President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of education nominee could have had a smoother hearing Tuesday evening.
And it wasn't just because Senate Democrats were ready to hammer Betsy DeVos for her support of taxpayer-funded vouchers for charter and private schools. She can also thank herself.
There were several moments in her hours-long hearing when DeVos appeared not to know the answers to basic questions — about how much money her family had donated to the Republican Party ($200 million is “possible”), about whether states should follow a federal disabilities law (“I may have confused it” with a state law), about a debate roiling the education community over whether to focus on students’ grade-level proficiency or on growth.
“This is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about that last question after DeVos stumbled with how to answer it. “But it surprises me that you don't know this issue.”
When DeVos had an answer to senators’ questions, she sometimes fumbled with how to explain it. DeVos backed up her argument that guns in schools should be “best left to locales and states to decide” because in rural schools like Wyoming, “I would imagine there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
And her back and forth with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on whether she supports equal accountability for all schools that receive taxpayer funding is something that . . . well, you should just watch it.
DeVos’s rocky performance isn’t likely to have jeopardized her nomination; she needs the support of only a simple majority to get approved by the Senate. Republicans have that — and there’s no sign that the GOP, even after some cringe-worthy moments from DeVos on Tuesday, is going to abandon her.