This Dana Milbank column on Betsy DeVos is nothing short of wonderful. For one thing, it is really funny, and laughs are hard to come by these days. Beyond the humor, however, Milbank also offers a ray of hope in the wake of yesterday’s (bare) confirmation of DeVos as Secretary of Education. He begins:
Rarely is the question asked: Is our Cabinet secretaries learning?
And if we is being honest with ourself, we says: No, they is not.
Today’s lesson: the education of Betsy DeVos.
Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock (and I’m not judging–hiding under a rock is perfectly understandable in the Age of Trump) knows at least four things about Betsy DeVos: 1) she is monumentally unqualified for her post; 2) she gave gazillions of dollars to a large number of the Republican Senators who voted to confirm her (Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest?); 3) she is a proponent of siphoning taxpayer dollars from public schools to support Christian schools via vouchers; and public opposition to her confirmation was more intense and widespread than most observers can ever recall seeing.
It took DeVos’ longtime collaborator and fellow culture-warrior Mike Pence to break a 50/50 tie and get her over the finish line.
Milbank has words of consolation for those of us who view DeVos as an unmitigated disaster.
Democrats in the long run may thank the majority Republicans for confirming DeVos. In the fight against President Trump’s agenda, the new administration’s incompetence is their friend. Trump’s choice of DeVos signals a dangerous desire to dismantle public schools. It would be more dangerous if he chose somebody who was up to the task.
As bad as DeVos is, Milbank points out that she is only marginally the worst of a crew that includes Ben Carson (at Housing and Urban Development because–hey!–he lives in a house), Rick Perry (who admitted he had no idea what the Department of Energy did) and others.
Heading the National Security Council is Mike Flynn, reportedly drummed out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for poor management. Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, has no foreign policy experience; Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin has no government experience and displayed his financial skills during his confirmation hearing by failing to disclose $100 million in personal assets.
One can already see future Cabinet meetings shaping up in the White House, as Trump goes around the table asking for updates:
DeVos: “Could you come back to me, please?”
Flynn: “Sorry, what?”
No doubt there is some value in nominating people outside the “establishment.” But the value is diminished if your outsiders can’t do the job.
Milbank noted that after Senate Democrats spent hours addressing DeVos’ manifest ignorance of even the most basic issues facing the Department of Education, John Cornyn’s response failed to rebut any of those charges. Instead he simply said that “The president will get the Cabinet he nominated and deserves.”
As Milbank concluded: Yes, he will.