Christian Living

chinaconnection 02/25/09

Third Time's the Charm?

Earlier today the president announced his nomination of former Washington governor Gary Locke to be the next commerce secretary.  Generally speaking, the commerce secretary isn't the highest-level cabinet position, but it's definitely been the most difficult for Obama to fill this time around.

If his nomination is secured, Locke will become the first Chinese American commerce secretary, and has already been the first Chinese American governor.  His significant experience and extensive contacts in China should serve him well in the role of commerce secretary, but could his China experience actually work against him?

Politico's Kenneth Vogel offers more analysis of the situation, but essentially, the Obama administration does not permit officials in the executive branch from working on issues that are "directly and substantially related" to the work of their clients within the past two years.

Microsoft has been one of Locke's recent clients, and issues of software piracy as they relate to China will probably come up during his tenure as commerce secretary, so this relationship could be considered to violate Obama's executive order. 

Not surprisingly, officials in the administration don't necessarily see this relationship as violating the set standards.  One official told Politico, "We are confident that Governor Locke will be able to continue to advocate on behalf of American businesses and workers while at the same time adhering to the administration’s ethics policy.”

Personally, I think a commerce secretary who has recently been active in international business in China is more of a selling point than a detriment.  At the same time, if recent legal work would compromise Locke's performance as commerce secretary, the administration should start looking for a fourth commerce secretary nominee. 

Given the past criticisms with the vetting process, however, I'm sure the administration checked for any potential skeletons in Gary Locke's closet, and he shouldn't have much trouble getting confirmed. 

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