clock menu more-arrow no yes

Vox Sentences: Betsy DeVos is officially Trump’s weakest Cabinet nominee

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Progressive activists almost — but probably not quite — manage to sink a Trump nominee; the actual reason Trump put Iran “on notice”; it's settlement season in Israel again.


Does DeVos have DeVotes?

Betsy DeVos Chip Somodevilla / Getty
  • Two Republican senators announced Wednesday that they will oppose Donald Trump's controversial pick for education secretary — a shocking defection that capped weeks of grassroots progressive organizing aimed at derailing her nomination. [Associated Press / Maria Danilova]
  • The senators — Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski — emphasized that DeVos's lack of familiarity with the public school system was a crucial factor in their decisions. (A billionaire, DeVos has devoted vast sums to bolstering charter schools as alternatives to the current public school system.) [The Washington Post / Valerie Strauss]
  • It's been a particularly easy line of attack for education experts, teachers unions, and Democrats to level against DeVos — who has never taught in or attended a public school, and sent all four of her children to private schools. [CNN / Kait Richmond]
  • It didn't help that DeVos appeared entirely ignorant of some of the most basic policy discussions in K-12 education policy at her committee hearing... [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • ...or that reporters discovered she had appeared to plagiarize the head of Obama's Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in her written responses to the Senate committee. [CNN / Dan Merica and Eugene Scott]
  • The Republican defections against DeVos encouraged progressive activists who saw their weeks-long blitz of holding protests and jamming phone lines as validated with concrete (and unexpected) results. [The Nation / John Nichols]
  • She's still projected to squeak through. As of late Wednesday night, 50 senators have said they'll support DeVos, and 50 have said they'll oppose her. If that vote count holds until next week, Vice President Mike Pence will get to cast the tie-breaking vote in her favor. [Politico / Burgess Everett and Kimberly Hefling]
  • And the rest of the Trump Cabinet appears to be safe. Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to close ranks around every other nominee — and on Wednesday, the GOP went so far as to change the Senate rules to put down Democrats' boycott against two Trump nominees. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • Even Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Russia and affinity for Vladimir Putin once seemed like a major political liability, was confirmed by the Senate on Friday — with the support of every Republican. [The New York Times / Gardiner Harris]

Iran has been put "on notice"

Michael Flynn Pool/Getty
  • On Wednesday, after the Islamic Republic confirmed it had executed a ballistic missile test over the weekend, President Trump’s administration said they were “officially putting Iran on notice." White House National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn threatened retaliation — without any specifications as to what measures would be taken. [The New York Times / Mark Landler and Thomas Erdbrink]
  • The White House has been aware of Iran’s test since Sunday, after American officials reported a medium-range ballistic missile explosion about 630 miles after launch in Semnan, east of Tehran. However, the report was not confirmed by Iran’s government until Wednesday. [Reuters / Idrees Ali]
  • The big question is whether Iran violated the terms of the "nuclear deal" it signed with the US and other powers in 2015, which states Iran cannot undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. [Vox / Max Fisher]
  • Since the UN Security Council endorsed the deal, a violation of it would be the UN's business — which is why the US convened an emergency UNSC meeting Tuesday to discuss the tests. [US News / Curt Mills]
  • Iran’s defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, unsurprisingly said Iran didn’t violate any international agreement. [Independent / Lizzie Dearden]
  • Trump, of course, has long been a critic of the Iran deal; on the campaign trail, he said he would "tear" it up. His administration isn't specifying when (or if) that will happen, but starting from square one could have major consequences. For one, getting Iran to the negotiating table the first time took a decade of executive and legislative action. [Foreign Policy / Eric B. Lorber]
  • And because the benefits of the deal for Iran were frontloaded, if Trump tears it up now, Iran still walks away with a lot of the monetary benefits and more freedom to pursue its defense agenda. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Because of these challenges, one Republican, Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, is arguing to just let Iran unravel the deal itself, by violating the agreement's core tenets. [Washington Post / Dan Sullivan]
  • The United States' threat of reprisals comes on the heels of Trump's executive order banning Iranian visa holders from entering the United States — to which the Iranian government responded by threatening to ban US travelers reciprocally. [Reuters / Parisa Hafezi and William Maclean]

More settlements in the West Bank

Lior Mizrahi/Getty
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced the establishment of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank Wednesday. The plans approved by Netanyahu include 2,500 homes in the West Bank and 566 units in East Jerusalem. [The New York Times / Ian Fisher and Isabel Kershner]
  • Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 Israeli police and soldiers took steps to clear out the illegal outpost of Amona, evacuating 40 families. (In 2014, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the outpost had been build on private Palestinian land and had to be demolished.) While the police were not carrying weapons, the process was not without struggle; the Jewish settlers refused to leave voluntarily, and activists set up barricades to slow the process.
  • [Washington Post / William Booth and Ruth Eglash]
  • It's probably not a coincidence that the new settlements were announced the same day that Amona (which had to be demolished by next week) was raided. Netanyahu is under political pressure from further-right factions of his coalition and settler constituents who oppose demolishing illegal outposts. Meanwhile, the Israeli parliament is also expected to vote to legalize other settlements built on private Palestinian land. [Guardian / Peter Beaumont]
  • The announcement to build an entirely new settlement comes one month after the United Nations condemned Israel’s settlement activity, reiterating it as a “flagrant violation” of international law and a hindrance to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The United States, under President Barack Obama, supported the UN’s stance — a position was unsurprisingly rebuked by current President Donald Trump. [Al Jazeera]
  • Settlements have expanded under every Israeli government for the past 50 years, even though, internationally, their existence is seen as an obstacle to peace in the region. [NPR / Greg Myre]
  • But those who live in the settlements see it as both a rightful possession of Jewish land and a move to better their quality of life: Many of the communities are more affordable, and have good schools, safe neighborhoods, and nice hilltop views. [Vox / Johnny Harris]

Miscellaneous

  • Biologists used to think cannibalism was an aberrant behavior. Now a consensus is developing that it's actually pretty common across thousands of species. [NYT / Bill Schutt]
  • Framing can be powerful: A study found that pitching universal health care as preventing "unclean, infected, and diseased Americans" was much more persuasive with conservatives than pitching it as a matter of fairness. [The Atlantic / Olga Khazan]
  • Want to amplify the impact of your charitable giving? Try joining a donor lottery. [Fast Company / Ben Paynter]
  • Rob Lowe's job requirements for his assistant are really … something. [The Billfold / Megan Reynolds]
  • New research suggests Amelia Earhart didn't die in a plane crash. She died as a castaway. [CNN / Karla Pequenino]

Verbatim

  • "This television makes me hiss in anger." [The Verge / Becky Molin]
  • "Watch your feeds constantly. Journal your thoughts. Keep a log of which news aggregators and pundits you trust. Print out suspicious White House Instagram posts on notecards, nail them to the wall of what used to be your kids’ room, and connect them with red yarn." [Medium / Patrick Blanchfield]
  • "I don’t mean to be pessimistic at all but, we’re looking for a cat who could literally be sitting in a tree right next to us." [Craig Saffoe to Washington Post / Michael Ruane and Dana Hedgpeth]
  • "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I notice." [Donald Trump, via Daniel Dale]
  • "Furthermore, 73% of Harvard students are virgins. Here are their names." [Harvard Crimsom]

Watch this: How should the media cover a White House that isn’t afraid to lie?

The Trump administration isn’t afraid to get caught lying. [YouTube / Carlos Maza and Coleman Lowndes]