On May 19, historians and science
policy buffs quietly observed the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s
appointment of George Keyworth II as the White House Science
Adviser.  That anniversary is notable primarily because it was
the slowest appointment of a Science Adviser by any President in
history.  Bill Clinton, for instance, appointed John Gibbons a
mere four days after his inauguration.  Yesterday, George W.
Bush eclipsed the Reagan record.  More than four months into his
administration, President Bush has yet to nominate a science

Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA), a
two-term Member of the Science Committee, observed: "The
President has sent the very clear signal that he does not value
objective scientific input in developing his position on the most
controversial decisions of his young Administration, like ballistic
missile defense, a national energy plan, global climate change, or
arsenic in drinking water.  All of these matters involve
substantial technical complexity, and a prominent scientist should
have had a voice at the table when they were resolved.  Bill
Clinton’s two science advisors were given that responsibility as
valued participants in meetings of the President’s cabinet. 
However experienced President Bush’s cabinet may be, useful technical
advice can only come from a credible source, not from lawyers,
oilmen, and political operatives."

Baca continued, "Now that the
President has de-valued the position, it will be doubly difficult to
find a competent candidate to accept the job.  His science
adviser will clearly have little authority in the policy process and
will have to defend a basic set of policies over which he or she
exerted no influence.  The White House position on many of these
issues runs counter to the consensus within the scientific
community.  It’s a no-win situation for whatever unfortunate
person accepts the task".

One of the candidates for the post
was Dr. Marye Anne Fox, Chancellor of North Carolina State University
and a science adviser to George W. Bush when he was Governor of
Texas.  A May 15 New York Times story quotes a Federal official
on the reason for Dr. Fox’s lack of interest in the post: "There
were too many restrictions … they were saying, ‘Hey, be in the
President’s office, but don’t do anything’."