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Stephen Johnson Is No James Watt

The House oversight committee’s afternoon with EPA chief Stephen Johnson is wrapping up. One of the most interesting elements of the day was the the sympathetic Republican line of questioning, that ultimately didn’t give Johnson much to work with.

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Ut.) said that he had "environmental bona fides" and knows how to walk a "middle path" between regulation and economic interests. Cannon’s bona fides? He said he worked with James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Dept of Interior.

As secretary, Watt set the record for fewest species he judged endangered, though, today’s Interior chief, Dirk Kempthorne, has broken that by not judging a single new species "endangered." (Though, polar bears got a little bit of a nod last week.) Watt also banned the Beach Boys from playing a White House-sponsored July 4, 1983 concert at the Washington mall saying the rock band brought an "undesirable element" (the Dead Kennedy’s ended up playing a not-White House sponsored concert in their place).

Oh, and Watt was indicted on 25 felony counts for improperly lobbying Housing and Urban Development as Interior secretary.

Perhaps, by evoking Watt, Cannon was making a sophisticated point that there have been worse political appointees than Johnson. But it seemed that he was just an admirer of James Watt.

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