On a list of cabinet prospects that Donald Trump filled with unfit pretenders to power, Andrew Puzder was always in contention for the “worst of the worst” title. So it should not come as a total surprise that, on Wednesday, Puzder’s nomination to serve as secretary of labor collapsed in spectacular fashion, at an especially bad time for the Trump administration.
From the day Puzder was nominated, it was clear that the fast-food CEO was an awful choice to fill the position that former labor secretary Frances Perkins argued should serve “the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen” (and working women) of America. Organized labor had every reason to oppose Puzder, as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained when he said of the nominee, “He’s railed against increasing the minimum wage and expanding overtime. He’s shortchanged workers at his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants and even refused to pay managers overtime they earned. He’s talked about replacing working people with machines.”
But it was not just policy disagreements that tripped up Trump’s scandal-plagued pick. Puzder, like so many CEOs who stumble when they leave the cloistered confines of their corporate sinecures, could not stand scrutiny. “Puzder, the CEO of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains, has seen his hearings delayed multiple times because he failed to fill out required financial and ethics forms, and he has been under fire for his policy positions [such as opposing a minimum wage increase], his history of sexist statements and for hiring an undocumented immigrant to work as his housekeeper,” an NBC News report explained this week. “But another aspect of Puzder’s history—involving 30-year-old allegations of domestic abuse against his ex-wife—has begun to take center stage, and that scandal has engulfed an unlikely person—talk show icon and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.”
When Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren went to the floor of the Senate Wednesday, she acknowledged that she would probably have concerns about any Trump nominee for the labor post. But she said of the Puzder nomination, “this is different.” Puzder said Warren, is literally “the opposite of what we need in a labor secretary.”
She was right.
But many of Trump’s picks—Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions—are literally the opposite of what America needs in their positions. What derailed Puzder? Why did his nomination unravel Wednesday? And how should that unraveling be put in perspective at a point when—with the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and indications that the Congress might finally begin to take its oversight responsibilities seriously—there is mounting evidence that the wheels are coming off the Trump train.