Thursday, February 12, 2009

Not Change I Can Believe In

New Hampshire’s own Senator Judd Gregg was recently chosen by President Obama to lead the Commerce Department. President Obama’s first choice was Governor Bill Richardson, from New Mexico. One wonders at the thought process that went from Richardson, a Democrat to Judd Gregg, a far right Republican. No explanation has been given by the Obama administration.

Senator Gregg is an odd cabinet choice for Obama, who ran under the banner of change. A Gregg appointment does not represent change. Gregg voted to close down the Dept. of Commerce in 1995, and now he’s a nominee for Secretary of Commerce? Irony sticks her head in the oven one more time.

One of the most important duties of the Dept. of Commerce is the census. The US does a census survey every ten years. The census figures help determine: the allocation of federal funds for education programs in states and communities; the allocation of federal funds for highway projects, law enforcement, and other federally funded programs. The census numbers are used by health and social agencies for policy purposes, and the statistics become the basis of national economic policy. This is a lot more than just counting people and gathering information about ethnicity. Perhaps the most important function of the census is that the numbers are used to determine the apportionment of representation to the US House of Representatives. States may gain or lose representation depending on their population growth or shrinkage. Once those numbers are certified, they will go to the state legislatures for the purpose of drawing up new districts.

The census is a big, expensive project. After years of underfunding, the 2010 census is going to be expensive. Judd Gregg has consistently undermined the census in the past. In 1999, when President Clinton asked for emergency funds to complete the census, Gregg opposed it. It seems obvious that Obama hadn’t even considered the census when he chose Gregg for his cabinet. In an attempt at a corrective move, Obama announced that the census would report directly to the White House. As you might imagine, the minority party is up in arms at the very thought. They are fraught with anxiety that the Democrats will “cook the books” for the next census. In other words, they expect the Democrats to act like Republicans.

Sadly, the Democrats don’t seem capable of acting like Republicans. The Republicans weren’t afraid to rule, and they sure weren’t afraid to stomp on the opposition. The Democrats seem to be under the impression that “bi-partisanship” means allowing the Republicans to continue to run the country. When Senator Gregg announced that he would not accept a cabinet post unless a Republican was nominated to replace him – no one in the traditional media classified that as blackmail. It was reported in a very matter-of-fact way, as if Gregg had every right to make such a demand.

NH Governor Lynch did not rear up on his hind legs in outrage at being dictated to. He did not point out that Gregg was free to make his own choice about serving the President. He did not point out that as the governor of our state, it was up to him to decide whom would best serve the people of our state. Lynch did not point out that NH voters have voted Republicans out of national office in all of our recent elections. He did not mention blackmail or hostage taking. Instead, he capitulated quite meekly, and announced that he would appoint Ms. Bonnie Newman, a Republican, to replace Senator Gregg. Ms. Newman is currently serving as director at Fairpoint, the company that took on massive debt to buy Verizon’s landlines. In 2007, Ms. Newman was quite enthusiastic about what a great company Fairpoint was, and how strong their commitment to building infrastructure for DSL in northern New England. Many warned against this sale, and the negative impact it could have in the rural parts of NH. As it stands right now, Fairpoint is hemorrhaging customers, and the company’s bond rating has recently been down graded from “stable” to “junk.” Northern New England won’t be seeing that infrastructure in the foreseeable future. One can only hope Gregg won’t be confirmed, if that’s the kind of vision Ms. Newman has for our state.

Meanwhile, Senator Gregg is still in Washington. What he’s doing isn’t exactly clear. He’s missed 30 percent of the votes in the 111th Congress. He recused himself from voting on the president’s stimulus package. Apparently he’s hanging around and collecting a paycheck, while not doing anything to represent our state. Given his voting record (he’s voted consistently against women, children, and minorities) this is probably a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of liberal bloggers try to justify Obama’s choice of Gregg. They don’t want to admit that their new president could make a mistake of this magnitude. I don’t share that fear. Gregg has no place in a cabinet that is supposed to foment change.

Everything you need to know about Judd Gregg happened in one week during October of 2005. Senator Gregg voted against increasing the federal minimum wage, won $835,000 in the NH lottery, and the next day voted against expanding LIHEAP funds.

This isn’t change I can believe in. I’m not ready to hold hands and sing Kumbayah with the folks who brought us the last 8 years. I’m sick to death of hearing about the team of rivals. I hope the Obama administration will begin to act like winners, and stop being dictated to by the increasingly irrelevant party of NO.

“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it.” P.J. O’Rourke

Since this was sent in to meet deadline, Senator Gregg has withdrawn as Commerce Secretary nominee. He's also stated that he won't run for re-election in 2010. It will be interesting to see what surfaces as the reason why.

This was published as an editorial in the Conway Daily Sun on February 13, 2009

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

WoW! What irony Susan! Your great and educational piece (had no idea Ms. Newman was on Fairpoints director) appears today in the Sun and Gregg has already pulled out. He realized too late he can't handle the job? Most of us complained of this choice, unable to come to grips with a flaky and deeply entrenched Repub. who was vehemently opposed to the Commerce Dept. only to ask(?) to be considered for this same post? And his explanations to the press last night were indeed flaky, vague and my perception, dishonest. We could have told our Presd. this was a loser for a choice. And now the stimulus has been passed with NOT ONE Repub vote and this includes Gregg! The country can now see Republicans for who and what they are. Totally divisive, 100% political, and 100% UNPATRIOTIC. They had the unmitigated gaul to ram "patriotism" down our throats for 8 long miserable years. Now we can see exactly what Patriotism is - and is not!