And the dread department claims another victim in N.H. Senator Judd Gregg, who has withdrawn his nomination for the post. Too bad, that was a story I enjoyed. Gregg dropped out, predictably enough, becuase he doesn't want to rep the stimulus and was insulted, probably rightfully so, that the administration seemed intent on handing over the more overtly political aspects of his job, like the census, to the White House. Frankly, I'm amazed that Gregg even got this far with these reservations -- did he not realize that the administration would expect him to support the stimulus legislation?
Some may see Gregg's decision as yet another failure of bipartisanship, but the meme is becoming more and more that Obama reaches out and the GOP rejects the overture, so I call it a wash for the administration and for Gregg, who does look a bit silly. The winner here is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who gets to hold on to a smart and effective senator for the next two years -- I wouldn't count on Gregg winning reelection in 2010, given the political climate and the tenacious fundraising of Representative Paul Hodes. Another developing storyline: How Gregg and the White House work together on the new administration's forthcoming legislative agenda. Gregg's gracious statement promises a continued relationship on certain issues, so we'll have to see what that all amounts to; presumably he won't recuse himself from voting on the stimulus now, and presumably he'll vote no.
Politics, as always, is weird. Who could have predicted last year that Obama's most difficult cabinet nomination would turn out to be Commerce? Let the speculation begin -- who's the next challenger for Commerce?
UPDATE: The administration's response seems a little snippy, and also insinuates that the whole plan was Gregg's idea. Wheels within wheels...
“Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart."
-- Tim Fernholz