John Bryson, the Right Man for Commerce
John E. Bryson, who is President Obama's nominee to be Secretary of Commerce, has a soft heart and a hard head; an admirable duopoly, one might think. Ideal, really.
But not in the United States Senate. Not these days.
The fight over the Bryson nomination, like so much else in Washington, is a fight among pit bulls: a fight for the sake of fighting, a fight without purpose. Dogs fight over bitches, over food, over defensiveness toward their owners and over territory. Pit bulls just fight. Proximity is casus belli.
In today's Senate, an administration nominee is casus belli.
It causes one to wonder why a man like Bryson would shatter the tranquility of his retirement years to endure besmerchment in Washington. He does not need the job or indignity of the process, but we need him or people like him. As the confirmation process has grown uglier and uglier, they have become fewer and fewer,
If I were a senator questioning Bryson, or some similar nominee, the one question I would ask is: “Why in God's name would you submit yourself to this?”
It is as though people of otherwise sound mind voluntarily placed their heads and hands in the stocks and allowed a howling mob of self-righteous idiots to pelt them with rotten vegetables and invective. Minus the vegetables, that is what the procedure of “advise and consent” has now come down to. It is a travesty of the Founders' purpose. It has become an opportunity for the talentless and graceless to abuse the talented and accomplished.
Accomplishment is the rub. If you have left an edifice in print, in business, in public works, stay away from the U.S. Senate. Senate pit bulls will sink their teeth into any record of accomplishment.
Among Bryson's sins, enumerated in an editorial in The Washington Times, is that he and other Yale graduates founded the Natural Resources Defense Council. Bryson did not author any of the council's more controversial excursions. Instead he was part of its idealistic founding; at a time when environmental abuse was a national reality that had been exposed eight years earlier by Rachel Carson in her seminal book, “Silent Spring.”
Despite the wishing of an editorial writer at The Washington Times, Bryson was a free-market innovator.
When Bryson was chairman of the California Public Utilities Commission, he asked me to speak at a conference he was convening at Stanford on regulating electric generation. We were both talking about deregulation a decade ahead of time. And Bryson was talking about it when it had no political traction.
From state service, Bryson went on to run Edison International, parent of Southern California Edison Company, for 18 years.
He has served on the boards of some of the country's largest companies including Boeing and Disney. He has also been a trustee of Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology.
Yet his detractors, the sum of all their ignorance and folly neatly assembled in The Washington Times' editorial, accuse him of destroying jobs. The evidence for this: he supported cap-and-trade legislation as a free-market solution to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. That support was shared by many electric utilities (including Exelon) and oil companies (ConocoPhillips among them).
If these are institutions of the Left, then lead on.
Like all men who get things done, some of Bryson's endeavors have been less successful than others: Remember, Ben Franklin's stove was not a success. But Bryson's record is the record of a man of his times, prepared to instigate and manage change.
As the commerce secretary job involves managing the changes that come with globalization, a nimble man like Bryson, who has served capitalism and idealism, should be just the ticket. — For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate
Right-Wing Publishing: Musical Chairs
Word is out that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is on the verge of selling its conservative political magazine, The Weekly Standard, to the publishing company owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz. If the deal goes through, it does not bode well for The Standard, founded and edited by William Kristol and Fred Barnes.
More than any other conservative paper, The Standard has been able to find and develop new and original talent.
The list of writers of real ability who have passed through the portals of The Standard, located on 17th Street in Northwest Washington, includes David Brooks of The New York Times; broadcaster and writer Tucker Carlson; and Christopher Caldwell, Matt Labash and Matt Continetti, who still write for the magazine.
By comparison Anschutz’s current Washington property, The Examiner, a free daily newspaper, is home to some old standards like Michael Barone, Byron York and Mark Tapscott, who came to the paper from The Heritage Foundation. No one pioneering or fresh. The Examiner is the exemplar of your father’s conservatism.
But worse, leaving aside the politics, which is why The Examiner and The Standard exist, is the basic newspapering of The Examiner. It needs work–just to make it more of a plausible newspaper. The headlines are too small. It covers national politics, but in all other respects, it is a local newspaper with wobbly news judgment.
If any of these weaknesses are to infect The Standard, an important voice of erudite conservatism will be lost. Scintillating new writers will not get a start. Bashing liberals is not enough.
At 10th birthday party for The Standard (founded it in 1995, when Irwin Stelzer, a News Corp adviser, persuaded Murdoch `that the United States needed a magazine of opinion and literary comment like the venerable Spectator in England), Brooks said The Standard was a magazine conceived to serve a government in power not to whine in opposition, which by implication is what Human Events, The American Spectator and National Review do. Even in opposition, it has kept its optimistic tenor and its book reviewing is of a high order.
Sadly, The Standard has never been able to totally learn from its English cousin. American conservatives want just conservative views in their political magazines, not the occasional piece of amusing heresy.
There is a third player is Washington conservative journalism: The Washington Times, a respectable daily with a definite rightward slant, sometimes in its coverage as well as on its opinion pages. It is the home to old-line conservative writers and some liberal ones, including Pat Buchanan and Larry Kudlow on the right, and Nat Hentoff and Clarence Page on the center-left.
The quality of the newspaper craft in The Times dwarfs The Examiner. But those two papers and The Standard are the toy things of rich men with a political point of view. The Times is owned by the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. You could say that all three are vanity publications: They lose money, lots of it.
But this is not new. The late great New York Herald Tribune was bought by oil billionaire Jock Whitney to counter the liberal New York Times, and to save an important conservative voice in New York at a time of liberal ascendancy.
Earlier, during World War I, Max Aitken, a Canadian, bought the London Daily Express, at the behest of the Conservative Party, to keep a conservative voice in Fleet Street. The Tories were so grateful that they elevated Aitken to the Peerage, as Lord Beaverbrook. Both Beaverbrook and Tories lived to rue the day. Beaverbrook because he realized his chances of being prime minister had evaporated with the honor and the Tories because Beaverbrook was a maverick. Also, Beaverbrook soon started making money–lots of it–off his newspaper and did not have to worry about conservative orthodoxy anymore. Neither Murdoch nor Anschutz nor Moon is ever likely to make any money out of their publishing properties.
Amazing how unbusinesslike conservatives can be when it comes to defending the faith. –for North Star Writers Group