I’ll be honest. I don’t know quite what to make of the bizarre story that’s bubbling about Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, and his ex-wife Lisa Fierstein. Washington Monthly contributing editor Timothy Noah has an excellent piece on the matter in Politico, and I recommend that you read the whole thing.
Here’s a taste:
The ex-wife of President Donald Trump’s labor secretary nominee told “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that he “vowed revenge” when she made public spousal abuse allegations, according to a 1990 tape reviewed by POLITICO on Tuesday night…
…During the episode, titled “High Class Battered Women,” Lisa Fierstein, Puzder’s ex-wife, said he told her, “’I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.” Fierstein also said she called the police on him.
Fierstein divorced Puzder in 1987. Eight months after appearing on “Oprah,” she retracted her allegations of domestic abuse as part of a child custody agreement. She said repeatedly thereafter that the allegations were a tactic to gain leverage in her divorce.
I’m not in any position to know the truth here, but it’s definitely troubling information. And I found it curious that in the process of recommending that Puzder not be confirmed, National Review‘s editorial board somehow failed to mention even once that members of the Senate HELP committee overseeing the nomination have been viewing a tape of this old Oprah show.
Rich Lowry, National Review‘s editor who presumably had a hand in the piece, manages to praise Puzder for his opposition to raising the minimum wage and overall hostility to organized labor but says that alone isn’t enough to support him because of Puzder’s pro-immigration record.
We have our disagreements with President Trump’s economics, but the emphasis on the interests of lower-income workers who are in competition with immigrant labor is important. Trump should find a labor secretary who agrees with it and can be trusted to try to vigorously effect policies reflecting it. Surely this is a job that some American besides Andy Puzder is willing to do.
The article notes that Puzder has a nanny problem, the familiar one where you hire an undocumented worker to clean your house or look after your kids but you don’t pay their payroll taxes. But he never acknowledges that Puzder’s ex-wife once said he “assaulted and battered me by striking me violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders and neck, without provocation or cause,” leaving “bruises and contusions to the chest, back, shoulders and neck” and “two ruptured discs and two bulging discs,” among other injuries.
National Review doesn’t wonder why Lisa Fierstein agreed to appear on the Oprah program but did so “in disguise, wearing large sunglasses and a wig and using an assumed name, ‘Ann.’”
I’m pretty sure some of the Republicans on the HELP committee are wondering about these things though, because they’ve watched the program and four of them “have expressed reservations about his nomination.”
Needless to say, Puzder can’t afford to lose four GOP votes on the HELP Committee. He can’t even lose one and still get the committee’s recommendation on the full Senate floor. If he loses two, his nomination is sunk.
Of course, these doubting Republicans could pull the stunt where they personally oppose the nomination but still vote for it in committee in order to give Puzder an “up or down” vote. But Puzder can’t afford to lose more than two Republican votes in the full Senate.
Lowry’s non-endorsement probably doesn’t help him, although the National Review isn’t exactly on the upswing in the influence department after having gone all-in against Trump.
[ED NOTE: There are many reports now that Puzder plans to withdraw his name. I’m just waiting for confirmation]
It’s just telling to me that National Review could simply omit any reference to the spousal abuse claims, even if only to dismiss them as old and disavowed news.
It seems like something that ought to be investigated a little deeper. If the truth can be determined, one way or the other, I think it would be helpful and prudent to find it.
On the other hand, we can all be clear that for Lowry and National Review, the most important thing is not to blur the very valuable message that Trump pits “the interests of lower-income workers” against “immigrant labor.”