The White House

The Department of Energy spends about $10 billion annually on research and development. Over the years, much of this R&D has had commercial applications. The DOE takes credit for spurring advances in “medical devices, manufacturing processes, water purification and digital recording,” as well as the development of “solid-state lighting, vehicle batteries and solar panels.” This is why in 2015, under the leadership of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the DOE announced the launch of a new venture called the Office of Technology Transitions.

Today, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the launch of the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) to help expand the commercial impact of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) research. The office will work closely with the national laboratories and engage with industry to commercialize technology and strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. industries based on scientific and technological innovations.

“Through technology transfer, commercialization, and deployment activities, the Department of Energy has made significant contributions to economic growth in the United States,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Office of Technology Transitions will give the Department the opportunity to increase the American people’s return on investment in federally-funded science and energy research.”

We’re not talking about a huge budget here. The Office of Technology Transitions controls about $20 million that is earmarked to the Energy Technology Commercialization Fund. It amounts to “0.9 percent of the funding for the Department’s applied energy research, development, demonstration, and commercial application budget for each fiscal year.”

If you’re a new administration looking to reward folks who worked on your campaign, it’s a logical place to put someone with absolutely no background in applied science or energy-related issues. That’s why the Trump transition team hired Sid Bowdidge for the job.

They felt they owed Bowdidge some kind of job because he was an early supporter in New Hampshire. Bowdidge’s professional background, however, is less relevant than usual. He is reportedly a massage therapist. Obviously, the world needs massage therapists, but it should be self-evident that the same doesn’t apply to this office within the Department of Energy, which is focused on the commercial applications of cutting edge research at universities and national laboratories.

Mr. Bowdidge didn’t exactly fit in at his new job. An annoyed coworker decided to do a little investigation of him, probably to decide how in the hell he wound up working there. What they discovered was discouraging.

In a tweet on Dec. 6, 2015, Bowdidge wrote that “Obama won’t use the term radical Islam because they’re his relatives!!!!” A day later, replying to a CNN tweet that included a picture of the suspected San Bernardino shooters, Bowdidge wrote, “Scum sucking maggots of the world. Exterminate them all.”

And during a dispute with someone on Twitter a week later, Bowdidge replied to the person “wouldn’t say that if it was your wife, sister or family member that was murdered by some Muslim piece of shit.”

Even in the Trump administration where Muslim refugees are basically considered dangerous scum, this proved to be Bowdidge’s undoing.

President Donald Trump appointed a massage therapist from New Hampshire with no apparent relevant experience to work at the Energy Department, but parted company with the employee Friday after a series of anti-Muslim social media posts came to light, current and former DOE employees tell POLITICO.

I honestly don’t know what he did wrong. Was it the profanity? Because, in this administration with this president, I know it couldn’t be the anti-Muslim Birtherism.

I actually learned about Mr. Bowdidge’s sad job loss in a different Politico article that focuses primarily on the absurd level of paranoia that is roiling the Trump administration. Apparently, when the news got out about Bowdidge and his Twitter account, it only made The Fear grow.

The most stress, however, may be outside the West Wing, in executive branch agencies, where staffers worry about career bureaucrats who are hostile to Trump.

Fears grew on Friday, when Sid Bowdidge, a Trump appointee to the Department of Energy who worked on the campaign, was ousted amid reports that he’d expressed anti-Muslim views and argued that Obama had relatives who were terrorists in Twitter posts from over a year ago.

In an interview, Bowdidge blamed the disclosure on an anti-Trump department staffer who had picked through his background. He called the incident “character assassination” and said that Obama allies were sending a warning shot to Trump loyalists in agencies.

“A lot of these career folks were put in there over the last eight years, they’re Obama supporters,” he said. “By and large, they hate Trump.”

You have to admire the man for his ability to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. How do you assassinate someone’s character by pointing to what they wrote on Twitter? How do you sugarcoat thinking President Obama is related to terrorists and that a billion Muslims should be exterminated?

And he didn’t even contemplate the possibility that people who work on the commercialization of applied science might look askance at someone who may know a lot about giving massages but knows nothing about the job they’re supposed to do. It’s not like experts enjoy humoring bigoted patronage hires.

It probably will be an ongoing problem for the Trump administration to find people who are loyal to him and yet have never said something on Twitter that could cause an international incident. At the same time, in what other administration would Bowdidge’s firing cause widespread fear among the staff that they might be next?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at