Whenever there's an open post for the White House to fill, I find myself holding my breath. Bush appointments tend to fall into three distinct and wildly contrasting categories: Cronies, Ideologues, and Awesome Talents. There's a two-thirds chance that we're going to get saddled with yet another freaking bozo. But then there's that off chance...Maybe this one's going to rock.
Nominees in the first category are rife: Harriet Miers, sure, but also folks like commerce secretary and longtime Bush oilpatch pal Don Evans, former FEMA chair Mike "Heckofa Job" Brown, INS honcho Julie Myers, former FC head Michael Powell (son of Colin), former labor solicitor Eugene Scalia (son of Antonin), the list goes on.
Similarly, ideologues are a dime a dozen. John Bolton and John Ashcroft pop first to mind. Some ideologues are also cronies; see Aschroft's replacement Alberto Gonzalez. And on the rare ocasion when a crony nominee falls through, the backup is almost always an ideologue. Eg: "Machine Gun" Sam Alito.
And then there's this jarring third category of awesome talent. These are folks whose entree in public service, all politics aside, is indisputably a boon to the nation. The brilliant John Roberts fits this category. Fed chair Ben Bernanke also rises to this level. Now we get Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson —Goldman Sachs luminary and chairman of the Nature Conservancy! How did that happen?
I hate to be a sucker for something as basic as competence. But in these dark days competence is cause for celebration.