Thursday, February 23, 2017

DeVos Folds

It was pretty much zero surprise that the Trump administration chose to undo the Obama protections for transgender students (despite his vociferous campaign assertion that he would be a far better friend to LGBT folks than Clinton).

Yeah, that's a real Trump tweet.

Only a tiny bit of my soul died this week. Hardly hurts at all.

But no-- the actual surprise was that according to several published reports (because, apparently, DC leaks like a buckshot-blasted colander) Betsy DeVos balked at this move. Rescinding the protections required two departments to sign off, and DeVos reportedly did not want to do it. She expressed her concern that transgender students could be more vulnerable to harm without the rue, according to "three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions." Attorney General Jess Sessions escalated to Defcon Five. Per the New York Times:

Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.

Soon after, DeVos was toeing the party line and issuing a statement that boiled down to "vulnerable students are vulnerable, and somebody really should look out for them, but it won't be the federal government."

The actual policy doesn't tell us anything about this administration that we didn't already know. But the way it happened tell us-- and perhaps DeVos-- a bit about her role in this administration.

First, I was actually a little surprised that DeVos rolled over so easily. I thought she was tougher than this. I thought she was a policy pit bull. But she is also a DC newbie. GQ has called her, more than once, a rube. Now Lord knows, when it comes to the DC political world, I am worse than a rube. But I can't help thinking this would have been a time for DeVos to read the national room and say, "Do you really want to fire a cabinet official one month in over where transgender kids can pee? Is that the story you want on Saturday Night Live this week?" Still, I'm certain that it's pretty hard to face down a US President, particularly one who is well-known for gutting enemies and holding long grudges (an approach that DeVos knows something about). Bottom line-- she had her first test, and she folded like a cheap lawn chair.

Second, while this was a protection of huge importance to trans kids and anyone who cares about them, and while this makes a huge statement about our compassion or lack thereof for vulnerable students, it was still relatively small potatoes to the Trump administration. It's not repealing Obamacare or building a wall or any of the marquee promises on which Trump built his brand. And yet he was willing to take DeVos to the wall on this.

Which raises the question-- just how much autonomy will DeVos have as Secretary? Will Trump and his boys micromanage her on every single issue? And yes, it's worth noting in this administration that along with a lack of administrative experience and management background and any time at all working in government, the other thing that Betsy DeVos lacks is a penis, which in any administration should make zero difference-- but in a Trump administration? I have to wonder if DeVos went home yesterday and sat thinking, "Why the hell did I even take this job? Have I made a huge mistake?"

Third, I told you so. And not just me. Regardless of how you feel about her actual preferred education policies, DeVos was always unqualified by her sheer lack of any experience that would have prepared to run a cabinet-level department while going head to head with other major players in the federal government.

It's possible we've been worrying too much about DeVos's beliefs and policy goals because her voice simply isn't going to matter in this administration. Maybe she'll find herself a crash course in How To Be An Effective Cabinet Secretary, or maybe she'll just sit in her office, holding a rubber stamp and waiting for Fearless Leader to tell her what policy she's supporting this week. We'll just have to wait and see if the story, or DeVos, will unfold.


  1. You gotta wonder about these billionaires who signed up to work on the Orange One's terms. They can just go back to the lives they were living before. It's not like they need the money and it doesn't look like there's gonna be much fame. Same thing appears to have happened to Tillerson.

  2. The mental picture that's going to stick with me is that of Sessions running to Daddy Trump to cry that the mean lady wouldn't let him have his way.