California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was on the shortlist for presumptive President-elect Joe Biden’s attorney general pick. He will, alas, have to settle for the nod to head up the Department of Health and Human Services.
Becerra, who became nationally known via Obamacare litigation, was described by The New York Times as “California’s Anti-Trump Attack Dog.”
Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton, in an interview with Fox News Radio, derided him as “just a lifelong politician” who’s “going to be Joe Biden’s nationwide lockdown enforcer.”
None of this is untrue. Which made it curious that Biden mispronounced Becerra’s name and botched the name of the department he was nominating him to lead.
Announcing his COVID-19 team on Tuesday, the former vice president introduced the California attorney general as Xavier “Baccharia” and said he was going to be the secretary of “Health and Education Services.”
Biden would correct himself several moments later. However, after a presidential campaign where mildly divergent pronunciations of the name of Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, were treated as signs of subconscious racism, the fact the presumptive president-elect is mangling the last name of one of America’s best-known Latino politicians ought to have gotten more air than it did — particularly given Becerra isn’t a great fit for HHS. (Or the imaginary Department of Health and Education Services.)
Becerra was the first person introduced by Biden at the media rollout of the “members of my COVID team … who will lead the way.” His description of Becerra, strikingly, didn’t much mention COVID.
“Xavier spent a career fighting to expand access to health care, reducing racial health disparities, protecting the Affordable Care Act and take on powerful special interests who prey on, profit off of people’s health from opioid manufacturers to Big Tobacco,” Biden said. “During this pandemic, he’ll protect the safety of the frontline health care workers, rooted out the fraud from the bad actors to take advantage of people.
“And he stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgages during this devastating economic crisis. There are things he’s already fought for and accomplished in many cases. And as secretary, HHS secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and the FDA, Medicare and Medicaid.
“No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he’ll lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act. He’ll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care and prescription drug costs.
“Xavier is a key leader who leads a key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people. He’s also the first Latino leading the HHS. The son of a working family class, working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico, a true public servant who’s dedicated his career to the service of the people and the service of this country that we all love.”
I understand Big Tobacco isn’t particularly popular unless you’re Don Draper, but I think we’d all agree that if Joe Camel somehow made a comeback in the next six months, we’d be better off ignoring him until we have other things under control.
The pandemic doesn’t get mentioned, meanwhile, until a long checklist of DemocratWords™ get rattled off. (“Affordable Care Act,” “racial disparities,” “access to health care,” “special interests,” “opioid manufacturers.”)
There’s a reason for this: Becerra doesn’t have much substantive experience in public health policy.
“He’s unqualified,” said Cotton, speaking to Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson after the pick was announced.
“He’s just a lifelong politician. He has no background in public health or the pharmaceutical industry about being a health care leader at a time when we’re facing a major pandemic and about to try to distribute a vaccine faster than any time we’ve ever done.
“What he does have a record of is being a partisan culture warrior.”
Even The New York Times admitted the pick was a surprise, and not one well-met: “Mr. Becerra, one of the country’s best-known Latino politicians, is again surprising people. Some of the medical experts who had urged Mr. Biden’s team to name someone with public health expertise were ‘astounded’ at Mr. Becerra’s nomination, one of them said.”
But don’t worry, no need to be astounded: The Times vouchsafed that “longtime supporters and old friends in California said Mr. Becerra was perfectly suited to a job that required not only an ability to lead a large organization but also an intimate knowledge of how badly many Americans, particularly essential workers, have suffered under the current administration’s policies on health insurance and the pandemic.”
Don’t ask for evidence of this, though. Here’s the best quote The Times could manage, from former California Gov. Jerry Brown:
“He’ll be all-in because he is so committed. Not just to the Affordable Care Act, but to health care and equity in general. And he knows his way around Washington.”
This could be said about nearly any prominent Democrat, and it’s not a superlative that relates how the person is uniquely capable of handling the pandemic.
Or perhaps it was never about that.
Becerra has brought about 100 lawsuits to preserve various parts of Obamacare — and, when he has inserted himself into health care-related matters, it’s not just the squishy parts that play well with undecided voters.
“He celebrated when Barack Obama sued nuns to try to force them to pay for birth control,” Cotton told Fox News Radio.
“He, in California, has sued crisis pregnancy centers to try to make them advertise for abortion — diametrically opposed their own mission. You know, when pro-life activists exposed Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of dismembered infants, he didn’t go after Planned Parenthood for that gruesome practice. He went after the pro-life activists for exposing it.
“He obviously supports ‘Medicare for all’ — take away your health insurance on the job. So he’ll use his power over Medicare and Medicaid and Obamacare and other federal health programs to try to get that camel’s nose under the tent.”
That’s quite a resumé for the Democrats, if not for an America reeling from the pandemic.
Unfortunately, while Biden may have botched Becerra’s surname, one gets the feeling — from his perspective, anyway — that he didn’t botch the pick.
Just in case you’re curious, the frontrunner for the attorney general pick at this hour is outgoing Alabama Democrat Sen. Doug Jones, according to NBC News.
Jones’ recent career includes winning a Senate seat because his opponent was accused of sexual improprieties with underage girls and losing that same seat by 20 points just a few years later, doing absolutely nothing of note in the interim.
You suspect he’s the favorite, however, because Biden will have some difficulty mangling that one.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.