David Rothkopf

Special Friday the 13th Judd Gregg edition

Judd Gregg, are you serious? Hasn’t Commerce gone through enough humiliation over the years without becoming the cabinet department no one wants? Could it really and truly be that you didn’t consider that being a Republican and all (not to mention being from New Hampshire) you might have some differences from the President? Until now? ...

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WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill February 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. Gregg has withdrawn from President Barack Obama's nomination to be the Secretary of Commerce. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Judd Gregg, are you serious? Hasn’t Commerce gone through enough humiliation over the years without becoming the cabinet department no one wants? Could it really and truly be that you didn’t consider that being a Republican and all (not to mention being from New Hampshire) you might have some differences from the President? Until now? Really?

A former senior government official with whom I spoke (a Dem) said:

We’re not getting the whole story here. My guess is — if he didn’t have tax problems — that he just decided that given the partisan rifts growing in DC in the past couple weeks and the traction he may have perceived some on the right were getting, that he wanted to be back on that side of aisle.” 

This is what happens when you give a Senator a little “fuck you” money (Gregg won something like $855,000 the lottery in Virginia a couple years ago.) Wait, virtually all Senators are rich so that can’t be it. Well anyway, Gregg now returns to the well-deserved obscurity from whence he came. There he will meet again…the Commerce Department which never left.

Continuing the theme of my early posts on Commerce, it is revealing that we are in the biggest economic crisis since the reign of Ethelred the Unready and there in all the stories about Gregg’s bizarre flip flop I read there was not the hint of any sense of panic about getting Commerce (the department not the economic activity) up and running. Could it be that no one sees much connection between Commerce (the department) and commerce (the economic activity)? We were so afraid not to have a Treasury Secretary that Tim Geithner got a pass on his “little problem.”

Again, my sense is that if you have a department that no one wants to lead (even though the Commerce Secretary gets his own parking space and a really big office with a giant aquarium in it) perhaps you don’t need the department. That said, although this is a great time for Obama to say, “see, this was part of my plan all along to prove we don’t need this big white elephant in the cabinet, let’s shut ‘er down” it won’t happen because it’s too darned common-sensical for Washington. So, as the next best choice, perhaps Obama will think about actually turning to a businessperson as his fourth choice at Commerce (don’t forget Penny Pritzker!).

Somebody somewhere remind the White House that business actually has something to do with the U.S. economy and that hiring someone who actually has met a payroll might not be such a bad idea. Government may have and even warrant a bigger role in the U.S. economy that it has had in the recent past, but the heavy lifting is going to be left to the U.S. business community and it would be great to have a sign that the administration recognized that as much as we need bi-partisanship (thank you, Sen. Gregg) in this time of crisis, we need a high-functioning public-private collaboration, too. Invite the private sector to the table (and I don’t just mean the uncomfortable side of  a witness table at a Congressional investigation). 

Alex Wong/Getty Images

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