The Bizarre Withdrawal of Commerce Secretary Nominee Judd Gregg

As if Washington hadn't become a surreal place anyway what with politicians casually throwing around trillions of dollars as if it were chump change.

For commerce secretary nominee Judd Gregg, it was the overwhelming nature of the stimulus bill that apparently opened his eyes to the fundamental incompatibility inherent in a relationship between a moderately conservative Republican and a president who is proposing the largest increase in federal spending ever. And lurking in the background was the issue of the White House power grab of the census -- a looming battle royale that will see Republicans fighting tooth and nail to prevent the Obama White House from trying to "game" the census and increase representation for Democrats on the Hill.

It is doubtful that the withdrawal of Judd Gregg will rock President Obama's White House. If you believe Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the New Hampshire Republican signaled earlier in the week that he was having second thoughts. A meeting with the president yesterday failed to change his mind to bow out.

In his formal statement, Gregg sounded conciliatory:

I want to thank the president for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as secretary of commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.

Obviously the president requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.

I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the president's proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.