Spellings Goes To The Lion’s Den

They say the best defense is a good offense, and Secretary Spellings seems to believe it. In the course of a conversation this morning about a range of matters she made clear that she sees tomorrow’s student loan hearing as a chance to clear the air, start a conversation about some remedies for problems with the student loan industry, and move on. “I have a great story to tell and am anxious to get up there and tell it” she told me.

Spellings is dead serious about wanting the No Child Left Behind law reauthorized this year and doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Her view is that Thursday is May 10, and on May 11 she and congressional leaders — especially committee chairs Senator Kennedy and Congressman Miller — need to get back to work on NCLB. “I’ve enjoyed a productive and collegial relationship with Kennedy and Miller” she said, saying she sees no reason why this issue should change that.

In particular she apparently will argue that the student loan process is “Byzantine” and that while she’s tried, in particular through negotiated rulemaking, to address some problems, more needs to be done. She sees Congress as partly responsible for the current problem and will urge them to take some action. She’s hardly all wrong but it’s an awkward defense (or calculated gamble) because Republicans in Congress bear the lions share of responsibility on those policies.

The real problem she faces though is that the drumbeat keeps growing louder. This is less about the specifics of policy than the political death spiral the administration seems to be in on multiple fronts. Democrats may be having some struggles, but the administration’s are more pronounced and obvious to the average person. So sure, both Reading First and the student loan mess are in their own ways Byzantine, too, and I doubt many people outside education understand either scandal. But they do fit an unfortunate pattern with this administration that extends far beyond education and that people do “get.” So while Spellings wants to clear the air and move on, excuse the mixed metaphor but there is a lot of blood in the water. In fact, I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that some Democratic back-benchers start calling for her resignation before long.* So, while the sun will rise on the 11th, it’s never a completely new day in the current political environment.

In the meantime, if you want to see some political theatrics and an important discussion, check out the hearing tomorrow morning.

*Of course, in its own way that’s not so bad. You’re a nobody in this administration if you haven’t had your resignation called for…

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