Thursday, December 11, 2008


Early Wednesday it was supposed to be Jennifer Granholm but by later in the day several news organizations settled on someone else as Obama's Energy Secretary: Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning scientist and current head of the Livermore Lab at Berkeley. A truly excellent choice! An actual expert in the field, with administrative experience, and most particularly, with a proven record of turning around an institution--Livermore--towards developing alternative green energy, specifically to address the Climate Crisis.

"A Rocket Scientist in the Cabinet" says Ambinder, and a man "untainted by Washington's caution on climate change..." Fabulous! This guy really gets it--so much so that he transformed his life to address the Climate Crisis. Plus another Asian American in the Cabinet, this time of Chinese descent.

The same reports say that Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson for Environment. That she is a black woman is in itself an enormous step forward, partly for reasons I deal with in this post at Dreaming Up Daily. She happened to grow up in New Orleans, and did college at Tulane--another significant connection because New Orleans is where a mostly black and largely poor population bore the brunt of a disaster with a large environmental component, at several levels. It's simply crucial to involve nonwhite Americans in the mostly white environmental movement.

Before Jackson became chief of staff to current New Jersey governor Corzine, she was the state's environmental commissioner and worked for 16 years in the federal EPA--so she's got tons of applicable experience.

One of her bosses at EPA was Clinton's director Carol Browner, and Browner is expected to be named to a new White House position, coordinating energy and environment. So there's an established working relationship. The caution is that the Clinton environmental record is not particularly bold--my impression was that in 8 years they mostly managed to undo some of the previous GOPer damage and make incremental moves forward. That lack of boldness may not have been Browner's fault--we'll see.

Said to be the choice to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality is Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles deputy mayor for enviro, and a politically prominent Lesbian. Her previous posts were in the area of water and water quality--a very important issue as the Climate Crisis dries up the West, as well as other areas of the world.

Not such great news involves Interior, although these stories are more speculative. This one says there are three names: John Berry of the National Zoo, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and my member of Congress, Mike Thompson. In the Eureka paper today, Thompson seems pretty adamant that he's not been contacted by the transition team, so his appointment seems less likely than these press reports indicate. I know nothing about John Berry except that he was former head of Fish and Wildlife Foundation and an assistant secretary at Interior, but I suspect that if any of these three but Grijalva is named, it might indicate that Interior isn't getting the status it should have. Maybe white guys need a token appointment (Berry is being pushed by gay groups), but not to this post. It should be as high powered and forward looking as Energy, Environment, Commerce etc. It's not a sop to the "sportsmen" lobbies.

Native American issues are important for Interior, and to be fair, Thompson has the support of at least one local Indian tribe-- Native peoples are a higher proportion of his constituency than most-- and he has a good record on Native issues. Kevin Gover is another name, less prominently mentioned, who is actually Native (Pawnee and Comanche), but is a bit controversial due to allegations of favoritism to gaming tribes in a previous post at Indian Affairs. (He's currently head of the Museum of the American Indian in DC.) But any Native is going to be controversial within the Native community. At least according to this report, Gover's chances have improved lately as Thompson and Grijalva have drawn fire. But Gover's office also denies he's being considered. As I've said before, a Native American as Interior Secretary would be a huge step forward.

Thursday Obama announces Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary, and holds a press conference that's supposed to be about health care. But this Illinois governor farce is likely to derail that. If you're interested, the best analysis of what we know so far--at least what's in Patrick Fitzgerald's findings--is here at 538. Basically it says that RB's most outrageous statements were made to his own staff, and he was much more cautious in what he said--and asked for--with others. The only contact indicated that's anywhere near the Obama transition is with a union official, and the language of the document indicates RB was contemplating more direct communication but hadn't yet tried, and his conclusions about Team Obama not offering anything could well have been more common sense and third party judgments than based on having asked the questions himself.

Anyway, this is going to come up and I hope Obama either says a lot more about any contacts with his transition team or explains more fully why he can't talk about this. I also hope he gets in the face of the GOPer Senators threatening to kill the auto company deal, and makes the stakes plain--the devastating effect on jobs and the economy and future capabilities--as well as the clear motivation: union-busting.

By the way, Granholm (Gov. of Michigan) got mentioned in media buzz because she met with Obama on Wednesday, stating later that they talked about the economic recovery proposals. But there is still a post directly concerning that--Secretary of Labor.

1 comment:

Kevin Bliss said...

I am a Republican who lives, works and blogs in Washington, DC. My blog is I'd like to address your comments on John Berry. He is anything but what you describe him. He would , in my opinion, be far the most visionary of all the names being mentioned, even if he's not a household name. John is as well connected in Washington as you can be. Take a look at my comments on John at the concludion of my blog piece yesterday: I would be happy to engage in a dialog with anyone on John's qualifications for this postition. He would be a great Interior Secretary.

Kevin Bliss