Jacques: The left has an intolerance problem

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

It’s a good thing that not much frightens Betsy DeVos.

She told me just that when I interviewed her earlier this month in Washington, D.C., on her first official day as secretary of education.

The partisan firestorm that surrounded her nomination hasn’t slowed down since her confirmation. And it’s not likely to end anytime soon.

It’s so uncivil that the U.S. Marshals Service is providing security for DeVos, which is typically not done for cabinet members and unprecedented for an education secretary. In her first week on the job, protesters blocked DeVos from entering a public school in D.C., and one protester reportedly pushed the secretary.

Many Americans never paid that much attention to who was the top school chief before DeVos. It’s somewhat ironic that all the hatred spewed at her is fueled by those on the left, who purport to stand for tolerance and inclusion. DeVos’ opponents have taken every opportunity to twist her words and to paint her as an incompetent billionaire who wants to undermine public schools.

Take for instance the uproar after one comment she made at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Thursday. She made a joke about how she’d told Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Then all hell broke loose that she was somehow making fun of poor children who participate in public schools’ free and reduced cost lunch programs. Have we become such an overly sensitive society that even common idioms are deemed offensive?

DeVos was referring to a comment she made to Sanders regarding his “free” college tuition plan during her confirmation hearing. She told him that “nothing in life is truly free.” That’s true, by the way.

And for those who may not know, DeVos has devoted decades to helping poor children around the country have access to a better school.

Now that the Trump administration has reversed President Obama’s guidelines for transgender students and will let states decide their own standards, DeVos is taking the brunt of that action, too. She has clearly stated that the department under her watch will protect the rights of all students, including LGBTQ youth, and defend against bullying and harassment.

It would be refreshing if her liberal opponents would do the same.