Senator Judd Gregg abandoned President Obama's nomination to be Secretary of Commerce just nine days after receiving the nod, not for any mysterious fever of principles, but rather because Gregg is good example of what is wrong with the Republican Party after Karl Rove and President George Bush turned it into clumsy crybabies. Why did Gregg quit? Was it because White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel means to strip the Census Bureau from Commerce and turn it into an election tool, or allow it to be run by a Republican, which was Emanuel’s idea in the first place? Or was it because Gregg couldn't stand up to the tantrum he was hearing from the enraged GOP over the Emanuel plotting? Yes to both, but then again, more importantly, why did Gregg agree to join up with the Obama administration to begin with?
When Obama uses the word “bipartisan,” does he mean an absence of conflict, giving a hug to a co-worker, a chorus of cheerful mates like the Seven Dwarves?
The answer is that Gregg is not a bipartisan-minded Republican conservative. Gregg is a nothing, not conservative, not liberal, not partisan or bipartisan: a blank, a cipher, an empty cabinet, to be pushed and pulled by bullies like Rove once upon a time and Emanuel now. If Gregg was unique in this role as party busboy, we would be safer, but he represents a sizeable amount of what is left in the Republican Senate and not a few of what passes for leadership in the House. RINO? Republican In Name Only? Worse. In this present global crisis, these politicians without a backbone are parasites, sycophants and in the worst instances like now, cowards. More Greggs? After the stimulus folly, they may be all Greggs, weak-kneed creatures to be rolled by Rahm Emanuel, who rolled himself in the end.
Judd Gregg was always an insignificant journeyman Republican politician. At 62, the tall, craggy, and dull New Hampshire scion has been in public office since 1978, all his adult life on the public payroll, as a state officer, congressman, governor and senator. His father was also a governor of the Granite State before him, and Gregg has no claims on originality—another Exeter-educated Ivy Leaguer who drifted into politics like some drift into bridge playing—a man without need of principles as long as he used his father's name and his elitist tone. Greggs's undistinguished congressional career—30 years of chumminess and obtuseness—has produced no credible record of achievement but it has most recently produced failure after failure for the party and the country. Not just because Gregg was the chair of the giveaway Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and then the chair of the giveaway Committee on the Budget, overseeing the ghastly Bush spending sprees to bribe the public for the 2004 victories and then for the 2006 losses, but also because when the country needed him the most, during the stock market crash of last September and October, Gregg turned yellow.
When Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson misled the public and the Congress about the TARP plan last September, the so-called bailout of the big, insolvent banks by buying their toxic waste with taxpapers billions – Gregg was a lead figure for the Republican minority to go along with the shenanigans. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put Gregg in the position of negotiating with the Democrats as they worked to overcome the resistance of the Republican House members who had defeated the TARP on September 29. Gregg took to the microphones to repeat nonsense: "This is about Main Street. It's about America."
Afterward, Gregg became a supervisor of the TARP swag, a post he quit in early December, when it was laughably obvious that Paulson had fibbed and that TARP was being used to bolster Paulson's friends on Wall Street, starting with Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and John Thain, CEO and office redecorator of Merrill Lynch, and the other heroic rich men who wanted their bonues as rewards for losing billions and wrecking the planetary economy.
Gregg's 30 years of failures and meaningless polite back-scratching now come to this pointless farce of his announced withdrawal, when he tells the president one thing and then the next day says, “I made a mistake,” and that his nomination is "a bridge too far."
Stranger still is what this indicates about the way Emanuel is running the White House. Emanuel is reported to have told Gregg that he was going to have a hand in the Census Bureau. No one denies this, nor does anyone deny that Emanuel was heeding the pressure that the administration was receiving from Democrats that the Census must not be left to a Republican hack. What did Gregg make of Emanuel's impudence? Former Census Director Bruce Chapman (under Reagan) told me last night after the Gregg resignation, that it was self-evident from the first that the only reason for Emanuel to reverse Commerce Department tradition and inject the White House into the Census Bureau was because the White House aimed to "monkey around" with the 2010 census results. Chapman expressed what nearly all Republicans think. Can Gregg now claim he was surprised? No. He can say he was rolled, and we can laugh at him as he fades away.
More tellingly, Gregg's feckless fiasco points to the strange conduct of the Obama administration in its pursuit of what it calls bipartisanship. When Obama uses the word “bipartisan,” does he mean an absence of conflict, giving a hug to a co-worker, a chorus of cheerful mates like the Seven Dwarves? With Gregg, the president found a useful example of a politician who doesn't defend himself, doesn't know how to fight, and may even believe that scrapping is beneath him. What the president did not find was a Republican who respects his own party or himself. The result was forgettable disrespect all around.
John Batchelor is radio host of the John Batchelor Show in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles.