By Tevi TroyFormer Deputy Secretary HHS/Former White House Domestic Policy Adviser

The real question about Judd Gregg is not why he pulled out, but why President Obama picked him in the first place, and why Gregg accepted the offer.

[caption id="attachment_7252" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sen. Judd Gregg, R- N.H., announces that he will withdraw from his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)"][/caption]

Cabinet members from the non-governing party serving in the Cabinet often cause problems for themselves, as well as for the presidents they serve. In this case, it was unclear why Obama needed a third Republican in his Cabinet, in addition to Gates at Defense and LaHood at Transportation.


In a short time, it became clear that there were going to be significant policy differences between Gregg and the administration: on the stimulus package, on who would run the Census, and to what extent Gregg would have a role in economic policy-making. Down the road, Gregg's position as a staunch free trader would likely have caused even more problems, with both the administration and the Democratic Congress.

Gregg is also a partisan Republican -- he served as the debate foil for President Bush in the 2004 re-election campaign. Once he insisted on a Republican replacement in the Senate, he took away the administration's main reason for having him. When the administration made noises about taking away the Census, Gregg must have seen that he would have been far more of a figurehead than a policy shaper.