Gregg Withdrawal Ignites Census Rhubarb
The $800 billion dollar pork-stimulus bill represents Obama's opening move in centralizing all power in himself and his party. He won this gambit. Will he win the next move - to take over the national census?
Gregg Withdrawal Ignites Census Rhubarb
February 14, 2009 pajamasmedia.com (Excerpts)
“Unfortunately for the Obama administration, Judd Gregg’s withdrawal as commerce secretary has highlighted the effort by the White House to wrest control of the census (and with it, the groundwork for the 2010 Congressional reapportionment).
Gregg took a second or third tier issue and vaulted it to the front pages.
Since word had broken that the White House intended to take oversight of the census out of the Commerce Department and give it to the hyper-partisan political operator Rahm Emanuel, the Republicans had worked feverishly to raise public awareness. They had hit the Sunday talk shows and written letters to the White House. Then early on Thursday top Republicans held a press conference to protest the move. Minority Leader John Boehner explained the GOP’s chagrin:
This unprecedented move would undermine the goal of a fair and accurate Census count. And it would open the door to massive waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.
The American people expect the Census to be fair, impartial, and free of politics.
And they expect us to protect the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars the government distributes each year based on Census data. If this process is controlled by political operatives at the White House, instead of experts and statisticians at the Census Bureau, Americans are right to lose confidence in it.
The Republicans met with limited success. During the week, some op-eds appeared and conservative media did pick up on the story. But given the news of the stimulus bill and the rocky rollout of the bank bailout by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the census story had not reached critical mass. That changed with Gregg’s withdrawal.
Millions of Americans are now hearing about the census power grab by the Obama White House. Bradley Blakeman, writing at Politico, set out the narrative which will now get some visibility:
"Turns out that that the President and the Democrats sought to gut the Department of Commerce from the exercise of any authority, starting with taking away from Commerce of the operation of the 2010 Census and giving it to the White House. The Democrats are drunk with power. Senator Gregg got a taste of what was to come from their behavior on the Economic Bill and the Census and said to himself I am sure, “I want no part of this.”
And the Wall Street Journal chimed in as well:
"The Obama White House, however, indicated that it might be willing to involve itself more directly in the Census Bureau, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs claiming “historical precedent” for a closer association. This put Mr. Gregg in an impossible situation. It is bad enough that one of the Senate’s famous straight arrows had his integrity questioned. Equally impossible, the White House’s expressed willingness to bring the Census director under the informal sway of, say, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel effectively undermined the authority Mr. Gregg would have needed to run his department."
Certainly the Obama team will receive new scrutiny over the issue. This week’s Sunday talk shows likely will feature the census flap as another ongoing element in the story of the Obama administration’s bumpy first month. And the Washington Post today cautions that “The Census Bureau is staffed by experts with a well-earned reputation for integrity and political independence.” Translation: the Obama administration should let them do their jobs without political interference.
But the real fireworks may come at the confirmation hearing for whoever is selected as the next commerce secretary. Republicans can be expected now to grill the nominee and seek assurances that the trained professional staff at the Commerce Department, not Rahm Emanuel, will run the census. It will be amusing to watch the Democrats explain that it is perfectly acceptable for White House operatives to meddle in the day-to-day work of our nation’s dedicated civil service employees.
Thanks to Gregg, it will make for the most interesting commerce secretary confirmation hearing – ever.
Sen. Gregg comes to his 'Census'
By JOSEPH W. MCQUAID
New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher
Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009
Two weeks ago, this newspaper wrote that Judd Gregg's decision to accept the post of Secretary of Commerce for President Barack Obama "may actually bring some much-needed balance to an administration that seems bent on spending the nation into oblivion.''
"That's a long shot, but even if Gregg has only a 1-in-10 chance of being heard on fiscal and business issues, that's better than no chance at all.''
It is now clear that Sen. Gregg wouldn't have had even that small chance. The White House's planned political kidnapping of the Census Bureau from Commerce jurisdiction was all the sign that Gregg needed to realize he would have been mere conservative window dressing in a liberal giveaway store.
As tough as it must have been for him, Gregg has made the right call to withdraw his name. He graciously chose not to blame the President, but as the Wall Street Journal put it yesterday, "Obama could have resolved this mess by telling Senator Gregg that as always the Census Bureau would report to the Commerce Secretary.''
We also wrote two weeks ago, "Three terms in the U.S. Senate is plenty. It would have been time for change, one way or another.'' So we also applaud Gregg for announcing that he will not seek reelection next year.
We wish Sen. Gregg a happy birthday today. He deserves one, especially after the last couple of weeks.