There hasn’t been anything lighthearted about 2020, and, thanks to the quirks of our electoral system and a heavy dose of foreign meddling, the three years before weren’t exactly carefree, either. But here we are, in December of 2020, and there’s (finally) plenty worth looking forward to on the horizon. Come January 20th, Trump appointees throughout the government will have to log off their computers, turn out the lights in their offices, and hand over their keys to the incoming Biden administration. (Can we arrange for a choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus as they do it? Because that’s what happens in my head every time I think of it.)
There are literally millions of us counting down the minutes. If you’d like to join us, go here. It’s very soothing—I promise.
But we’ve still got several weeks to get through before that happens, and ’tis the season of list-making and character evaluation, so we thought we’d spend a little time considering a few members of the Trump administration who we’ll be particularly glad to see the back of in a few weeks.
Not Donald Trump himself (because really, what’s left to say about him at this point? I’ve run out of synonyms for ‘contemptible.’). And not Ivanka, with her empty faux-women’s-empowerment initiatives. And not even Mike Pence, with his creepy rules about never being unchaperoned in the presence of women who aren’t his wife (whom, remember, he refers to as ‘Mother.’ <involuntary shudder>). No, we wanted to take a look at some of the lesser-known people who have been cheerfully going about the day-to-day work of stripping rights away from vulnerable people and making their lives harder. Their names aren’t in the news every day. You probably wouldn’t recognize them if you saw them on the street. But they deserve to be remembered.
They deserve, frankly, to have someone walk behind them for the rest of their lives ringing a bell and shouting “Shame! Shame!” Alas, that sort of thing went out of fashion a while back, so we’ll have to settle for the fact that the Internet is Forever and use that to make sure their deeds follow them all of their days.
So, five names, in no particular order of awfulness:
Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women’s Health, Office of Global Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
It says something bad about you if you went looking for a position in the Trump administration. It says something even worse if you stuck around for the whole four years. Huber, a long-time abstinence-only campaigner who spent more than a decade actively working to undermine comprehensive sex education programs around the country, not only stayed through the entire term—she moved up in the ranks, taking on progressively more influential positions throughout Trump’s term. She started out as chief of staff to the assistant HHS secretary before moving over to the Office of Global Affairs as a policy advisor. She’s wrapping up her time with Trump as the Special Representative for Global Women’s Health, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so very, very not hilarious at all.
Only a couple of months after she joined HHS, the agency cut funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program—an Obama-era program that supported evidence-based and comprehensive programs to help young people avoid unintended pregnancy. Huber was also temporarily in charge of the Title X program during a time when the Trump administration was de-emphasizing comprehensive contraceptive services in favor of “natural family planning.” And that’s just in the U.S. Once she pivoted to working on global issues, Huber got to work exporting her views, stripping references to sexual and reproductive health and rights from all HHS global materials.
Bethany Kozma, Deputy Chief of Staff at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Kozma, who is a longtime anti-transgender and anti-abortion activist, joined USAID in 2017 as a Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment. She has been part of the U.S. delegation to meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), where she distributed talking points to other U.S. delegates that were taken directly from a fringe right-wing group, instructing delegates to avoid all mentions of “sexual and reproductive health” in their statements. Kozma is also the U.S. official who is reported to have told a closed-door session of international diplomats that the U.S. is “a pro-life nation.”
Peter Berkowitz, Director of Policy Planning at U.S. Department of State, Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Executive Secretary of Commission on Unalienable Rights
Berkowitz, a conservative ideologue and longtime fellow at the conservative think tank The Hoover Institute, joined the Trump administration in 2019. He heads up the Commission on Unalienable Rights, a State Department initiative seemingly designed specifically to narrow the definition of human rights to exclude any mention of sexual or reproductive health and rights. His disdain for reproductive freedom is nothing new, however. Writing about abortion access and the role of the courts in 2005, Berkowitz said, “The problem is rather that the culture of freedom gives rise to a tension between the sanctity of individual choice and the sanctity of human life. And there is reason to worry that the more we elevate choice, the more we weaken our ability to maintain a moral climate…”
Alma Golden, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health, USAID
Like Valerie Huber, Alma Golden got into the Trump administration early and has risen through the ranks. She began her work in 2017 as the Executive Director of USAID’s Global Development Lab before moving over to the Bureau for Global Health. According to watchdog group Equity Forward, “Golden is essentially responsible for the United States’ global health initiatives. Under the Trump administration, these initiatives have proven characterized by a dangerous reproductive health agenda that has removed gender-inclusive language from official United Nations documents, reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, withdrawn from the World Health Organization, and overall implemented an anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ agenda both domestically and abroad.”
Diane Foley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, HHS
Foley was appointed to her position in May of 2018, which put her in charge of the Title X program at HHS—including giving her the final say on which providers are eligible for funding through the program.
Before joining the Trump administration, she was the president and CEO of Life Network, an anti-choice group that promotes abstinence only programs for middle and high schoolers and also runs a network of “crisis pregnancy centers” in Colorado. Those are the same sorts of centers that are now getting Title X funding, after the program’s guidelines were modified to remove the requirement that grantees actually offer the full range of contraceptive services.
Foley has compared abortion to slavery, to the Holocaust, and called it a direct attack on God’s creation. She also embraces a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense to argue against abortion rights, including insisting, despite evidence to the contrary, that abortion has harmful mental health consequences. And, if you needed any additional reasons to find her completely ridiculous, consider this: She has attempted to co-opt the language of empowerment by arguing that demonstrations in sex ed classes of how to use a condom could be construed as sexual harassment.
Huber, Kozma, Berkowitz, Golden, and Foley: five names that ought to be on Santa’s “naughty” list. They’re far from the only ones in the Trump administration who have done irreparable harm in their roles (remember this guy?). They’re just a few examples of the kind of folks who happen to still be hanging around as we count down the Trump administration’s final days (seriously: really, really soothing). All five are set to give all of us a welcome—if somewhat belated—gift on January 21st: the serene and supremely satisfying knowledge that they’re out of a job.