Do not believe for a moment that Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination because of the stimulus bill, or the firestorm that arose because of his not voting on the stimulus bill.
Remember, Gregg approached the White House for the job, not conversely, when the substance of the stimulus package was well-known, especially to Gregg who is ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
Moreover, Gregg supported the basic concept of stimulus on CNBC, but said it was inappropriate for him to cast a vote while he was under consideration for the Commerce Secretary's post. He flummoxed Larry Kudlow by asserting that the federal government was the consumer-of-last-resort in a contracting economy, and Kudlow came back later pleading with Gregg to remain true to Kudlow's principles.
Gregg also told Kudlow that deficits (for which Gregg maintained his hawkishness) would actually be worse if the stimulus did not pass due to decreased tax revenues and increased unemployment and Medicaid payments than the money they were spending.
So, Gregg was fully on-board not just with joining the Administration, but with the stimulus policy. The President had expressed, and Gregg was there to provide in internal councils, a need to reform major entitlement programs.
Do not, therefore, believe the baloney that Gregg withdrew because of disagreements on the stimulus or profound differences on other economic matters.
He withdrew because control of the Census Bureau was withdrawn. His ploy, on behalf of the Republicans, was foiled. And, these pages began its unraveling.
Commerce had the Census Bureau. The Census will occur again in 2010. Republicans want control over the Census, and Gregg's becoming Commerce Secretary would have provided that control. Historically, Republicans have improved their own legislative percentages after redistricting based upon census information.
So, for Republicans, the Census is a very big deal. It is for Democrats, too, but they have not been as Census-savvy as the Republicans in past decades.
Upon the announcement of Gregg's nomination, while others were opining on Gregg's fiscal hawkishness, and his opposition to the Commerce Department's existence, these pages immediately pointed out the bigger political problem of Judd controlling the Census, and called upon President Obama to clarify whether all the work, all the nights on couches, all the trudging through snows, ought to provide control of the Census to a rightwing Republican. ("Judd Gregg to Control 2010 Census. And, Why Not Trade Lieberman for a New Hampshire Democrat?", February 3, 2009).
Several days later, the president announced that he was shifting the Bureau of Census from the Commerce Department to the White House.
Had Gregg immediately withdrawn his nomination, the ploy would have been too obvious. Now that enough time has passed, and the stimulus could be raised as an excuse, the cover-up of his ploy has been launched.
Judd Gregg avoided Vietnam because of acne (!) (aren't these rightwingers beautiful? no one, apparently, had told him about tetracycline). For someone who could concoct that ploy with a straight face when he was only 18, this grand idea -- that could have put himself in a position to gain kudos from Republicans around the country, and thus perhaps a run at president or vice president -- is not out of character.
Gregg saw in the president's honest desire for unity and diversity of opinion an opening to foster rightwing political interests.
He almost pulled it off.