Ben Buchwalter

Much Ado About Gregg
February 3, 2009, 9:33 am
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Congress, Economy, Republicans | Tags: , ,

Today Obama will announce New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg as the Secretary of Commerce. There are a few reasons that this choice is not strategically sound. But at the end of the day, its more about getting someone confirmed than elevating conservatism in the Obama adminstration.

Many Democrats thought that appointing Gregg would leave a vacancy in the New Hampshire Senate that would be filled by their Democratic Governor, therefore securing a 60-seat majority in the Senate. But Gregg announced that he would not accept unless his seat was filled by a Republican. So what would probably have been a Democratic pick up in 2010 (because New Hampshire has been shifting leftward the past 8 years) now could remain on the GOP’s side depending on which Republican is picked to replace Gregg. Fortunately, the most likely choice, Bonnie Newman, has said she will not seek reelection in 2010. 

I think the main strategy in appointing Gregg is to allow Obama to enhance his record of bipartisanship, which has emerged as an important distinction in the past few weeks. The thing is, Gregg is not exactly a moderate Republican. See more about his record here. (He also voted to abolish the Commerce Department in 1995…)

Chris Bowers of OpenLeft does not support the logic of Gregg’s appointment and the bipartisanship rouse:

Essentially, we are handing over an entire federal department to a right-wing conservative in exchange for the possibility of an election victory in 2010 and one more vote on a few pieces of legislation in 2009-2010. So, we get possibilities, while a right-wing Republican gets a federal department.

That’s a pretty crappy deal. Our ability to win elections in 2010 will be dependant on how effectively we govern in 2009-2010. If we govern like conservative Republicans, which we will now be doing in the Commerce department, we will probably get booted out of office, just like they were. And, when they get back in power, liberal Democrats won’t be running the Departments of Defense, Commerce and Tranportation. [sic]

In some ways, Bowers is correct to be disappointed by this pick. But appointing a relatively conservative Republican was not Obama’s initial vision for the Commerce Department. In fact, this is his third choice, behind Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Obama’s campaign finance chair Penny Pritzker. So I’d say that the Gregg choice is more a pragmatic decision to get things moving than a tacit approval of conservatism.

Gregg will accept and be approved by the Senate without controversy. This will be a welcome development after Obama’s troubles with Richardson (who withdrew his name amid controversy) and Pritzker (who declined). 


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