Why sending Gary Locke to China makes sense
Some might consider Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China a demotion -- removing someone from the Cabinet and sending them to far-off Beijing doesn't seem like a nice thing to do. It comes with great sacrifice for his young family that only recently moved to Washington.
But sending Locke to China would greatly enhance his standing within the Obama administration by granting him an important diplomatic and economic role that he's uniquely qualified to perform. And tapping the son of Chinese immigrants to serve as America's ambassador to China is perhaps one of the grandest gestures President Obama could make to a country that takes gestures seriously.
Locke's resume makes him an ideal candidate for the job: Beyond his personal ties to the country, he's the first Chinese-American to serve as a governor and commerce secretary, and is known to receive a "rock star" welcome from his business and government contacts in China whenever he visits, according to his former business associates in Seattle.
That Locke, 61, served as governor of perhaps the most Asian-dependent state in the nation doesn't hurt either. During his two terms in office, the state doubled its exports to China to more than $5 billion annually (thanks primarily to Boeing).
Before joining the Obama administration, Locke also served as a partner in the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, focusing primarily on global trade issues with Asia, an area of obvious expertise. The job required several trips to China to meet with business leaders -- another plus.
From his perch as commerce secretary, he's also made several trips to China, India, and other Asian destinations to promote American businesses. Virtually every time a Chinese official visited Washington in the last two years, they met with Locke. In turn, American corporate leaders appreciate his business acumen and focus on creating jobs, and his concern for reforming the patent process.
But as former Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) used to joke, "the secretary of commerce always comes in thinking he will be the head businessman. And then he finds out that he's really the head fisherman."
The Commerce Department is an unwieldy organization responsible for a wide range of issues -- the U.S. Census, weather forecasting, fisheries, and economic development. Locke seemed under-used in the role.
Obama's decision to give the Beijing job first to Jon Huntsman -- himself a well-regarded figure in China -- was a brilliant political move that slowed, if not killed the former Utah governor's chances of scoring the Republican presidential nomination. But giving the job next to Locke makes much more sense from a diplomatic and economic standpoint.
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• Major transparency win at Supreme Court: The court ruled, 8-1, that the Navy could not use an exemption for records "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency" in order to reject a request for data about a weapons and explosives depot in Puget Sound.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
• Air marshals say man fondled female passenger: A man allegedly struck an air marshal with a karate-style thrust to the throat after allegedly fondling a sleeping woman on international flight.
• White House says tribunals can resume at Guantánamo: The Obama administration is lifting a stay on filing new charges in military tribunals there and set up a process for continuing to hold detainees who have not been charged.
• Feds want new ways to tap the Web: In the age of Facebook, Twitter and Skype, however, the FBI and other agencies often must operate within the constraints of laws and regulations that haven't been updated in more than a decade.
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD:
• Tug pilot in fatal boat crash was on phone, report says: He was consumed by a family emergency and on his cell phone at the time.
• Data show drop in flight delays, rise in canceled flights: An unintended consequence of the rule is becoming apparent and spoiling travel plans for a far greater number of would-be fliers.
• New campaign seeks to get teen drivers off their cellphones: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is using another survey that shows younger people are more at ease chatting while they drive to help parents and teachers educate teens about the risks of distracted driving.
| March 8, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Administration, Eye Opener, Revolving Door
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