Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings disappointed policy wonks by not answering my queries about the details of her plans for a uniform graduation rate. No one e-mailed asking if I might have any nuggets on the grad-rate issue in my notebook that I didn’t share on the blog. I don’t.
But one e-mailer took me to task for failing to answer a question on a more important topic: Is the education secretary a potential source for sweet seats behind a dugout at Nationals Park?
Sadly, the answer is no. After Spellings deflected my grad-rate questions, I asked her if she enjoyed the game. She told me she and her husband went to the game as guests of Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman and his wife, who are season ticket holders.
Baseball and policy aside, the experience is another example of Spellings’ semi-celebrity status—something that’s rare among lower-level Cabinet secretaries. When the Reliable Source writers scanned the crowd, they recognized Spellings, but not Bodman, who was sitting with her. (Honestly, how many of these people would you know if you saw them in a crowd of 40,000? At my church earlier this year, a couple introduced themselves as visitors from Fargo, N.D. I recognized the man as a former governor of North Dakota. I had no idea he had moved to Washington until I read about his confirmation as secretary of agriculture later that week.)
But people in Washington know Spellings. Part of it is her appearances on “Jeopardy!,” Jon Stewart’s show, and “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me.” Another part is her friendship and professional partnership with President Bush and his family.
She is a unique blend of bold-faced name and policy wonk. That’s a good combination when you’re trying to get OMB to approve rules about arcane subjects such as high school graduation rates.
A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.