely on the political calculations. And any Senator who is likely to consider Betsy DeVos worth taking a political risk to stop is (I would think) going to find one of the other nominees more important and more worth taking that risk for.

I don’t know. I mean, the President-Elect is so incredibly unpopular that maybe the Senators will see less risk in bucking him on multiple fronts. I don’t know. But it sure seems to me as if Ms. DeVos is going to be waved through.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

The thing to keep in mind when considering the nomination of Betsy DeVos is that the Republican Party's platform rejects public education as such--not in so many words, but the clear implication of their platform's statements about education is that the public has no right to exercise control over the way parents choose to have their children educated. Here's a direct quote: "Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations." That's essentially a call for the end of public education. It implies no control of public education above the local level, and that isn't really public education--in American history, it was the states that created and organized consistent public education systems. If that can't be accomplished, they call for eliminating the role of the Federal government, at least, in American education. Given the content of the Republican platform, if you are a Republican and the Republican platform represents your political goals, it seems there would be nothing objectionable about Betsy DeVos. I'm not sure that's the case with respect to Tillerson and Sessions, but I haven't taken the time yet to go look at the sections of the platform on Foreign Affairs, Civil Rights, and Justice. Tillerson would have been completely unobjectionable from a Republican platform perspective as Secretary of the Interior, but they can get lower-status people in place to sell of public lands, I suppose.


Well, there would be nothing objectionable about Betsy DeVos from a Republican-policy-platform standpoint except her obvious lack of qualifications and unreadiness to to the actual job. I think it was Matt Ygglsias who was pointing out that there are in fact plenty of people who views similar to hers who have either bureaucratic or political/legislative experience, but nah, we get someone another incompetent. Sigh.

Thanks,
-V.


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