It’s very easy to be cynical these days. Almost on a daily basis, we read about people being appointed to head federal departments and agencies who we know to be fundamentally opposed to the mission of the department or agency they will be heading. Cases in point: Scott Pruett at the EPA, Betsy DeVos in the Department of Education, Ben Carson at HUD and … Need I go on?
Now stepping into the spotlight is Joe Gruters, President Trump’s nominee to the Amtrak Board of Directors. Gruters is prominent in Florida’s Republican Party and currently serves in the Florida Legislature. He was twice appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the Board of Trustees of Florida State University and by the sheerest of coincidences, he was co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Florida.
At confirmation hearings in Washington for the Amtrak appointment, Gruters basically said all the right stuff. Responding to a question from Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, about restoration of rail service between New Orleans and Orlando, Gruters said “. . . you have my commitment to working with you and your team to do everything we can in a reasonable way to make this work.”
In those same hearings, Gruters was invited by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi to take a ride with him on the City of New Orleans, and he heard statements of concern for the fate of the Southwest Chief from Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Of course—like you, I’m sure—I noted Gruters’ weasel words about doing everything possible “in a reasonable way“ to restore NOR-ORL passenger service. But you know what I found interesting if not actually encouraging? Senators Wicker, Moran and Gardner are all Republicans.