There has been a recent rumor that former governor, now Commerce Secretary Gary Locke might be interested in returning to Seattle as new president of the University of Washington. Not a wise choice, but not out of the question — after all several U.W. regents were appointed by Locke, and there's a history of turning around troubled state universities by bringing back political statesmen to repair relations with the legislature.
Here's another reason. Locke may soon be job-hunting. The reason for this speculation is the faltering national economy. Recall that Locke was Obama's third choice for the commerce post, following the quick turndowns by Gov. Bill Richardson and Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. The post was supposed to reassure the business community by picking someone with powerful connections to their world. That didn't work, so Locke was given the post presumably because of his expertise in China trade.
Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria, in an interesting column notes that the key to recovery, post-stimulus-spending, lies with large companies. So far, they are sitting on big piles of cash, estimated at $1.8 trillion in cash among the top 500 companies, but not investing in growth. How come? Zakaria spoke with several top CEOs:
Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama. They still admire him. Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart. But all think he is, at his core, anti-business. When I asked for specifics, they pointed to the fact that Obama has no business executives in his Cabinet, that he rarely consults with CEOs (except for photo ops), that he has almost no private-sector experience, that he's made clear he thinks government and nonprofit work are superior to the private sector. It all added up to a profound sense of distrust.
Zakaria mentions other reasons for the reluctance to invest: uncertainty, the maze of new regulations in financial reform and health-care, a natural state of shock and caution after the recession tsunami. Maybe the easiest to fix, after the coming November election tsunami, will be a few of the faces in the cabinet. Since Locke has only the slightest business experience and has few deep ties into the world of American big business, aside from Boeing, he'd be a natural candidate for a layoff slip.