Asleep at the Wheel

by Henry Farrell on December 29, 2008

This _Washington Post_ “story”: on what happened at OSHA over the Bush years tells the usual story of flacks being hired as political appointees to gut enforcement, scientific advice being ignored, internal dissenters being punished and so on. But this bit seemed unusual, even by Bush administration standards.

In 2006, Henshaw was replaced by Edwin G. Foulke Jr., a South Carolina lawyer and former Bush fundraiser who spent years defending companies cited by OSHA for safety and health violations. Foulke quickly acquired a reputation inside the Labor Department as a man who literally fell asleep on the job: Eyewitnesses said they saw him suddenly doze off at staff meetings, during teleconferences, in one-on-one briefings, at retreats involving senior deputies, on the dais at a conference in Europe, at an award ceremony for a corporation and during an interview with a candidate for deputy regional administrator.

His top aides said they rustled papers, wore attention-getting garb, pounded the table for emphasis or gently kicked his leg, all to keep him awake. But, if these tactics failed, sometimes they just continued talking as if he were awake. “We’ll be sitting there and things will fall out of his hands; people will go on talking like nothing ever happened,” said a career official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to a reporter. In an interview, Foulke denied falling asleep at work, although he said he was often tired and sometimes listened with his eyes closed. His goal, he said, was to create the best agency he could, partly by putting in place “performance metrics” not previously used at OSHA.



noen 12.29.08 at 8:54 pm

Bush has standards?


Robert 12.29.08 at 9:52 pm

Foulke denied falling asleep at work, although he said he was often tired and sometimes listened with his eyes closed.

How’d he explain the little pools of drool?


Righteous Bubba 12.29.08 at 10:05 pm

How’d he explain the little pools of drool?

Leaky pipes.


jacob 12.29.08 at 10:29 pm

Leaky pipes.

Damn. Are the internets broken again?


eudoxis 12.29.08 at 11:35 pm

There’s a more important story here than the rather sloppy WaPo report (dental lab technicians, and, there were <20,000 TB cases in the US in 1997), a story that begins with Reagan’s gutting of OSHA and destruction of union power (PATCO), and dismantling of research into population health. Peter Infante has been a crusader for better workplace safety standards for a long time, starting with a battle over cancer causing properties of formaldehyde.


John Quiggin 12.30.08 at 6:58 am

As Brad DeLong says, worse than you can possibly imagine even after you’ve taken account of the fact that they are worse than you can possibly imagine.


Bob B 12.30.08 at 8:23 am

No comment necessary:

“Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism adviser, said then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, told him, ‘Don’t give the President a lot of long memos. He’s not a big reader.'”


Paul 12.30.08 at 3:16 pm

Why do such antics not surprize me especially when the name George W. Bush is in reasonable proximity ?


John Emerson 12.30.08 at 3:48 pm

His motto was “don’t work hard, work smart”. Wu-wei. Management fu.


Bob B 12.30.08 at 4:18 pm

Speaking of those in Britain who endorse the Republican cause in America, I do so look forward to a forthcoming meeting when George Osborne, the Conservative treasury spokesman in Britain, comes across to tell Tim Geitner and Larry Summers why crass keynesianism is bad and why a fiscal stimulus in times of recession amounts to fiscal insanity:


rea 12.30.08 at 5:24 pm

His motto was “don’t work hard, work smart”.

Are you sure, John? I don’t see much evidence of him working either hard or smart . . .


MarkUp 12.30.08 at 9:03 pm

“I don’t see much evidence of him working either hard or smart . . .”

Has there been am impeachment? Go back to the Y2K campaign talk and ask yourself if in an indirect manner many of those goals have not been accomplished – granted some of them are still up in the air and subject to possible dampening effects of the next set of bull riders and rodeo clowns. Remember being an experienced oil man he knows that to put out a fire [of liberalism] you’ll likely have to use a [conservative] bomb…


sharon 12.31.08 at 4:53 pm

Karl Rove says that Bushie Boy reads loads, so there.


Bob B 01.01.09 at 8:01 am

“Karl Rove says that Bushie Boy reads loads, so there.”

He probably meant that Bushie Boy always read what Karl Rove gave him to read, which probably accounts for why we are in the mess we are and why the Republicans did so badly in the elections last November.

The [London] Times convened a panel of experts to assess the achievements of 42 past US Presidents.

Going from top to bottom, GWB was rated in the bottom 10 at number 37, equal with Richard Nixon:

IMO that’s a bit unkind about Richard Nixon. Whatever else, no one at the time claimed Tricky Dicky wasn’t smart.


bdbd 01.01.09 at 5:08 pm

good thing he didn’t tumble out of his chair and hurt himself. I don’t think OSHA can help with “fell asleep during a briefing ” injuries

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