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Judd Gregg Wakes Up

By Betsy NewmarkGovernment and History Teacher/Blogger

Judd Gregg has withdrawn his name for nomination as Commerce Secretary. Apparently, he has just glommed on to the fact that he actually disagrees with the president on Obama's major initiative -- the stimulus package. And he isn't happy about the politicizing of the census. Here is part of his statement.

"I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

"However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."

I guess that reaching across the aisle doesn't encompass voting for the massive spending bill.

While I don't think that Gregg was being this strategically Machiavellian in his acceptance and subsequent refusal of the post, this works out optimally for his political career and reelection chances in 2010.

Now, whether Gregg was deliberately planning this move or not, he emerges from this whole episode with increased visibility and gravitas and will now go from being a relatively little known Republican senator to being in a position to being a valued spokesman for the party on economic issues.
It will be hard for New Hampshire Democrats, although I'm sure they'll make the attempt, to portray him as some doctrinaire Republican-irreconcilable when he bears the Obama stamp of approval. His proposed replacement, Bonnie Newman, would have had a much tougher job getting elected to that seat than Gregg will. After all, he won in 2004 with 66% of the vote.

Plus, he's a valued member of the Senate GOP caucus. If he speaks out now against the stimulus package that he was virtuously refraining from voting on while he was a nominee, his voice will carry more weight than it would have carried before Obama nominated him.

I never understood why he would take the job in the first place, especially when the Obama administration had so publicly dissed him by saying they would take census away from his control. I'd almost like to think that Gregg planned this little jiu jitsu maneuver all along, but I suspect that he just finally figured out that he wouldn't be comfortable trying to defend the Obama administration's economic message.

And now Obama has to go through trying to find a third nominee for the post. I wonder if, this time, he'll pick a Democrat and say ixnay to the whole controversy of placing the census under Rahm Emanuel's control. If they still continue with their probably illegal plan, we'll know that he's willing to go beyond even what Karl Rove would have done to politicize and manipulate the Census.

When word of the Gregg nomination came, everyone was touting Obama's clever maneuvering to pick a respected Republican and weaken the GOP leadership while increasing Democratic chances to take that seat in 2010. The GOP certainly was unhappy about Gregg's decision to join the administration. And now, whether Gregg was deliberately planning this move or not, he emerges from this whole episode with increased visibility and gravitas and will now go from being a relatively little known Republican senator to being in a position to being a valued spokesman for the party on economic issues.

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