The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together and no constable to keep them. ~ Emerson

Friday, February 13, 2009


“He must have been noodling this over the weekend.”

That was White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s laconic evaluation as to why Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire decided to withdraw his name from the nomination he accepted just ten days earlier for Secretary of Commerce.

His recantation sent shockwaves through Washington and set talking heads twittering anew over President Obama’s failure to achieve a new bipartisan tone in Washington. This indictment rings true where early, meaningful participation by the GOP during drafting of the economic stimulus bill is concerned. In the case of Gregg, not so much.

Others intimate that a string of failed nominations points to naïveté and poor judgment in Obama’s leadership. Again, such an evaluation seems on target for some of the other high-profile withdrawals, such as Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle. It is off the mark about Gregg.

The Senator was responsible and self-effacing when parting ways with the Administration. “I made a mistake,” he said. “The President asked me to do it; I said ‘yes.’ That was my mistake, not his.”

Moreover, Gregg had nothing but praise for Obama. “He has been a person who has reached out and aggressively reached out, across the aisle. And I immensely respect that and I immensely respect him.”

For its part, the White House was gracious and conciliatory in its acceptance of Gregg’s decision. Obama vowed he was “going to just keep on making efforts to build the kind of bipartisan consensus around important issues that I think the American people are looking for." Obama said he was glad Gregg “searched his heart” and changed course before his confirmation.

“It's better we figured this out now than later,” echoed Emanuel.

This is all well and good but the vague reasons cited by Gregg for his departure do not convince or satisfy.

“The bottom line is this was just a bridge too far for me . . . For thirty years, I've been my own person in charge of my own views, and I guess I hadn't really focused on the job of working for somebody else and carrying their views, and so this is basically where it came out.”

After fifteen years in the Senate, Gregg does not know how to compromise or be a team player? Senators accomplish nothing by acting independently.

Gregg also cited “irreconcilable differences” with the President’s stimulus bill.

Yet just a few days earlier, Gregg had praised this very bill and lectured his Republican peers on opposing it for purely political purposes. “This is not a time for partisanship. This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other. This is a time to govern and govern well.”

Yeah, that is correct. So what happened?

Finally, an Obama Administration decision to have Census Bureau officials report directly to the White House as well as to him reportedly displeased Gregg. The 2010 census could have profound political impacts, since population serves as the basis for drawing Congressional district boundaries. Gregg, like many Republicans, feels the Administration’s attempt at overt control is dangerously politicizing the process.

This is a legitimate complaint but it is also the most disappointing aspect of Gregg’s withdrawal. Despite increased White House involvement, the Census Bureau remains part of the Commerce Department. As a Republican, Gregg might have played an invaluable watchdog role to curb Democratic excesses.

Republicans of all stripes were complimentary – one might even say jubilant – regarding Gregg’s change of heart.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky lauded Gregg for having “made a principled decision.”

“What Judd Gregg showed today is that he's not willing to swap his integrity for a place in the Cabinet,” declared former Bush political advisor Karl Rove.

Ed Rogers, a former White House staffer for Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. and now Chairman of BGR Group, had a different take. “This nomination was a flawed concept,” he explained, not because it was bipartisan but because Gregg was not Commerce material. “If a Republican were elected president and needed a list of one hundred likely candidates for Commerce Secretary, Gregg would not be on it.”

Apparently, Gregg is too good and simultaneously not good enough to serve under Obama. Republicans are admirably thorough at covering all their bases.

Linda Chavez, a former member of the Reagan administration and currently Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, probably expressed the GOP position most honestly, when she said bluntly, “Bipartisanship is highly overrated” and “2010 is just around the corner.”

The Republican philosophy is clear. Anybody who compromises is weak. When Obama fails to compromise, he is betraying his promise of bipartisanship. When Republicans fail to compromise, they are upholding their principles. It is too cute by half and I do not think it will persuade Independent and moderate voters that Obama is a milquetoast, unless he becomes flagrantly obsequious in his continued efforts to reach across the aisle.

Despite reports that a former staffer was under criminal investigation for allegedly taking baseball and hockey tickets from a lobbyist in exchange for legislative favors, Gregg said he was not a subject of the investigation. He further insisted the vetting scrutiny that toppled other Obama nominations had nothing to do with his withdrawal.

However, a senior Administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that Democrats believed Gregg would have faced potentially rough questioning from fellow Republicans during his confirmation hearings because of his willingness to cooperate with the opposition. “I think what ended Judd Gregg's hope of and desire of being the Commerce Secretary wasn't anything any Democrat said or did but what Republicans said and did,” said the official.

Gregg also announced he would not run for re-election to the Senate when his current term expires in 2010. It is possible some private matter, such as his health or family, is forcing him to remove himself from politics altogether and this is the real reason for his decision not to serve.

Lacking this as certainty, however, it is difficult not to conclude the noodling Gregg has supposedly been doing in his head eventually worked its way down his spine and turned what used to be his backbone into a wet noodle. As regards Obama’s backbone, do not expect him to bend over backwards in a bipartisan limbo for Republicans when filling any future Cabinet positions.

It was Gregg who sounded rather naïve and more than a little Kum-ba-ya yesterday when he explained he accepted – and perhaps even campaigned for – the Commerce job despite known ideological differences with Obama because of the “euphoria of [my] desire” to serve and his genuine belief that Obama will have a “good Presidency.”

McConnell said he expected Gregg to receive a “standing ovation” when he walks into the next gathering of the Senate Republican Conference.

This sounds exactly like the proper reward for Gregg. When the applause fades away, will Gregg consider the sixty seconds of approbation from his peers are what he traded for a lasting voice in helping to write history?

Gregg is no more a failure in all this than Obama. He is a terrific disappointment, however. At a time when his Party is out of power and complaining about it, he received an opportunity to assume a leadership position that would have allowed him to serve Republican interests within the system as well as serving his country. He chose the safety of partisan approval instead.

Ach, such a noodling!

1 comment:

Ted said...

Sen. Gregg withdrew because (1) Obama’s chutzpah crossed the line and (2) Obama CANNOT put away his “birth certificate” issue.

1. Here’s the chutzpah: The Republicans didn’t get their act together enough to challenge Obama for not being constitutionally qualified to be President as an Article 2 “natural born citizen” so Obama’s White House steals the census from the Commerce Department against the specific instructions of the constitution itself — “actual enumeration” under Article 1.

2. Here’s the “birth certificate” issue: Since Obama’s earnest drive to convince the nation to weaken its economic strength through redistribution as well as weaken its national defense, COUPLED WITH HIS UNPRECEDENTED WHITE HOUSE TAKEOVER OF DECENNIAL CENSUS TAKING FROM THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT, has confirmed the very threats to our Republic’s survival that the Constitution was designed to avert, it no longer is sustainable for the United States Supreme Court to refrain from exercising WHAT IS ITS ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO DEFEND THE NATION FROM UNLAWFUL USURPATION. The questions of Obama’s Kenyan birth and his father’s Kenyan/British citizenship (admitted on his own website) have been conflated by his sustained unwillingnes to supply his long form birth certificate now under seal, and compounded by his internet posting of a discredited ‘after-the-fact’ short form ‘certificate’. In the absence of these issues being acknowledged and addressed, IT IS MANIFEST THAT OBAMA REMAINS INELIGIBLE TO BE PRESIDENT UNDER ARTICLE 2 OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Being a 14th Amendment ‘citizen’ is not sufficient. A ‘President’ MUST BE an Article 2 ‘natural born citizen’ AS DEFINED BY THE FRAMERS’ INTENT.