Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Another one (Judd Gregg) bites the dust

By Peter Feaver According to reports, Senator Gregg has withdrawn his name from the nomination to be Secretary of Commerce. At least so far, this seems all about policy. No rumors about tax delinquency, so far as I have heard (but, of course, I am out here in the boondocks and perhaps my Shadow colleagues ...

By Peter Feaver

According to reports, Senator Gregg has withdrawn his name from the nomination to be Secretary of Commerce. At least so far, this seems all about policy. No rumors about tax delinquency, so far as I have heard (but, of course, I am out here in the boondocks and perhaps my Shadow colleagues traffic in juicier gossip!). 

Rather, this has something of the feel of l'affaire Inman, when a high-profile cabinet pick just could not bring himself to support the President in his bailiwick. Perhaps the emerging storyline will follow the old Inman line -- "what a strange thing for the nominee to do" -- but I would not bet on that.

By Peter Feaver

According to reports, Senator Gregg has withdrawn his name from the nomination to be Secretary of Commerce. At least so far, this seems all about policy. No rumors about tax delinquency, so far as I have heard (but, of course, I am out here in the boondocks and perhaps my Shadow colleagues traffic in juicier gossip!). 

Rather, this has something of the feel of l’affaire Inman, when a high-profile cabinet pick just could not bring himself to support the President in his bailiwick. Perhaps the emerging storyline will follow the old Inman line — "what a strange thing for the nominee to do" — but I would not bet on that.

This is, in fact, a tough blow for an Obama team that has had more than its fair share of cabinet nomination snafus. The fact that the issue is a principled one — Gregg claims that he and Obama are "functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy" including the stimulus package and the Census — does not lessen the blow, in my opinion.

First, it feels like one more dot to be connected in an emerging picture of a gang that cannot shoot straight. That may be unfair, but, ominously for any spin to the contrary, Gregg claims that, "Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns."

Second, it draws attention to an issue that has so far not had much legs: Obama’s flirtation with a decision to move the Census out of the Commerce Department and into the White House. If Karl Rove had tried something like that, it would create howls of protest about "politicizing science," in this case social science. There have been some quiet press queries about this, but the issue is only now getting attention. The Census move is the kind of issue that will likely not play well the closer it is studied, so the attention, from Obama’s point of view, is unwelcome.

For my part, I hope the Gregg development will not mark the end of President Obama’s efforts to reach across the aisle. Those efforts are difficult, and, ironically, the reasons Senator Gregg gives for the withdrawal only underscore the need. Right now, the country is not unified about how best to deal with the economic challenges we face.  Without Secretary of Commerce Gregg, it will be a bit harder to build consensus.

Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Program in American Grand Strategy.

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