Feature

Judd Gregg's embarrassing move

Is Obama better or worse off now that Gregg, a conservative Republican, says he won't be commerce secretary?

What happened
Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew Thursday as President Obama's nominee for commerce secretary. The New Hampshire Republican said he had "irresolvable conflicts" with Obama over his economic stimulus plan and what Republicans say is an administration attempt to politicize the Census. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
Sen. Gregg's withdrawal is an embarrassment, said George Stephanopoulos in ABC News, for him and for President Obama. The decision was especially surprising since Obama's public courtship of Gregg—a fiscal conservative—went on for weeks. Gregg said he had decided that he wasn't a "good fit" for Obama's Cabinet.

"Obama is lucky to be rid of Gregg," said John Nichols in The Nation. Obama should consider capable conservatives for his Cabinet, but Gregg is a party-line voter who would have been a constant internal critic. "This nomination was always a case of taking the 'team of rivals' fantasy to extremes."

If Gregg's withdrawal represents a blow to bipartisanship, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, Obama has the left wing of his own party to thank. Gregg pulled out partly because the Democratic Left turned the Census—which determines states' representation in the House—into a political issue. It said that the White House should control the Census, and that a Republican commerce secretary "couldn't be trusted to conduct an honest 2010 Census count."

No matter who’s to blame, said Charles Mahtesian in Politico, Gregg’s withdrawl reinforced the Republican argument that Obama is abandoning promises of post-partisanship and pushing a stimulus that showers big spending on old Democratic constituencies. That makes Gregg a new GOP “hero against a foe who just a few weeks ago seemed almost unassailable.”

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