In Confirmation Hearings, Contrast Favors the GOP

Everyone has been writing “why they lost” articles over the last few weeks, detailing their analysis of why the Democrats lost the presidency and continue to lose supporters in “real America.” I hesitate to do the same, but the recent Senate confirmation hearings for Trump Administration nominees provided just too juicy an opportunity to hit this theme once again.

In a word, Americans are tired. They are tired of hearing the same old, divide-and-conquer, spend-more-money, ineffective, non-solutions from the Democrats, and instead want leaders who are not afraid to take on the big issues that citizens fear are putting the future of the America we know and love at risk. They are also tired of political correctness, and the sniping and divisiveness that go along with PC’s requirement to pay homage to it at every opportunity. They are tired of Washington games and uncivil partisanship. The masses of “deplorables” are, therefore, tired of what formed the basis of the Democratic Party campaign in 2016, which was again on display during the confirmation hearings.

As a Republican, my advice to the Democrats is to keep at it. I like to win.

My hope is that Republicans will ignore the ridiculousness, focusing instead on the big issues and taking on the big challenges that we face by offering creative conservative policies that can actually work – even if the Democrats attack (which, of course, they will), or these solutions are “not the way we’ve always done it around here.”

Being a glutton for punishment I watched and/or listened to the full confirmation hearings or General Mattis (Secretary of Defense), Senator Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Congressman Mike Pompeo (CIA Director) and Mrs. Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education). I also listened to some of Dr. Ben Carson’s (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) hearing, though not all of it. While Republican Senators focused on ISIS, North Korea, Russia, China, Cyber Warfare, agency reform and other intractable issues, and acknowledged the benefit of creative and new strategies to address a poorly performing bureaucracy and improve governance going forward, Democrat Senators mostly talked about a nominee’s fealty (or non) to their version of global warming doctrine, made vague (and in the case of Senator Session, not so vague) insinuations of discrimination against LBGTQ citizens, women and minorities, dredged up political talking points and drifted into often unrelated vignettes designed only to illustrate their clear disdain for the President-Elect, the nominee, and Republicans in general. Several, notably but not only, Senators Franken (D-MN) and Warren (D-MA) attempted (unsuccessfully) to play a game of “gotcha,” while others tried to box the nominees into unwitting adherence to President Obama era policies, or alternatively to unwilling disagreement with the President-Elect. During Mrs. DeVos hearing (and less so during Dr. Carson’s) Democrat Senators aggressively (and rudely, IMHO) tried to protect the status quo while dismissing the nominees obviously distinguished careers, most especially Mrs. DeVos’ decades of dedication to education issues (albeit as an outsider to the “education establishment.”) Senator Warren even refused to shake Mrs. DeVos hand, as is customary, after the hearing. I won’t even wade into the disrespect shown Senator Sessions, which was off the chart.

Clearly I’m biased, but I thought the Democrats came off looking like doctrinaire, nasty scolds blocking any hint of change, and the Republican nominees, in contrast, looked like smart, talented and distinguished citizens who were resigned to the fact that, unfortunately, they had to put up with these antics so that they could get on with the job of helping America.

While it is difficult to summarize hours and hours of hearings into a few sentences, three exchanges encapsulated my general impression of the proceedings (these have been edited for length, but relate the core content of the exchanges. Transcripts are easily accessible.):

  1. Secretary of Defense Hearing:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “Do you believe that allowing LGBT Americans to serve in the military, or women in combat, is undermining our lethality?”

General Mattis: “Frankly Senator, I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

  1. CIA Director Hearing:

Senator Kamal Harris (D-CA): “[A]ccording to NASA, multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively published climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities….Do you have any reason to doubt NASA’s findings?”

Congressman Pompeo: “I frankly as a director of CIA would prefer today not to get into the details of climate debate and science. It seems my role is gonna be so different and unique from that. It is gonna be to work alongside warriors keeping Americans safe…”

  1. Secretary of Education Hearing:

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT): “Will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition-free through federal and state efforts?”

Mrs. DeVos: “I think that’s a really interesting idea, and it’s really great to consider and think about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that nothing in life is really free.”

Game. Set. Match.

These nominees will be confirmed. They will be confirmed because they are talented, successful people who were selected by the President-Elect to serve as change agents in a government that is failing its citizens. Casting themselves as destroyer-of-good-folks and protector-of-the-status-quo is bad strategy, but alas it seems the Democrats could not help themselves.

Donald Trump did not run, nor did he win, on a promise of protecting the status quo. He spoke often during the campaign about putting highly successful outsiders in charge of “Making America Great Again” and disparaged the idea that only people with long careers in government could be trusted to serve in leadership positions. In fact, according to Trump on the campaign trail, much of our nation’s trouble stems from our reliance on lifelong government-types who “didn’t know what the hell they were doing.” True to this belief he has reached out to talented and successful outsiders to come in and fix the federal bureaucracy, despite as-expected Democratic Party opposition.

Consider it a campaign promise kept.

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