Obama Administration Continues To Implode.........

John A. Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Thu Feb 12 17:32:49 MST 2009

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Sen. Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Sec. Nominee

Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:42 PM

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WASHINGTON – Saying, "I made a mistake," Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New 
Hampshire abruptly withdrew as commerce secretary nominee on Thursday and 
drew a testy reaction from the White House, suddenly coping with the third 
Cabinet withdrawal of Barack Obama's young presidency.

Gregg cited "irresolvable conflicts" with Obama's handling of the economic 
stimulus and 2010 census in a statement released without warning by his 
Senate office.

Later, at a news conference in the Capitol, he sounded more contrite.

"The president asked me to do it," he said of the job offer. "I said, 
'Yes.' That was my mistake."

Obama offered a somewhat different account from Gregg.

"It comes as something of a surprise, because the truth, you know, Mr. 
Gregg approached us with interest and seemed enthusiastic," Obama said in 
an interview with the Springfield (Ill.) Journal-Register. "But ultimately, 
I think, we're 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."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said once it became clear Gregg was not 
going to support some of Obama's top economic priorities, it became 
necessary for Gregg and the administration "to part ways," Gibbs said. "We 
regret that he has had a change of heart."

Gregg said he'd always been a strong fiscal conservative. "It really wasn't 
a good pick." When the Senate voted on the president's massive stimulus 
plan earlier this week, Gregg did not vote. The bill passed with all 
Democratic votes and just three Republican votes.

The unexpected withdrawal marked the latest setback for Obama in his 
attempt to build a Cabinet. It came as the new president expended political 
capital in Washington ­ and around the country ­ for his economic package.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was confirmed despite revelations that he 
had not paid some of his taxes on time, and former Senate Democratic Leader 
Tom Daschle withdrew as nominee as health and human services secretary in a 
tax controversy.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was Obama's first choice as 
Commerce Secretary. He withdrew several weeks ago following disclosure that 
a grand jury is investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the awarding of 
contracts in his state. Richardson has not been implicated personally.

Gregg was one of three Republicans Obama had put in his Cabinet to 
emphasize his campaign pledge that he would be an agent of bipartisan change.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Obama and Gregg met in the 
Oval Office on Wednesday and there were no hard feelings.

"It's better we figured this out now than later," Emanuel said. "It's 
unfortunate. ... There's a disappointment."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gregg said, "For 30 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."

Gregg, 61, said he informed the White House "fairly early in the week" 
about his decision. He said he changed his mind after realizing he wasn't 
ready to "trim my sails" to be a part of Obama's team.

"I just sensed that I was not going to be good at being anything other than 
myself," he said.

The New Hampshire senator also said he would probably not run for a new 
term in 2010.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, 
said he wished Gregg "had thought through the implications of his 
nomination more thoroughly before accepting this post."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Gregg a friend and said, 
"I respect his decision."

In his statement, Gregg said his withdrawal had nothing to do with the 
vetting into his past that Cabinet officials routinely undergo.

Gregg's reference to the stimulus underscored the partisan divide over the 
centerpiece of Obama's economic recovery plan. Conservatives in both houses 
have been relentless critics of the plan, arguing it is filled with 
wasteful spending and won't create enough jobs. Gregg has refrained from 
voting on the bill ­ and on all other matters ­ while his nomination was 

The Commerce Department has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau, and the 
administration recently took steps to assert greater control. Republicans 
have harshly criticized the decision, saying it was an attempt to 
politicize the once-in-a-decade event.

The outcome of the census has deep political implications, since 
congressional districts are drawn based on population. Many federal funds 
are distributed on the basis of population, as well.

Both of those factors mean there is a premium on counting as many residents 
as possible. Historically, the groups believed to be most undercounted are 
inner-city minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.

Gregg's announcement also undid a carefully constructed chain of events.

The New Hampshire senator had agreed to join the Cabinet only if his 
departure from the Senate did not allow Democrats to take control of his seat.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, in turn, pledged to appointed Bonnie Newman, 
a former interim president of the University of New Hampshire.

She, in turn, had agreed not to run for a full term in 2010, creating an 
open seat for Democrats to try and claim.

In a statement, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said 
Gregg "made a principled decision to return and we're glad to have him."

Lynch, who spoke to Gregg several hours before the announcement, said he 
respected Gregg's decision to withdraw and remain in the Senate. He thanked 
Newman for her willingness to serve.

A day after Gregg's nomination had been announced, the AP reported that a 
former staffer was under criminal investigation for allegedly taking 
baseball and hockey tickets from a lobbyist in exchange for legislative 
favors while working for Gregg.

The former staffer, Kevin Koonce, has been identified in court papers only 
as "Staffer F" in the sprawling corruption probe stemming from disgraced 
lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Gregg said at the time that he had been told he was neither a subject nor 
target of the investigation, and would cooperate fully.

© 2009 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be 
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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