The Houston Chronicle editorial page, in another majestic display of noblesse, on Sunday offered our president-elect its very own list of recommendations for his Cabinet appointments (we understand that the Obama transition team was in such lathered anticipation that it dispatched a factotum to the newspaper’s loading dock on Saturday to snag an early edition). Included on the list, of course, was nuestro alcalde for energy secretary (although in this post-election interview with an Austin TV station the mayor suggests he's already been asked and said no thanks).
Setting aside for the moment what would be good for the nation, let’s examine this possibility in light of what would be good for Bill White.
Given Obama’s promised attention to energy policy, we suppose such an appointment would be fast-paced and exciting and maybe just the tonic for a guy who legendarily* wrote energy deregulation legislation when he was a 19-year-old congressional intern,** or whatever the story holds. On the other hand, he’d probably have to forgo his last term-limited year as mayor, thus relinquishing an opportunity to really nail down a mayoral legacy (such as can be put together in six years) and to tack more to the center-right, which he’ll have to do to win statewide elective office (no more rushing out of City Hall to greet those Mexican flag-waving truants at the conclusion of their pro-amnesty marches). And being Obama’s energy secretary would come with the potential of seriously messing up White’s chances of ascending to statewide office, depending on how the incoming president treats the Oil Biz (a fact, not a judgment). We suspect that White’s ambition stretches beyond the statehouse or the Capitol, but to get to that place he’s going to have to be a governor or a senator. Outside of Bill Richardson, what other former U.S. energy secretary has won a major elective office? (Quick: Name another ex-energy secretary of recent vintage.) Plus, despite his vaunted wonkishness, White looks as if he actually enjoys politicking---and he’s good at it!
But back to the other hand: A cursory glance at the county-by-county results in the presidential election just confirms whatever everybody knows: that Texas is a decidedly red state once you drive beyond the Thai restaurants and Whole Foods stores or leave the counties that are in line to be annexed by Mexico (under the Reparations Act of 2035, part of that year's comprehensive immigration legislation signed into law by President Jenna Bush). And check the margins McCain ran up in the counties just outside of Houston: 76-23 (Montgomery), 63-36 (Brazoria), 71-27 (Liberty), etc. and so on. Whew. They say McCain wasn’t even that popular among the Bible thumpers! (On top of all this, White or any other Democrat will have much difficulty beating Kay Bailey Hutchison in a gubernatorial race, unless Hutchison somehow falls victim to the Grand Derangement seizing the GOP base at the moment.)
Still, White’s got plenty going for him with regard to statewide electability, as does that other Democratic office holder being talked up as a possible Obama Cabinet appointee, Chet Edwards, who keeps getting re-elected by comfortable margins in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the nation. Pro-military (that is, pro-soldier and –vet) and cautious on immigration issues, Edwards either felt secure enough this election cycle, or had enough balls (a possibility we would not discount), to endorse Obama early on and is being mentioned as a prospective V.A. head.
Like White, Edwards has said he’s not up for a Cabinet appointment, but either or both could be prevailed upon if Obama really wanted them.
And suppose Obama would dispatch both to Washington? That would leave Texas Democrats with … well, John Sharp’s always available.
*If for some reason this story does not hold up under future reportorial scrutiny, be advised that we’re just printing the legend.
**We had a friend who also wrote federal legislation when he was 19; unfortunately he was in custody at the time and his “Let’s Get High, America” Act was lost to history.