Politics

Judd Gregg’s Profile in Petulance

I am relieved that President Barack Obama has decided to abandon the idea of a "car czar" to fix the auto industry. If Obama had gone with a czar, his vetters would have been forced to find someone who actually paid his taxes.

This has proven difficult in the past. So Obama has decided to appoint a "task force" instead, and task forces are much easier to vet.

If there is no actual videotape of you sticking up a 7-Eleven, you probably can get on a task force. (And if you have served less than five years of hard time, you probably can get on a "blue-ribbon" task force.)

The auto industry task force will be headed by Timothy Geithner, our current treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, our current chairman of the National Economic Council.

I say "current" because we do not know if either man will wake up and get in touch with his inner self one morning and withdraw, like Judd Gregg recently did.

Gregg, a Republican senator from New Hampshire, views himself as a profile in courage, but more accurately he could be called a profile in petulance.

Gregg, who once voted to abolish the office of commerce secretary, applied to Obama for the job, got it and then decided he was too principled for it.

"I’m a fiscal conservative, as everybody knows, a fairly strong one," Gregg told reporters at a news conference last week. "And it just became clear to me that it would be very difficult, day in and day out, to serve in this Cabinet or any Cabinet."

So what part of being in a Cabinet did Gregg not understand when he sought out the job?

He has served in Washington for more than 20 years, and he just discovered there is gambling in Casablanca? He has just discovered that members of a Cabinet have to support the policies of the president? This was a revelation to him?

Obama told the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., last week that Gregg came to him for the job, and so Obama was startled when Gregg abruptly withdrew. "It comes as something of a surprise, because the truth, you know, Mr. Gregg approached us with interest and seemed enthusiastic," Obama said.

Gregg would have been the third Republican in Obama’s Cabinet, and no president has ever appointed that many members of an opposing party. So you can see why Obama was eager to have him.

But why was Gregg eager to join up? He is a deficit hawk whose life has been devoted to trying to rein in government spending on entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. And so he wants to give up his job as a U.S. senator and join the Obama administration? Why? Because the post of commerce secretary is so appealing?

Most of what a commerce secretary does is try to get foreign countries to buy U.S. products. As if Microsoft really needed our tax dollars to do this. Which is why Gregg and others have tried to abolish the job over the years.

There are a few other things the commerce secretary does, like oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which, according to its Website, deals with everything from "daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce …"

And then there is the census. The commerce secretary oversees the census, which is conducted every 10 years and is necessary so we can gerrymander our congressional districts to make sure incumbents never lose.

The White House wants greater control of the census, and this troubled Gregg, he said, listing it as one reason he was withdrawing his name.

Again, I am a little confused. Gregg didn’t realize that next year ends in a zero? And so there was going to be a census?

But Gregg said the census was one of the "irresolvable conflicts" he has with Obama, and that in his discussions with Obama before accepting the job, "we did not adequately focus on these concerns."

So what did they focus on? Fisheries management and El Nino?

Gregg decided that if he couldn’t set the rules, he was not going to play the game, even though being in a Cabinet is about being a team player.

But he could not do this, Gregg said, because if he did, he "couldn’t be Judd Gregg."

Well, now he can be Judd Gregg. I don’t know many other people who want to be.


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