Ezra reports that Obama might pick Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. This is an example of what I talked about in my last post and a common mistake that Presidents tend to make. The argument for Vilsack goes something like this:
1. The Secretary of Agriculture should know a lot about agriculture.I'll concede premises 1 and 2, but 3 does not follow from them. There are many constituencies affected by United States agriculture policy. Just to name a few, farmers, Cargill, food consumers, developing countries, etc. But Vilsack, as former Governor of Iowa, is clearly in the tank for one of these constituencies: the corn farmers that make up a lot of Iowa's population. (Ezra talks more about how corn's long-time control of our food policy is a bad thing.) This is like appointing the CEO of GM to be Secretary of Transportation because he knows a lot about cars (or, for that matter, appointing Hank Paulson to the Treasury).
2. Tom Vilsack was Governor of Iowa and so knows a lot about agriculture.
3. Tom Vilsack should be Secretary of Agriculture.