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Gregg, White House Still At Odds On Commerce Idea

First Posted: 03/18/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:05 PM ET

Gregg

It may seem like a minor footnote in a poorly-thought-out nomination. But the question of who first decided it would be a good idea for Judd Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary is still in dispute.

Both Gregg and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have said that it was the Obama White House -- looking for a replacement for the first failed Commerce nominee, Bill Richardson -- who asked Reid's office for suggestions. Gregg had not expressed interest in the post until Reid put forth his name, Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, told the Huffington Post. Gregg himself has echoed this version of events.

"My own perception was that there was an intermediary who came to me and said would you be interested in doing this and I said I would listen," he told CNBC.

And yet, the Obama administration continues to insist the opposite. When Gregg initially withdrew his name from consideration, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated that it was the New Hampshire Republican who "had approached the White House" for the job.

Several days later, they are sticking to the same script. In an appearance on Fox News, chief strategist David Axelrod described the process as follows:

Senator Gregg approached us. He said he was interested in serving in the Cabinet at Commerce. We thought he'd be a good representative of American business around the world. And then he decided, as he said, that being the maverick that he is, that he ... didn't belong in anybody's Cabinet. So he had a change of heart.

Certainly, one can interpret the word "approach" with certain vagaries so as to make all these statements agree. But someone, it seems, has his facts wrong. On NBC's "Meet the Press," also on Sunday, Axelrod was again asked about how Gregg ended up a Cabinet nominee. This time, he wasn't as definitive as to who made the first overture.

"Well, what happened was Senator Gregg was very interested in serving in the Cabinet," said Axelrod, "and I think that he had second thoughts. As he said -- as you know, he's quite the maverick in the Senate. He said that he finally concluded he didn't belong in anyone's Cabinet, and so he had second thoughts and he withdrew and we're going to move on."

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