Alternate headline, courtesy of Jonah Goldberg: America Shocked to Discover We Have a Commerce Secretary. We do, although it might not be John Bryson for very much longer. After a bizarre series of three accidents with two cars — one of them twice — police found Bryson unconscious, and booked him for felony hit-and-run:
Bryson was driving a Lexus in the 400 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, when he allegedly rear-ended a Buick as it was waiting for a train to pass, according to a statement released by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the San Gabriel Police Department.
After briefly stopping to talk to the three men inside the Buick, Bryson left the location in the Lexus and then struck the Buick a second time, authorities said. The men followed Bryson’s car and called 911 to ask for police assistance.
Bryson continued to drive his Lexus into Rosemead, which is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. There, he allegedly crashed into a second vehicle near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.
There authorities found him alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his car.
Bryson was treated at the scene by Los Angeles County firefighters. Authorities said drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role in the crash. They said Bryson was cooperative. He was cited for felony hit and run but was not booked into jail because he had been admitted to the hospital. His condition was not known.
Bryson has had one of the quietest tenures of any Cabinet secretary during Barack Obama’s term of office. Granted, Commerce isn’t usually a news magnet anyway, but his predecessor Gary Locke generated more attention than Bryson, prior to his move to the role of ambassador to China. Jonah’s Twitter joke isn’t far off from reality; before today, most of us would have had to Google “Commerce Secretary” to remember Bryson’s name.
Not any longer. That’s certainly not good news for Barack Obama, who needs a scandal like he needs a hole in the head at this point in the election cycle, even one this off the wall. If Bryson has to be replaced at Commerce, it means that Obama has to engage in a confirmation fight in the Senate, probably just as the election really heats up. Republicans don’t have to block a Commerce nominee; all they have to do is to use the hearings to highlight the outcomes of Obama’s economic and regulatory policies, especially through the abuse of the interstate commerce clause (the raison d’être of the Commerce Department, remember) and make the case that it’s not a new Commerce Secretary that the US needs at this point, but a new President.
Will Obama need to replace him? If the felony charges stick, he probably will have to ask for Bryson’s resignation. I’m not sure whether those charges will stick, but the alternative probably won’t help Obama avoid a new appointment. Having one accident is a statistically rare event for a driver; having three in one day, and being found unconscious after the third, sounds a lot like a health issue rather than reckless disregard for the law. That would also account for the bizarre behavior evident in this series of incidents. It’s possible that Bryson has undiagnosed diabetes, or perhaps a brain injury such as a stroke. That would probably require Obama to replace him, too, for the sake of Bryson’s health.
Hopefully, Bryson’s health is soon restored if indeed that’s the issue, and Commerce Secretaries make even less news in the future.
Update: According to TPM, investiagtors haven’t ruled out drugs or alcohol as a cause, despite the earlier report. The Department of Commerce released a statement a few minutes ago, however, that Bryson suffered a seizure:
The U.S. Commerce Department says Secretary John Bryson suffered a seizure in connection with two traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area that left him injured and unconscious.
The Commerce Department says Bryson was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and returned to Washington.
Er … he had a seizure, and then flew the next day coast to coast? That doesn’t sound like a very good idea, if true.
Update II: I’ve heard from two different sources that airplane travel after a seizure isn’t really a problem, as long as the cause of the seizure is known.