Ian Bowles available to Obama, Red Sox

Today’s Boston Globe says Massachusetts energy and environment secretary Ian Bowles "has landed on President-elect Barack Obama’s list of would-be candidates" to run the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Welcome to silly season, the period when few know what’s really going on as the new administration takes shape, everyone is hungry for names, and a hot-stove league made up of reporters, pundits, and interest group officials is happy to feed the beast. The morsels they serve up, however, are often not very filling.

What, for example, is a "would-be candidate?" The term usually refers to someone who is mulling a run for public office. But in such cases, the subject of interest is the decider who determines whether their status sheds the "would-be" qualifier. Probably more apt in the current context would be to say the individual "would be" thrilled to be considered.

So who, in fact, are the candidates for the EPA job? "Bowles said to be on Obama’s list to oversee EPA," reads the Globe headline. Said who? Either he is on a list or he isn’t. Of course, it’s not even clear that Obama has a list. (Is it in that briefcase he’s carrying in the photo on the front of today’s Globe?) If Obama doesn’t really have a list, who does? It turns out reporters have it or, to be accurate, they have drawn it up based on what people have told them. People they have called in order to put together lists. Lists which can then serve as the basis for news stories.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The only thing vaguely passing for attribution about the Bowles claim comes in the fourth paragraph of the Globe story. The state environment secretary (and one-time president of MassINC) is said to be "baffled that his name was mentioned in national news reports yesterday speculating about possible Obama cabinet picks."  Among such national reports yesterday was a Bloomberg.com dispatch that names Bowles, along with several other state environmental chiefs and one governor, based on the frequency with which they were mentioned as possible EPA candidates by "officials at leading U.S. ecology groups." 

None of this is to say Bowles might not become a contender for the EPA job. Or that he might not already be under consideration. There seems little doubt that he would be interested in being more than a would-be candidate. Commenting to the Globe, Bowles tried to tamp down all the speculation, at least a little bit. "There’s a lot of things in life I wouldn’t rule out, including trying out for the Red Sox next year," said the would-be right fielder.