U.S. secretaries of the Interior have seldom been renowned for being … well, renowned. Typically affable former members of Congress who reliably see things according to the president's point of view, they are nearly always Western conservationists, though their agreement on the extent to which natural resources should be exploited can wary widely.
Sally Jewell, President Obama's recent nominee for the post, fits that description pretty well, while bringing some additional attributes that suit the president's agenda beautifully. For one thing, she has been chief executive of outdoor retailer REI since 2005 and is reportedly a devoted outdoorswoman, which for conservationists takes some of the sting out of the fact that she started her career with the oil industry and spent most of it as a banker. That, on the other hand, will help mollify critics on the right who fear that Obama's tenure has been a big sellout to the environmental lobby. And then there's the convenient truth that Jewell is a woman, which serves as a balm to analysts irked by the fact that, to date, Obama's Cabinet picks have been made up exclusively of white men.
Does any of this make her qualified to be secretary of the Interior? Not especially. Unlike most secretaries of this or that, she has no government experience whatsoever. For a Cabinet post, that's not a disqualifier, but it's not helpful either.