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Rachel Levine: Wanted or wanting?

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Power Line

Scott Johnson

Feb. 27 2021

Michael Halberstam was the older brother of the prominent journalist David Halberstam. By trade, the elder Halberstam was a cardiologist. He died way too soon as the result of a gunshot wound he sustained during the robbery of his D.C. residence.

Dr. Halberstam seems to have been the wittier of the two brothers. In his spare time he wrote the unjustly neglected satirical novel The Wanting of Levine (1978) about the first Jewish president. Even if it petered out toward the end, the novel nevertheless proved prescient in at least one respect — as Ira Stoll observed in the 2017 New York Sun column “Trump’s Electoral Triumph Was Imagined in a Novel Written 40 Years Ago.”

Halberstam’s novel came to mind this week in connection with President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levine testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP!) Committee in support of her confirmation this past Thursday.

She seemed to me the embodiment of a satirical take on identity politics. One can’t help but wonder whether the proximate cause of her selection is that she is yet another of the “firsts” about which Biden has bragged. She is biologically male, but identifies as transgender female. She will be the first avowed transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.




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