US President Donald Trump has formally designated Ajit Pai as the new chairman of America's powerful broadband and telly regulator, the Federal Communications Commission.
Pai was already a serving FCC commissioner, so by stepping him up to the chair, what should be a five-person panel at the top of the agency is now just three individuals and a 2-1 Republican majority.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler stepped down as President Snowflake was inaugurated on Friday, and former commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was excluded from the federal regulator after Congress failed for nearly a year to accept her renomination.
Pai said [PDF] he was "deeply grateful" to be chosen and that it was a "deeply humbling honor." He also promised to work "with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans."
He later repeated the same general statement on Twitter but by then had started comparing himself to Thomas Jefferson: "I believe in a 21st-century version of Jefferson's 2nd Inaugural: we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats," he tweeted.
The self-aggrandizement will be familiar to those who have followed the FCC – the claim to work with others, less so.
Under Wheeler, the FCC moved from a regulator that has proudly stayed out of partisan politics into one where political affiliation was pretty much its defining characteristic. That was in small part thanks to Pai's florid displays of disagreement with his colleagues.
While many Americans have been increasingly appalled by the habit of Congressmen, particularly Republicans, to paint an alternate reality and puff themselves up with righteous indignation, Pai has embraced the approach, often launching into wild accusations that bear little relation to what was happening on the ground.
Pai followed the familiar path of condemning anything proposed by the Democratic majority as a conspiracy, seemingly led by President Obama personally, and never passed up an opportunity to quote Ronald Reagan – leading to numerous groan-inducing FCC meetings as the regulator dug into relatively dry issues surrounding telecom policy.
Pai also frequently acted as a spokesmouth for whatever Republican Congressional talking points were in force that week and colluded with Republicans in Congress, supplying confidential FCC files to them while at the same time lambasting the FCC for its rules that prevented him from doing so. He later refused to hand over any documents to a Congressional committee digging into the activity.
As such, Pai is very much a Trump-style candidate: using bombast to make up for a lack of experience; measuring himself by how much he can frustrate others; and mistaking winning for being taken seriously.
Pai can be expected to make a big play of efforts to unravel network neutrality rules. What he does after that is anyone's guess. ®