Sen. Gregg Explains Why He Withdrew His Name for Commerce Secretary

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," February 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, let's try this again, President Obama to name another commerce secretary nominee on Wednesday. This is his third crack at this.

We're hearing former Washington Governor Gary Locke is the man for the job.

Judd Gregg was the man for the job, until he did not want to be the man for the job.

In one of his first chats since saying no to that post, the Republican senator from New Hampshire joins me right now.

Senator, always a pleasure. Thank you for coming.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R-N.H.: Neil, thank you for having me on. Thank you.

CAVUTO: I know you have talked about this before, but refresh me. What really happened? Democrats were jumping ugly with you. A lot of left-wing stations were sort of parodying you. What happened?

GREGG: Well, I woke up and looked in the mirror and realized I had been my own person for 30 years, and that I was a pretty deep fiscal conservative, and hadn't changed much over 30 years, and that it could be very hard for me to do the job the way it should be done, which is to be 100 percent with the president all the time. That is what a Cabinet member has to do.

And, so, it was really my mistake. And the president was extremely gracious about it. And the fact is, I just should have come to that conclusion earlier, because it was fairly obvious.

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CAVUTO: All right, could I get rid of lot of housekeeping rumors? Can you say that silly metaphor?

But one is that, when the White House took the census away from Commerce, that really angered you. Any truth to that?

GREGG: No, not really.

There isn't much truth to that, to be honest with you. I — I thought we would work out the census over time. I didn't really see that as a big issue. I thought, once I got in there...

CAVUTO: Were you aware when they named you, though, Senator, that that was in the works?

GREGG: No, not in the context that it was put forward.

But, again, as I said before, this — I didn't see that as a big issue. I — I mean, I have been a pretty good manager. I was a governor. And I think that I could have managed that issue fairly easy, if given the opportunity.

I — I was disappointed with the Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus coming out so quickly and saying that I couldn't be fair and objective in that exercise. I think I could be very fair and objective and on almost anything. And, certainly, on that issue, I felt the White House had made a good choice.

And I think they are going to put in Ken Prewitt. And he is a good guy. And I knew him when he did it the last time. And, so, I thought we could do a pretty decent job. So, no, I did not see that as a big issue.

CAVUTO: OK. Now it's talk about Governor Locke.

But let me ask you about relations now with your Republican colleagues. How are they?

GREGG: Great. Great. I didn't — I didn't know I was so well-liked.


CAVUTO: All of a sudden, you were a rock star, right?

GREGG: It's come as a bit of a surprise, quite honestly.

CAVUTO: All right.

GREGG: Yes. Yes. It's come as a bit of a surprise, although I did point out to them that, in the week that I left, they spent a trillion dollars and that I had to come back to protect the taxpayer.

CAVUTO: Well, you were concerned about the stimulus plan, right, and what the president has up his sleeve?


CAVUTO: What worries you the most?

GREGG: Well, not up his sleeve. Up the sleeve, I don't want to use that as a — that is sort of a pejorative.

Basically, my problem is I think that it was unfocused, and that was it basically put together by appropriators, who had legitimate concerns in their appropriations accounts, but those accounts didn't have a whole lot of relevance to stimulating the economy. They just had a relevance to wanting to pump up accounts that people felt were worthy.


CAVUTO: Yes, but you have called it a tsunami. You have called it a tsunami coming our way? What do you mean by that?

GREGG: No, actually, what I'm referring to is the fiscal tsunami.

And I do refer to that as the impending fiscal tsunami of entitlement costs, which we are not going to be able to afford and which we need to address, and which yesterday's fiscal responsibility meeting down at the White House was a beginning of the dialogue to address those. So, that is a huge issue.

The stimulus package is just a lot of money not very well-spent. And I just didn't think it was appropriate.


GREGG: And it really more — rather than being a deciding event, it was more of a focusing event because I knew that, if I were in the Cabinet, I would have go down and be 100 percent for something I really wasn't comfortable with.

CAVUTO: Senator Gregg, thank you very much.

GREGG: Thank you. Thank you, Neil.

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