Puzder schmuzder, labor schmabor

Following yesterday’s withdrawal, President Trump announces new pick for Secretary of Labor—and a whole bunch of other unrelated stuff

Since December, President Trump’s pick for labor secretary, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, has been a questionable contender for the job. Facing widespread opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress, labor unions, and progressive advocacy groups, Puzder withdrew his nomination on Wednesday—one day shy of his scheduled Senate confirmation hearing.

It’s hard to say which aspect of Puzder’s professional and personal profile did him in: his resistance to minimum-wage increases and overtime pay, his take on the series of sexy (or sexist, depending on your POV) bikini-burger-and-Bentley ads for the Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain he heads (you may remember he said of those ads: “there’s probably nothing more American”), or the release earlier this week of records from his 1988 divorce, in which allegations—that were later recanted—by his ex-wife of spousal abuse sunk into the collective consciousness.

“Puzder’s withdrawal shows the power of progressive advocates working together across issues.”

In case this drama doesn’t feel to you quite dingy enough, a 1990 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” (elegantly titled “High Class Battered Women”) in which Puzder’s ex-wife appears in disguise to discuss the details of her allegations, may also have played a role in his demise. But as both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported Thursday morning, it seems more likely Puzder’s admission that he had at one time employed an undocumented housekeeper may have been what finally sealed the deal for lawmakers still uncomfortable with the irony of these revelations, given the department he’d be heading: Labor.

Meanwhile, progressive advocacy groups are poised to take a portion of the credit for Puzder’s withdrawal. Dania Rajendra, extension faculty at the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, said in a statement issued Thursday by the Cornell media relations office, “Puzder’s withdrawal shows the power of progressive advocates working together across issues—women’s rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, among others—in ways that reflect workers’ lived realities. The lack of support for someone as unfit for public service as Puzder shows that the vast majority of people in the United States, including Trump voters, want every workplace to be safe, healthy, and provide a family-sustaining living.”

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, Mr. Trump announced his replacement for Puzder: Alexander Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and current dean of Florida International University’s law school. We learned little else about Acosta beyond his CV bullet points: former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito, and, according to Mr. Trump, “a very good student” at Harvard Law School.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time, has done what we’ve done.”

The president also offered a progress report directly “to the American people, with the media present—it’s an honor to have you…” on “the tremendous surge of optimism in the business world,” a development he said was “good for jobs.” He followed that with this assessment: “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time, has done what we’ve done.” As for any discussion of what we might expect from Acosta (the purported reason for the press conference), Mr. Trump merely said, “we’re going to take care of it, folks.”

So. Acosta. Wages, immigration, overtime pay. Who knows about all that? Here’s what we do know: “we’ve withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” “we’ve directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing, and called for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure,” which means, he said, “plants, equipment, roads, bridges, factories…”

Meanwhile, Ford has, according to Mr. Trump, pulled out of Mexico in favor of Michigan and Walmart will create 10,000 jobs this year because of “our various plans.”

We also know, courtesy of this press conference, what the president thinks of ISIS, his certainty that he’ll be able to negotiate a discount on the proposed border wall, and his “biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” We can again confirm his feeling that the media is “out of control” and “trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made and they’re not happy about it, for whatever reason.” Good talk. 

Kate Cox is The Counter's editor. She oversees partnerships and edits investigative, feature, and senior staff reporting. Prior to joining The Counter in 2015, Kate was a freelance reporter for radio and text, focused on health policy and the American age boom. She has written for The Guardian, The Nation, Huffington Post, and others. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she produced and reported a three-part radio documentary on the nation's first emergency shelter for victims of elder abuse.