Did Obama Engineer Waxman Replacing Dingell?

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Christopher Beam of Slate talks about the recent seismic shift in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Out: Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the tough, cantankerous eminence grise of the House Democratic caucus (he’s 82), who was so deferential to Detroit as chairman of the House energy and commerce committee that Lee Iacocca once said he “stood up for the auto industry beyond the call of duty.”

In: Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the tough, mustachioed eminence slightly less grise of House Democrats (he’s 69) known for his relentless investigations and aggressive proposals for combating climate change.

Barack Obama’s own transition team could not have hoped for a better outcome. In fact, there are signs it did more than just hope.

Dingell’s ouster came after the Democrats’ Policy and Steering Committee voted 25-22 in favor of Waxman’s candidacy. In charge of the steering committee is Waxman’s fellow California Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And ousting the leader of the House’s most powerful panel—environmental issues, health care, and consumer protection all fall under commerce’s purview—is generally not done without permission from the top.

Of course, there is another explanation…

Maybe Dingell knew that his time to protect the auto industry was over, that climate change legislation was on the way in and Waxman needs to be chairman of the committee in order to get that through.

And since Dingell is from Michigan, there’s no way he could lead that charge and represent his ailing constituents.

What do you think? Could Dingell have fought this fight but decided not to?