Just two days after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was shown the door at the Trump White House, the administration’s first cabinet casualty occurred when Labor secretary–designate Andy Puzder withdrew from consideration on the eve of his confirmation hearing.
The White House did not comment on Puzder’s withdrawal, and his statement offered no explanation. He said he was “honored” to have been considered, adding, “While I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team.”
Puzder apparently pulled out because his confirmation was in serious jeopardy for multiple reasons. He was always one of the more vulnerable Trump nominees because he did not just offend left-of-center people who thought it was perverse to name a notorious labor-law scofflaw to serve as the alleged defender of American workers. You did not, after all, have to be especially liberal to be irritated by the highly porcine series of Hardee’s–Carl’s Jr. ads featuring “beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis,” as the fast-food mogul lovingly put it.
When it came out recently that Puzder once employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper — a “mistake” that had sunk past cabinet nominees going back to the Clinton administration — his status grew even shakier. And then, just this week, senators were treated to clips of Puzder’s ex-wife alleging domestic abuse and threats of “revenge” on a 1990 Oprah Winfrey special (allegations she has since repudiated). Four Republican senators were not yet onboard with Puzder’s nomination yesterday; then two more — including leadership member John Thune — expressed reservations, while no Democrats were defecting to save him.
Perhaps the coup de grace today came from a most unexpected direction. The editors of the venerable conservative magazine National Review came out against Puzder’s confirmation on grounds that his past support for comprehensive immigration reform makes him an inappropriate cabinet member for Trump.
What makes that attack odd is that more vocally anti-immigration conservatives seems to have made their peace with Puzder. That wasn’t the case initially. The very day Trump announced his appointment, breitbart.com published a piece denouncing him for views “diametrically opposed to Trump’s signature issues on trade and immigration — which won him the election.” The author was — you guessed it — immigration obsessive Julia Hahn, who was soon to join former boss Stephen Bannon in the Trump White House.
Soon, however, Breitbart fell strangely silent about Puzder. Then in late January, the publication suddenly went strongly anti-anti-Puzder, with two Lee Stranahan pieces about the “desperate” opposition to the nominee from unions and other godless lefties. Nestled between them was a puffy endorsement of Puzder as an alleged equal-opportunity champion by conservative warhorse Allen Webster. The most recent Stranahan article gloried in Puzder’s sexist rep, crediting him with “a brilliant marketing campaign featuring ‘racy ads’ that the joyless brats on the left are now savaging him for.” Oink-oink.
All in all, it’s been a bad week for the Breitbartians. Fresh from being openly scolded by former chairman Stephen Bannon for spreading rumors that Trump loyalists were ready to dump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, now the fiery nativists have missed the boat entirely on an opportunity to purge an amnesty lover who was indeed on the road to Palookaville.
As for Puzder, he can now go back to his private-sector preoccupations of selling burgers, hassling workers, and debasing women.
This post was updated to include Puzder’s statement.