One of the first signals I picked up on regarding the coming savagery of the Bush administration was the newly minted president's tendency to put people in charge of departments and administations that they had spent large portions of their careers working against. The examples are many. Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, was sworn in as the head of the Forestry Service soon after 9/11. Prior to his time as head of the USFS, Rey was known mainly for lobbying to kill environmental standards and enforce mandatory logging of forests.
Then there's Mike Leavitt, who replaced Christine Todd Whitman as Bush's EPA Administrator and then became Secretary of Health and Human Services. Prior to his alleged pro-environment and pro-health positions, Leavitt had served as the governor of Utah, where he allowed US Magnesium to pump out 42 million tons of chlorine each and every year -- nine times the amount of any other state. When he refused to do anything about the toxic chemicals, the EPA stepped in and, in a $900 million lawsuit, forced US Magnesium to clean up its act. So, naturally, Bush put Leavitt in charge of the very administration that had shamed him in his time as governor.
And don't forget about Paul Hoffman, the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in charge of fish and wildlife and parks, who had formerly worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his attempts to open the parks to more drilling and mining.
What about former mining-industry lobbyist Gale Norton, Bush's choice for Secretary of the Interior, who once argued that corporations have a "right to pollute"?
And who could forget the you'll-laugh-unless-you-cry appointment of former coal-mining executive David Lauriski as head of Bush's Mine Safety and Health Administration? Lauriski bragged to mining-company colleagues about the brevity of his agenda at the MSHA and wanted to cut the number of mine inspectors by 25 percent.
Hey, better mention J. Stephen Griles, the Deputy Secretary of the Interior who was that department's chief representative at Dick Cheney's energy task force. Prior to his time at Interior, Griles was a coal-mining lobbyist. After his time at Interior, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, caught up in the Abramoff scandal.
And a lot of you folks probably remember John "I Am The Walrus" Bolton, who spoke out early and often against the United Nations and was then, natch, named as ambassador to the United Nations.
One last example, which should bring us up to speed with Gregg. Bush appointed Sen. Spencer Abraham, lately kicked out of office in Michigan by current senator Debbie Stabenow, to run his Department of Energy in 2004. While in the Senate, Abraham had co-sponsored senate bill S.896, which would have abolished the Department of Energy.
So now, you probably see where I'm going with this. Knowing everything that I know about Bush's appointments, blood practically shot out of my eyes when I read that President Obama had named Sen. Judd Gregg, a man who in 1995 voted to abolish the Department of Commerce, to run the Department of Commerce.
So, far from wringing my hands over a failed attempt at bipartisanship, I'm popping open the champagne this morning. Gregg was a phenomenally bad choice to run Commerce. The news of Obama's decision to name Gregg wafted in with the foul, acrid stench of the last eight years. The president, after this and the rancor over the stimulus bill, should accept that bipartisanship is merely a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. When a commitment to bipartisanship creates more problems than it solves, it should be abandoned posthaste. So celebrate with me, ace! Gregg's decision to withdraw from consideration for the post of Secretary of Commerce only corrects a very flawed and cancerous presence in Obama's cabinet. All that remains now is for Obama to avoid repeating the mistake, as Bush failed to do time and again.
But then again, in Bush's case, these weren't mistakes.