Alex Massie

Whither Commerce?

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I spent five years in Washington and could not tell you what the Commerce Department really does. Now that i think of it, I doubt I could name any of George W Bush's Commerce Secretaries. Certainly, none have lodged themselves in the memory. Which is another way of saying that apart from the big three offices of State, Defense and Treasury, most cabinet positions are not terribly important. Yes, it's embarrassing for President Obama  that Tom Daschle has had to withdraw from being considered for HHS but this is hardly the mortal wound some are suggesting. The identity of Obama's healthcare supremo is rather less important than the health bill that is eventually passed. That's a better, if more boring, way of judging the President's success.

Anyway, back to Commerce. David Rothkopf has some fun making the case that, really, it's another department that needs major surgery or elimination:

Apparently Judd Gregg voted to blow up the Commerce Department in the '90s and now here he is running it. Some of you may think that disqualifies him. But I worked as a senior official in the Commerce Department and I think it recommends him.

The Commerce Department is a bureaucratic hodge-podge held together by those old Washington stand-bys of inertia, habit, and the self-interests of Congressional appropriators. Oh, and neglect. And ignorance. Not only do most Americans not know what the Commerce Department does -- its various missions are so diffuse most people who work there don't know all that it does.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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