President Elect Obama has prided himself on appointing a mix of opinions in his cabinet and senior advisors. For example, his National Security team is made up a former political rival and a Republican from the Bush Administration. Obama has said he studied history and identified a possible issue in past presidencies is not fostering a diverse mix of opinions to debate policy. Here is what the President Elect said after making his National Security appointments:
“One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink, and everybody agrees with everything, and there’s no discussion and there are not dissenting views,” Obama said, voicing a frequent criticism by some senior Bush-administration alumni.
“So I’m going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House. But I understand, I will be setting policy as president.
The diversity that was plainly evident in his Naitonal Security team seems to be missing on his Green Team. Carol Browner as Climate Czar and past senior managers at EPA will fill the other important environmental posts. The announced appointments have met with a mix of reviews. The USA Today praised the choice in an article title"Obama’s Dream Green Team is Warmly Received."
One is a Nobel Prize winner overseeing research of alternative energy. The three others all have one thing in common: experience working for the Environmental Protection Agency…
"This is clearly a green dream team," said Gene Karpinski, head of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group. "These people have shown they can get the job done."
Obama has mustered an "impressive team of experienced and capable leaders," said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group representing electric companies.
As an opposing view, the Wall Street Journal blasted the environmental appointments in an editorial:
The EPA long ago became the government arm of the environment lobby, but Ms. Browner was especially political. During her EPA salad days, she put out air-pollution standards that even the agency itself said would have no measurable impact on public health, purely as antibusiness punishment. She forced GE to dredge the Hudson River of PCBs that posed no threat to the public. Ms. Browner also rewrote a law called New Source Review so that power plants, refineries and other industries were always breaking the particulate emissions rules….
As for the "team of rivals" hype, the rest of Mr. Obama’s energy list is heavy with Ms. Browner’s acolytes. Lisa Jackson, for 16 years a top EPA enforcement officer, will now run that agency. At the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be Nancy Sutley, who was Ms. Browner’s special assistant at EPA.
The Washington Post noted the commonality in the appointments in their piece covering the appointments titled "Seasoned Regulators to Lead Obama Environment Program." :
Word of their appointment was greeted enthusiastically yesterday by some environmental groups. The League of Conservation Voters called the group a "green dream team."
Industry groups were more cautious. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Vice President William Kovacs said the group worried that the new officials would use their power to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and impose painful new costs on energy use.
"I think that they could be aggressive, and we’re hoping that they’re really going to look at the circumstances" of the economic downturn, Kovacs said. "That is our biggest single concern, because literally all three of them have a regulatory bent."
Regardless of your opinions of any of appointments as individuals, it is hard to see a wide divergence of opinion emerging. While there is no doubt seasoned veterans are needed to develop and implement a game changer like climate change legislation, I agree with the President elect…a diversity of opinion is a valuable asset that can improve decision making.