Thursday, January 19, 2017

While Preparing for the Coronation: The Competency Hearings

Some of the funniest* moments of the desperate last-moment preparations for the Demolition Derby administration:

1.  Rick Perry thought the job he is going to have was all about being a spokesman for American oil and gas industries:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

2.  Mr. Perry's qualifications for the job appear ever so slightly different from the last two energy secretaries:

Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.
For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

3.  Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  hadn't checked what a safe level of lead in drinking water might be:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency said at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he didn’t know one of the most basic things about drinking water safety. 
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Scott Pruitt if “there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body.”
The answer is a simple “no,” but somehow Pruitt didn’t say that. 
“Senator, that is something I have not reviewed nor know about,” said Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma.  
“I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption,” he continued, “but I’ve not looked at a scientific research on that.”

4.  Betsy deVos, Trump's nominee to run the Education Department is a funny choice to begin with, given that she has no training or background in education.  But there was also this from her confirmation hearings:

Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, asked DeVos about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees services to students with disabilities. It has been a federal law since 1990. Kaine asked if all schools should meet the requirements of the law.

"I think that is a matter that's best left to the states," DeVos said. 
Further questioning from Kaine seemed to reveal DeVos's lack of understanding about IDEA. Later, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat from New Hampshire, asked more pointedly about DeVos's knowledge of IDEA. 

"So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?" Hassan asked.
"I may have confused it," DeVos said.

Oh, and Ms. deVos believes that  grizzly bears might be a valid reason to have guns in schools.

But the most important snippet to take home is that Ms. deVos refuses to rule out not funding public schools (which cater to 90% of all students).   That, of course is the Demolition part of the Derby.


*Only in the sense that I'd rather not bawl my eyes out, and sarcasm is the healthiest of the alternative coping mechanisms.

Added later:  And then there is Tom Price, here grilled by Elizabeth Warren.