Who Cares Who Runs Commerce?

03/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Has there ever been a President as capable of getting people to care about the Department of Commerce as Barack Obama? The answer is no, of course not, so chalk this one up in the Change column!

The Department of Commerce, founded in 1913 (on a dare, probably), has long housed a bunch of nobodies within its walls. Scan the list of former Secretaries, and it's a veritable rogues gallery of people you've forgotten about, like Mickey Kantor, and people who obviously are complete fictions, like "Sinclair Weeks." The most well-known person who ever headed up the Commerce Department is Herbert Hoover, so you may as well start thinking of the office as the Federally funded explication of the "Peter principle."

Anyway, now Judd Gregg will be America's Next Top Guy Who Won't Be Obama's Commerce Secretary. The press is treating this as a serious complication on the road to a bipartisan paradise, but -- seriously, people -- it's no such thing. Here's the complete story: Gregg was suggested for the job. Obama saw an opportunity to maybe gain another Democratic Senator, so he agreed to it. But New Hampshire's governor, John Lynch, put the kibosh on that fairly quickly by saying he wouldn't upset the balance of power (Lynch had probably noticed how everyone was treating Rod Blagojevich -- the last governor to play games with his appointment power -- as some sort of monster). Obama's hope for a sixtieth Democratic Senator foiled, he took the 2010 census -- the only critical thing in Commerce's portfolio -- away from Gregg. The census was probably the thing Gregg (and his GOP colleagues) wanted to have purview over in the first place.

So now there was just no point to continuing the pretense that the appointment was Change You Can Believe In, so there was nothing left to do but part ways. Gregg couldn't say anything bad about Obama, because he's still crazy popular with the American people. So he pulled a Media Cycle Dick Move by pre-empting Obama's stimulus victory lap, the media responded to the Media Cycle Dick Move like Pavlov's dog, and now there's slobber everywhere.

Where does this leave the Department of Commerce? Well, considering that Obama was willing to entertain the idea of the Department being run by people with as wildly divergent political viewpoints as Gregg and Bill Richardson, who cares? Maybe Gregg was onto something when he wanted to eliminate the agency. Right now, it's being run by a Bush appointee, Otto Wolff. I sort of like Megan Carpentier's idea of placing Wanda Sykes at the top spot, because why not. Anyway, in week, no one will remember that time the President and a guy named Judd couldn't agree on who would count people.

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