Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos told a Senate committee that a school in say, Wyoming, may need a gun to defend students against grizzly bears. Think that’s out of context? Think that’s “fake news?” See for yourself:
The questioner was Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy who represents the families of the slain children and educators at Newtown. I know Chris Murphy. He joined the state Senate in Connecticut on the same day I was hired to be the Senate Democrats communication director. I’ve seen that look. It’s a combination of angry, incredulous and stunned. Fighting against gun violence is something he lives, not just advocates.
But the exchange between Murphy and DeVos was just a symptom of a bigger problem. Betsy DeVos has absolutely no qualifications to be the country’s secretary of education. It seems all the senators on the committee are aware of this including chairman Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Yet instead of dealing honestly with an unqualified nominee, Alexander has been deceitful and has done everything possible to make sure the American people don’t see just how clueless she is.
First, DeVos’ hearing was pushed off until Tuesday. Then, Alexander scheduled it for 5 p.m. (it started 15 minutes late). Why? Because less people would watch the hearing on TV. It wouldn’t be carried live because cable news networks where it would usually be shown were unwilling to preempt prime time programming—picture FOX News bagging the Brett Braier hosted show or even possibly Bill O’Reilly to show DeVos fumble along in a hearing. It’s not going to happen.
Then, just to be sure there was as little chance of possible of having DeVos disclosed, Alexander limited questioning to one round and five minutes per senator. Other nominees have faced as many as three rounds and ten minutes per senator. Alexander made a lame attempt at explaining his decisions as “following precedent.” Yes, DeVos’ predecessors faced limited questioning. They were also known quantities with strong education records.
If all of this dodge wasn’t enough, Senate Republican Mitch McConnell insisted on scheduling the hearing despite DeVos’ background check not being completed, something McConnell himself insisted upon when dealing with President Obama’s cabinet picks.
The background check on potential conflicts of interest for DeVos is important. She’s a billionaire with an extensive portfolio. She married into big money made through Amway, a legal pyramid scheme. If she had her way, public schools would be about guns, God and irresponsible charter school proliferation. She’s never taught, never attended a public school (nor have her kids), never had to deal with a student loan and she’s worth approximately $5 billion dollars. She’s contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians, including $250,000 to five members of the committee who questioned her.
Lamar Alexander pulled a fast one on the American public and denied it the chance to see an incredibly unqualified person head toward leading the country’s education system.