On that selection, there is no cause for ambivalence at all — as NR’s editors as well as Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, and others have pointed out in recent days. Xavier Becerra has plenty of political experience — having served in the House for two decades and as California’s attorney general since 2017. And he’s an intelligent and able person by all accounts. But he is also a radical progressive social activist with essentially no experience in health care, public health, or human services and with very little experience with the department he has been nominated to run except for suing it to weaken religious-liberty protections extended over the past four years. On key issues relevant to his new job, he has spent these years as an egregious bully.
Even in normal times, when maybe there could be some kind of excuse for treating such an important job as a sop to the radical activist wing of the president’s party, Becerra would be an especially inflammatory choice. And these are not normal times. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and the secretary of HHS should be more experienced with the department and its work and with the issues involved, and should not be a figure who will enflame the kinds of fears that will undermine the trust of large swaths of the country in the government’s actions, guidance, and priorities.
Of course, a Democratic president is going to choose a social liberal to run HHS. But Becerra’s distinctly aggressive record, and his lack of other relevant experience to the job, should trouble Democrats as well as Republicans. As Ramesh notes today, a number of Democrats have indeed expressed surprise at the pick.