This week has demonstrated how Washington politics has long been plagued by the careful use of plausible deniability and the non-answer answer. The top U.S. intelligence chiefs made good use of both evasive tactics during their appearances before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. The hearing turned out to be a tight lipped and contentious affair during which Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, and his colleagues sat smugly — and giggly at times — while openly mocking the oversight process with impunity.
A day earlier, Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, fielded questions from the Senate Appropriations Committee and stonewalled senators with similar and equally evasive, though more ignorant, responses. Of significant importance, her refusal to give direct answers as to whether she would allow private schools to discriminate against LGBTQ and disabled students in voucher programs.
Comey-Trump Showdown Today
A preview of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony was released on Wednesday. The memo read like talking points of the issues that Comey will likely elaborate on during his session on Capitol Hill. However, the preview represented more than just the general scope of his testimony: some analysts suggested it late Wednesday that Comey’s preview was a tactical move that could preempt Trump’s ability to invoke executive privilege.
As Comey takes his place on the world stage today, Americans across the nation should pay close attention. At stake are the country’s credibility, status, and position on a global scale. The devolution and implosion of the Trump administration in such a scant span of time has the potential to bring America to its lowest point in history. Comey’s testimony transcends partisan politics as a patriotic response to national crisis.
Surely, moving forward, no republican or democrat intends to encourage the demise of 240 years of independent free democracy for sake of a party pin or bumper sticker.
Let us hope this historic day, that James Comey will find the strength and courage to do what is moral, honest, and necessary. Despite the poor example set this week by the nation’s intelligence and education chiefs, Comey has a unique and honorable opportunity to restore much needed integrity to our system of government.
The longer the present crisis drags on, the longer America will stagnate. When Comey takes the stand today, he will be one voice, but he will be speaking for every American. He will be speaking for the future of a nation.
DeVos did not merely refuse to answer on the issue of discrimination once, or twice…DeVos responded 14 times with a canned response about federal law. Regrettably, DeVos’ refusal to denounce discrimination of any kind in any school demonstrates the Trump administration’s continuing assault on the needy, less fortunate, and disadvantaged.
According to BetsyDeVos.com (published by the Windquest Group), in education DeVos is “a pioneer in fighting to remove barriers, to enact change and to create environments where people have the opportunity to thrive” — unless those people are LGBTQ or disabled children. The problem with DeVos’ uncertainty about LGBTQ (and disabled) students’ rights to be protected from discrimination is that official discrimination in one instance can lead to discrimination in a subsequent instance.
How is DeVos a pioneer in refusing to affirm that her department — responsible for the education of over 50 million students — would ensure across the board equality for each of them regardless of disability or label? Betsy DeVos calling herself a pioneer is like the Trump family calling themselves philanthropists while stealing money from kids with cancer.
In December 2016, the international NGO Human Rights Watch released a study of issues facing American LGBTQ students. The 106-page report detailed LGBTQ student experiences and the daily obstacles they encounter. Beyond the typical difficulties of school confronted by all children, Human Rights Watch noted the hostile environments that exist in public schools and the verbal harassment that LGBTQ students endure. In more severe instances, students face physical bullying. All of these may hamper a successful education.
According to a second national civil rights and political advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, 92% of LGBTQ youth report hearing negative messages about their sexual/gender identity. Most of these messages originate in the school setting, which may contribute to apathetic feelings about school, attendance, and education as a whole.
There is no doubt that a problem facing many schools and educators right now surrounds Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. A portion of the federal law specifically provides in part that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The phrase “on the basis of sex” has been the lynchpin for many questions regarding education policy as it relates to the LGBTQ community. Under the Obama administration, an executive letter suggested that Title IX’s provisions encompassed a student’s gender identity and urged educational institutions to adopt that interpretation. That policy was heralded as a significant step forward for LGBTQ students.
However, since taking office, Trump has been rolling back policies — especially those of an African-American predecessor with a Muslim sounding name — in almost every department of the federal government. As a Trump loyalist first, and an educator second, Betsy DeVos’ difficulty in answering a simple question about discrimination demonstrates yet another example of Trump’s personal bigoted agenda.
While America’s democratic leaders have a duty to represent a nation of many, their stewardship of those least able to speak and those most oppressed are direct measures of our democracy’s success and merit. This week is a low point for everyone as America’s leaders were on public display to demonstrate to the world the current administration’s pronounced lack of both intelligence and education.