At least two good Cabinet choices

The Washington Post reports on Donald Trump’s controversial (those three words are now a cliché) choice for secretary of education:

Former senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on Tuesday introduced Betsy DeVos at her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary in the upcoming Trump administration — and in the process he dissed the entire education establishment.

DeVos is a Michigan billionaire tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to run the Education Department. Supporters see her as a tireless advocate for school choice while critics say she has spent decades working to privatize the public education system.

Lieberman — a member of the board of the organization that DeVos founded, the American Federation of Children — talked about DeVos in glowing terms and said she has helped hundreds of thousands of children.

“She is disciplined, organized, knows how to set goals and then develop practical plans to achieve them. She is really a purpose-driven team builder,” he said. He noted that the Department of Education is bigger than anything she — or virtually all of the senators on the panel — had ever run but said she is ready to take on the task.

And then, he said: “I know that some people are questioning her qualifications to be secretary of education, and too many of those questions seem to me to be based on the fact that she doesn’t come from within the education establishment. But honestly I believe that today, that’s one of the most important qualifications you could have for this job.”

To Lieberman, then, working within the public education system is disqualifying to run the Education Department. Understanding, from the inside, how the system works, isn’t a qualification.

So what is a qualification to Lieberman?

“She has many others. She’s a mother and a grandmother. She cares about children more generally, and she has been involved in education, like so many parents and local citizen school board members across America for almost 30 years,” he said. And he noted that she isn’t only a “philanthropist and advocate for reform” but also “mentors students in the public schools of Grand Rapids, Mich.

“And here’s another important qualification: She will ask the right questions,” he said.

The Education Department is nearly 40 years old. Public education has gotten worse in the U.S. since the Education Department came into existence. Among other things, nearly every big city in this country has a terrible school system, including Milwaukee. The pernicious influence of teacher unions has been well documented in this blog.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, the Post reports …

Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has spent years battling the Environmental Protection Agency, on Wednesday ran into a litany of questions about his fitness to run the agency given his litigious history, his views on climate change and his close ties to the fossil fuel industry.

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the EPA told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at his confirmation hearing that he plans to steer the agency away from what he sees as an era of overzealous and unlawful regulation during the Obama years.

Pruitt said his EPA would be one that respects the authority of states and is open to a “full range of views,” namely those of an energy industry that felt overburdened by Obama-era rules.

Pruitt, who has long been supported by the fossil fuel industry, dismissed the idea that if someone supports the oil and gas interests, he can’t also favor environmental protection.

“I utterly reject that narrative,” he said. “It is not an either-or proposition.” …

Pruitt’s tenure as attorney general in Oklahoma has been marked by his role in opposing many of the Obama administration’s key initiatives, often arguing that the executive branch was overstepping its constitutional authority and trying to circumvent the role of Congress.

Pruitt has been a leading voice among a group of Republican attorneys general who sued over issues including the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reforms and immigration. But he has been particularly aggressive in attacking the EPA’s efforts, repeatedly suing the agency to challenge its legal authority to regulate toxic mercury pollution, smog, carbon emissions from power plants, and the quality of wetlands and other waters.

That combative approach has earned him broad support from fellow Republicans and from the fossil fuel industry, which helped fund his campaigns and contributed large sums to the Republican Attorneys General Association under Pruitt’s leadership.

Yet his nomination has galvanized environmental advocacy groups, who note that Pruitt dismantled a specialized environmental protection unit that had existed under his predecessor and poured resources into a new “federalism unit” aimed at challenging “unwarranted regulation and systematic overreach” from Washington. …

Pruitt rejected the “climate denier” label in his opening remarks Wednesday, saying “science tells us that the climate is changing” and that human activity plays a role. But how we measure that human influence and what policy actions we take to combat global warming are “subject to continued debate and dialogue,” he said. …

For his part, Pruitt has repeatedly framed his EPA opposition as driven not by ideology but by constitutional questions over the separation of powers.

“There truly is an attitude in Washington that the states are mere vessels of federal will, and so long as they act in accordance with the federal government’s view . . . things are fine,” he said in a speech in July. “But when states actually engage and exercise the authority they possess, that’s where the conflict and the tension rises.”

Pruitt has powerful forces pushing for the GOP-controlled Senate to confirm him.

The conservative America Rising Squared, an arm of the Republican super PAC America Rising, recently launched ConfirmPruitt.com to promote him as someone who can return the EPA to its “core mission” of protecting the nation’s water and air but leaving broader authority in the hands of the states and industry.

Last week, a coalition of nearly two dozen conservative advocacy groups separately backed his nomination, writing that he has “demonstrated his commitment to upholding the Constitution and ensuring the EPA works for American families and consumers.”

I think nominees like DeVos and Pruitt, though obviously they weren’t nominees before Trump was elected, are one of the reasons Trump won. The election certainly was a rejection of what Obama did in eight years and what voters thought Hillary Clinton would do if elected.

 

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