Thursday, February 16, 2017



Donald Trump had his first cabinet withdrawal yesterday, with Andrew Puzder pulling back from his nomination as secretary of Labor.  The restaurant executive had been opposed vociferously by unions, but the real reason for his withdrawal was that it had become readily apparent there were wavering Republicans thinking of opposing him, including Tim Scott and Johnny Isakson.

Whatever for? Well, if you are reading most of the coverage of his withdrawal, it will cite the talking points advocated by his critics from the left: that his restaurants failed to pay living wages, that his ethics reports were lacking, that his ex-wife accused him of abuse in an appearance on Oprah – accusations she later retracted.  But was that really what was going on here? Was Puzder really terrified of the grilling he was going to receive from Elizabeth Warren?

Not really. Virtually all the union and union-friendly organizations that opposed Puzder’s nomination were also opposed to Betsy DeVos. The difference is that Puzder was also opposed by those on the right over his immigration stances. National Review’s editors opposed his confirmation for these reasons.   “Puzder himself has been a reliable font of clichés in favor of higher levels of legal immigration. He has suggested that “the fact is that there are jobs in this country that U.S. citizens, for whatever reason, are reluctant or unwilling to perform”—a cliché that ignores the possibility of raising wages to attract citizens—and as recently as 2015 encouraged reviving the Gang of Eight approach to immigration. His views on immigration aren’t merely academic for this post. The Department of Labor bears a significant amount of responsibility for enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.”

This is Trump’s first cabinet withdrawal. Obama technically had four, so the odds seem to favor at least one additional withdrawal.  The next to drop could be Wilbur Ross, who is refusing to give up his stake in a Chinese-Government-Backed company whose fortunes he could impact significantly in his role at the Commerce Department.  This sets him up, again, as someone who could find critics in both parties – the necessary recipe for a nominee’s failure.

That accurate depiction of Puzder being squeezed from both sides, is largely going to be absent in the reports on what went down with his nomination. Instead you’ll get more of: How Elizabeth Warren Found a Villain in Andy Puzder. The first four paragraphs are about the author’s mood while watching The Big Short, and Puzder is mentioned in only a passing way in the article, as a foil for the courageous Warren. Here is his musing on her depiction on the most prominent liberal show on television, Saturday Night Live:  “Playing Warren on “SaturdayNight Live” last week, Kate McKinnon treated the “Weekend Update” anchors’ desk like the Senate dais, reading from a list of questions in order to press the hosts to answer for the crime of allowing Trump to appear on the show. Colin Jost asked if she was always like this. “As a matter of fact, yes,” McKinnon’s Warren said. McKinnon’s voice was perfect, and she captured the disbelief in the “uh-huh,” but she missed what Warren’s tightened jaw reveals: not tension but an elemental fury. Warren is trying to persuade a country that accepts some, but not enough, of her premises, that we are not drifting but being held hostage—and that the villains are the ones she has spotted. There is not as much Tracy Flick in Warren as there is in her public image. There is more Chautauqua.”

Ah, I see. Well, you find your heroes where you can.


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