Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said they wouldn’t vote for any non-diverse — i.e., white male — presidential nominees until they were convinced more non-white people would be chosen. They soon dropped their threat after receiving word a “senior level” liaison to the Asian-Pacific Islander community had been appointed.
Once you agree to the principle that the most important consideration in filling the approximately 1,250 federal jobs that need Senate approval is the race or sexual orientation of the prospective nominee, considerations of merit will always be secondary. As we’re learning, however, even some nominations that should appear to satisfy both the needs of diversity and competence aren’t what they seem.
Dr. Rachel Levine, the country’s new assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, isn’t proof of acceptance of transgender persons so much as that failing upward is possible if you punch the right identity politics ticket. On Mar. 24, Levine became the first transgender person ever to be confirmed to a federal post by the U.S. Senate by a 52-48 vote that saw Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, joining Democrats to prioritize identity politics above competence.
While Levine’s nomination was hailed by leftists as evidence Biden’s administration would be the most “diverse” in history, the tone of the confirmation debate was different. Instead of talking about how proud we should all be that a person believing he was born into the wrong sex can be named a high-ranking federal official, Levine’s supporters emphasized his medical qualifications.
A graduate of Harvard and Tulane Medical School, Levine completed a residency in pediatrics and fellowship in adolescent medicine at the prestigious Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, then went on to a fellowship in pediatrics at the same institution. Next, Levine led the adolescent medicine and eating disorders clinic at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. In 2015, Levine was named Pennsylvania physician general by Gov. Tom Wolf, becoming the state’s health secretary in 2017.
Instead of being irrefutable evidence for Levine’s qualifications, what happened in the Keystone state in 2020 illustrates that there is no justification for this appointment except as another attempt by Biden to prove to the left flank of his party that he values diversity over competence.
Levine skated through five years in state government without much controversy while being celebrated as an LGBT hero and getting adoring coverage from corporate media outlets. Once the spread of COVID-19 put the spotlight on Levine, however, it quickly became clear that, far from being a medical or administrative genius, Levine was just another Democrat bureaucrat using the pandemic to seize powers.
In concert with Wolf, Levine assisted in implementing far-reaching lockdowns that, as the evidence from states like Florida demonstrates, did little good and much harm. He also presided over a slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines that delayed vaccinations in the state, leaving it with one of the worst records in the country.
Levine was also guilty of several blunders committed by other blue state governments — most notably New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo — when Pennsylvania’s nursing homes were required to take recovering coronavirus patients back into their institutions. As late as June of last year, Levine defended the decision in much the same manner that Cuomo did, by trying to fob off responsibility to the Centers for Disease Control in Washington.
All told, more than 10,000 of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 victims died in nursing homes while Levine was the state’s health secretary. Equally damning, however, is that much of the data about the nursing home deaths in Pennsylvania that should have been forthcoming from the state’s health department is missing. Indeed, from this it’s reasonable to surmise that the toll of deaths may well be greater than Levine and Wolf have admitted and that a Cuomo-style cover-up may be behind the problem.
Two other factors make Levine’s role in this human disaster even more culpable. Levine was no politician or medical amateur, but an experienced health professional who should have known the nursing home order was a death sentence for many of the patients in these institutions.
Worse, at the height of the pandemic last May, Levine’s own 95-year-old mother was whisked out of a nursing home to safety elsewhere. Levine blamed his mother’s preference for the decision and the event was dismissed by left-wing media enablers as merely a case of “bad optics.” Instead, it is evidence that Levine knew those in nursing homes were at risk. Using that insider knowledge, Levine took advantage of an opportunity other Pennsylvanians didn’t have.
Levine should have been called before the bar of justice to account for what is, at best, a case of criminal negligence. Instead, for the past few months, Levine’s reputation was burnished by left-wing outlets trumpeting the nomination as proof of the Democratic Party’s enlightened views about transgendered persons.
Sen. Rand Paul, also a doctor, grilled Levine for supporting dangerous treatments for minors identifying as transgender that would delay them going through what the nominee called “the wrong puberty.” Indeed, Levine has advocated for allowing persons who are below the age of sexual consent to get hormone blockers and genital mutilation causing irreversible damage. Levine stonewalled the senator’s questions while corporate media blasted Paul for being bigoted.
Levine’s culpability in the deaths of many thousands of elderly Pennsylvanians should have rendered the doctor unfit for office. Rather than Levine’s transgender status being incidental to the appointment, it’s easy to see it’s not merely the reason the doctor was tapped for the appointment out of all the health officials in the country but is also the only thing that protected Levine from his awful conduct as health secretary in Pennsylvania.
Most Americans have a libertarian streak and don’t care about Levine’s pronouns, lifestyle, or choice in attire. Being transgender shouldn’t bar one from office, but neither should it be a reason to give an incompetent and corrupt medical official a job.
Unfortunately, rather than pull the nomination back as Levine’s COVID-19 record was reported, Biden doubled down. Along with support from Biden, 50 Democrats and two Republicans were more fearful of being falsely accused of prejudice than in holding Levine accountable.
Amid the COVID-19 panic, the country needed Biden to appoint people to lead HHS with records of competence, not a scandal-plagued diversity pick. But in Rachel Levine, that’s exactly what he chose.