Do-nothing Whitman disses Nobelist Steven Chu

You might think someone who had utterly failed in his or her job might have learned enough humility to avoid criticizing others attempting a similar job. But not Bush’s first EPA administrator, Christie Todd Whitman, who told MSNBC:

As for Steven Chu, Obama’s apparent choice to head up the Energy Department, Whitman expressed concerns over his management experience.

“He’s certainly going to know how to analyze the issues,” she said. “He’s going to know the feasibility as he looks at them from a scientific point of view. But it’s going to be the ‘Can they be implemented?’ part of it that will be a challenge for him.

“It’s a big leap from the academic world to the administrative world.”

Let’s see. Whitman’s effort to get Bush to keep his campaign promise for regulating greenhouse gas emissions was crushed in a humiliating fashion by Dick Cheney (see here) — and Cheney in general ran circles around her on all environmental matters (see here), even though she presumably had lots of administrative experience as New Jersey Governor.

And she has the gall to diss a Nobel Prize winner who isn’t even in the “academic world.” He has been running a national laboratory that is actually part of the DOE family. So he has been in the administrative world for many years now.

Plus he has a friggin’ Nobel Prize, and not for theoretical work, but for experimental physics. Since then, he has been focused on organizing team-based applied research to address the climate problem.

Somehow, I think he’ll be more successful than she was (see “A Nobelist for Energy Secretary who gets both climate and energy efficiency?“).

Also, I’ll bet he won’t resign in failure after only two years in the job. And I’ll be that a federal judge will never find Chu

guilty of making “‘misleading statements of safety’ about the air quality near the World Trade Center in the days after the Sept. 11 attack.” The judge further found that Whitman “may have put the public in danger.”

I’ll also bet that when Chu leaves government he won’t immediately found a lobbying firm and take on as the first client:

FMC Corporation, “a chemical company negotiating with the EPA over the cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soil at a factory near Buffalo, N.Y.” In a May 2005 interview, Whitman said she had not worked directly with FMC, but would likely advise them on “how to improve their image” and gain “access to the people they need to speak to.” FMC “is responsible for 136 Superfund sites across the country … and has been subject to 47 EPA enforcement actions.”

So, again, Christie, maybe you should keep your prejudgments about other people’s competence to hold Cabinet positions to yourself.

I’d tell MSNBC to find a more successful Bush Cabinet-level appointee to interview, but I’m not sure that’s possible.

9 Responses to Do-nothing Whitman disses Nobelist Steven Chu

  1. Wes Rolley says:

    I would not have expected Whitman to be that apparently objective. In fact, the only complaint that I have heard about Chu deals with his connection to and support of nuclear power. Whitman has become a real spokesperson for nuclear since leaving public service. It would seem that she is targeting her best advocate.

    We need to have an honest conversation regarding nuclear, one that recognizes the hidden costs of nuclear power and provides a ground to ground chain of responsibility. Already, DOE is asking to expand the Yucca Mountain facility that they have not yet used and it will be part of Chu’s job, if he is going to be economically objective, to include both mining and disposal as part of the equation.

  2. Rick C says:

    Let’s see who’s opinion rates higher in this discussion Christine Todd Whitman who instead of using caution and waiting for air quality test results gave the all clear days after the 9/11 attacks that the air quality around Wall Street was OKEE DOKEY when in fact there were toxic levels of asbestos, and other lovely carcinogenic particulates in the air or Steven Chu who, as best as I can describe him, is a serious dedicated scientist committed to the best standards of public service and who has won a nobel prize. Some people are just impossible to embarrass.

  3. Stuart says:

    I can’t believe Whitman has the gall to criticize a real scientist. I work in air quality and I am appalled by her actions after 9/11. I hope President-Elect Obama appoints someone of Chu’s stature for EPA and Interior, because cleaning up the mess that the Bush (mis)administration has left will take people of talent and a great deal of effort.

  4. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Hello Stuart!

    What do you know about fine particles (

  5. I agree that nuclear fuel should not be wasted in Yucca Mountain. Nuclear fuel is renewable/recyclable

    Yucca Mountain contains an enormous supply of nuclear fuel that should not be wasted. We don’t recycle nuclear fuel because spent fuel is valuable and people steal it. The place it went that it wasn’t supposed to go to is Israel. This happened in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA circa 1970. A company called Numec was in the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel. I almost took a job there, designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker. [The army offered me more money to work on nuclear weapons effects.] [A nuclear battery would have the advantage of lasting many times as long as any other battery, eliminating many surgeries to replace batteries.] Numec did NOT have a reactor. Numec “lost” a quantity of reactor grade uranium. It wound up in Israel. The Israelis have fueled both their nuclear power plants and their nuclear weapons by stealing nuclear “waste.” See:

    The reprocessing of nuclear fuel in the US stopped for political reasons. France reprocesses nuclear fuel. My solution would be to reprocess the fuel at a Government Owned Government Operated [GOGO] facility. At a GOGO plant, bureaucracy and the multiplicity of ethnicity and religion would disable the transportation of uranium to Israel or to any unauthorized place. Nothing heavier than a secret would get out.

    I have no financial stake in the nuclear power industry, and I never have. Nobody is paying me to say this. See:
    Factory made nuclear reactors.

  6. crf says:

    I don’t know if she was criticizing Chu. Perhaps, recounting her experience, she was making an observation that despite the appearance of higher-up jobs having a lot of power, often your hands are tied by your “bosses”, and you end up having little decision making power. And, taking up much of your time, that little power must be constantly defended from other organisations in the administration seeking it.

    So if Chu had high hopes, he also needs to realize that to achieve them, he’ll need to sprint on a treadmill going 10 miles an hour in the opposite direction. A lot of effort for little gain, and no chance to let up or you’ll fall far behind.

  7. Stuart says:

    Hi Harold,
    I monitor ambient air here for PM 2.5, which are particles under 2.5 microns in size. they can cause irritation of the lungs and eyes in healthy people and can cause major health problems in elderly people, children, and people with lung issues such as COPD and asthma. Particles this fine can enter the bloodstream directly through the lung tissue. Asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma.

  8. Bob Wallace says:

    crf – Let’s assume Whitman wanted to do the right thing. Clearly then she would have been running on a treadmill spun in the opposite direction by Bush, Cheney, and the Republican Congress.

    Chu is going to have people turning things in the direction he wants to go.

    That’s a very big difference.

    Think Sisyphus getting to push his rock downhill….

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    Someone running a DOE lab has a lot of management experience.