Speculation regarding which San Diegans are in and which are out in the dawning age of Donald Trump's Washington is well underway, with strong opinions by Forbes contributor Tim Worstall about the accelerated status of San Diego's ex–controlled-growth mayoral candidate Peter Navarro, and news from Bloomberg that Duncan Hunter — most famous here for dipping into his campaign kitty for personal expenses — may be in the running for Secretary of Defense.
"The one appointment that I am going to be really looking out for is whether Peter Navarro gets a senior job or not," writes Worstall in Forbes.
"Navarro is the economist who seems to have informed Trump’s views on trade and the problem with this is that Navarro is simply wrong on trade. I don’t say wrong in the sense that I don’t like his views, or that he leans the wrong way on some arguable points, but in the sense that he is simply flat out wrong in his analysis of how trade works and why we do it. He is, in the worst possible manner, a reversion to the misunderstandings of the 18th century on the subject. "
Meanwhile, the Voice of San Diego, a local online news-and-opinion operation, reported two days after the election that longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton friend and backer Alan Bersin — seen as a likely DC casualty of the Trump revolution — recently received a worshipful welcome back at San Diego's Gompers Preparatory Academy charter high school, financially supported by Voice founder, charter-school advocate, and Bersin pal Buzz Woolley.
"A month into the school year, Gompers’ honor roll students got a visit from a very special speaker: Former superintendent Alan Bersin," says the story.
"Students sat in reverent silence as Bersin walked down the auditorium aisle and onto the stage.... For Gompers students, he’s the one who made their school possible."
Adds the piece, "To Bersin, giving parents options of which schools to send their kids was one way to increase competition — and competition makes both sides stronger."
Whether the flattering write-up portends Bersin's revival of his long-ago big-money political war against a bevy of critics who questioned his educational philosophy and tactics remains to be seen, but local wags can only hope.
Bill and Hillary at Yale Law School in 1973
Now 70, the perennially polarizing Bersin first parachuted into San Diego's political scene in 1992 as the recently acquired spouse of Lisa Foster, heir to the Ratner family garment-making fortune.
The power couple had lawyered in Los Angeles before heading south to Foster's home town to run the incipient presidential campaign of Democrat Bill Clinton, a friend of Bersin's since their 1968 Rhodes scholar days. Bersin subsequently entered Yale Law School, where his first wife was Hillary Clinton's roommate.
Lisa Foster was the daughter of Stanley E. Foster, who himself had married into San Diego's wealthy Ratner family almost 50 years earlier.
Foster's father Stan, a county Democratic kingpin, helped arrange for the future school superintendent to teach at the University of San Diego, drawing skepticism from the Republican San Diego Union.
"Bersin carries the carpetbagger tag,” wrote the paper's columnist Tom Blair. "Still a partner in an L.A. firm, he’s been here only eight months while teaching one class at USD.”
Following Bill Clinton's 1992 victory, Bersin was named by the new president as U.S. Attorney in San Diego, and in 1995 he was also given the title of national border czar by Attorney General Janet Reno. His attempts to get tough with illegal border-crossers drew more controversy than results.
In February 1998, after touting an ultimately failed border-crossing proposal not far from some Foster family real estate, he left the Justice Department on his way to becoming superintendent of San Diego Unified School District with the backing of the chamber of commerce and other downtown establishment interests, eager to develop the school district’s unused real estate.
After a tumultuous tenure at the school district — fueled by big-money political backing from charter-school champion and Los Angeles Democratic billionaire Eli Broad, ex–Padres owner John Moores, and Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs — Bersin moved on to become GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's state education secretary.
He was subsequently picked by Democratic president Barack Obama as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, only to to be forced from that office at the end of 2011 after the Senate failed to confirm his March 2010 recess appointment.
Bersin has since held several other Obama administration patronage posts in the Department of Homeland Security; for now he is Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy.
A former superior court judge here, Bersin's wife Lisa Foster currently also has an Obama patronage gig, in her case as director of the Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice.