THE DAILY BLADE: Gregg Is Gone
President Barack Obama recently joked that it was easier to find a commerce secretary than a dog for his family. So far, he's 0 for 0 on filling both vacancies.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his nomination - not because he was compromised, but because he didn’t want to become compromised working in the Obama administration. In a statement to the media Gregg said:
“[I]t 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. …
“As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.”
Gregg, who had not yet resigned his Senate seat, released the statement through his Senate office. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised Gregg's "principled decision,” adding “It's great to have him back.”
Gregg becomes the second commerce secretary nominee to bow out – Gov. Bill Richardson D-NM) withdrew his name from consideration because of an ongoing federal pay-to-play investigation into state contracts, and the fourth cabinet-level nominee to step aside; former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, both withdrew their nominations because of questions about tax returns they had filed.
Noting that “Sen. Gregg, a well-known budget hawk on Capitol Hill, abstained from voting on the now $789.2 billion economic-stimulus package while his nomination was pending,” The Wall Street Journal reports that “[h]e was also apparently ruffled by a recent political decision to have the White House more directly involved with the Census Bureau, which falls under the Commerce Department's jurisdiction.”
The Bureau of the Census is one of the operating units of the Department of Commerce, and the director of the Census report customarily reports to the Commerce Secretary, not to the White House. According to the statute governing administration of the census: “The Bureau shall be headed by a Director of the Census, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director shall perform such duties as may be imposed upon him by law, regulations, or orders of the Secretary.” Hijacking the Census as Obama proposes may be unconstitutional (Hat Tip: Michael Barone).
The Weekly Standard draws a parallel with the 1990 census:
In 1989, the White House of Bush Sr. sparked outrage from Democrats when it proposed nominating Alan Heslop as director of the Census Bureau. Heslop was "a Republican reapportionment expert" according to the contemporary coverage in the Washington Post, and Democrats feared that he would politicize the count. Now Rahm Emanuel, former head of the DCCC - a job that would certainly qualify him as an expert on redistricting - is moving to make the head of the Census Bureau answer directly to him.
House Republicans are concerned about "backroom deals" at the White House “that are guided by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel” and “threatened to file a lawsuit if the White House was overly active in deciding how the 2010 Census is handled,” reports The Associated Press:
The census debate has high stakes since the decennial figures are used to determine House reapportionment and redistricting, as well as allocations of billions of dollars in government funding for schools, roads, hospitals and other vital programs.
The Journal’s John Fund explained what went down:
The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn't be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had "serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count."
Bruce Chapman, director of the Census in the 1980s, told Fund: “He will look neutered with oversight of the most important function of his department over the next two years shipped over to the West Wing. If I were him, I wouldn't take the job unless I had that changed."
For his part, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) said: "If President Obama doesn't trust Senator Gregg to oversee a fair and accurate census, he should withdraw the nomination."
Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza calls Gregg’s withdrawal “a major blow to an Administration seeking to put a series of Cabinet problems behind it” and “a cataclysmic shock,” and enumerates the “wide-reaching political consequences”:
First, it creates another opening in Obama's Cabinet, which saw former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.) step aside last week after questions were raised about his failure to pay taxes on a car and driver service.
Second, it slows the momentum that the Obama Administration was hoping to build for its economic stimulus plan, which is expected to clear Congress tomorrow. Obama and his team had worked diligently to put the "vetting problems" stories regarding his Cabinet picks to bed but now will watch them dredged back up for the next 24 hours - at a minimum - and perhaps far longer.
Third, Gregg's return to the Senate means that Republicans have one less open seat to defend next fall. Bonnie Newman was set to replace Gregg but only as a caretaker who would not run for re-election in 2010.
A Senate committee is expected to hold a hearing next month on Obama’s plan to have the director of the Census report both to the White House and to the Commerce Secretary. Meanwhile, House Republicans sent a letter to the White House arguing against politicizing the Census (“A fair, accurate and trustworthy Census is essential and vital to the interests of all American citizens and taxpayers.”).
The Definition of Chutzpah: Part VII
reports The Washington Times:
[T]he immigrants tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home. …
[S]ome of the ranch´s established immigrant trails were littered with trash 10 inches deep, including human waste, used toilet paper, soiled diapers, cigarette packs, clothes, backpacks, empty 1-gallon water bottles, chewing-gum wrappers and aluminum foil - which supposedly is used to pack the drugs the immigrant smugglers give their "clients" to keep them running.
In 1998, Barnett spent $30,000 on electronic sensors, and began looking for illegal immigrants on his land armed with a handgun and rifle - "for protection" against armed human and drug smugglers, he tells The Washington Times – and has turned over 12,000 illegals to the Border Patrol.
Now Barnett is being sued by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of 16 Mexican illegals, who accuse him of violating their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on March 7, 2004 and held them until border patrol agents arrived. U.S. District Judge John Roll rejected Barnett’s motion to drop the charges, ruling that the civil case should be heard by a jury.
The illegals are asking for $32 million in actual and punitive damages. Not a jolly rancher these days, Barnett protests: "This is my land. I’m the victim here."
The local paper, Douglas Dispatch, reports the case has “stirred up a firestorm of support for [Barnett’s] plight and questions about how the federal government is handling the problem of illegal immigration”:
In addition to Letters to the Editors and emails, the Douglas Dispatch website has been inundated by comments and visitors.
The story about the federal case already has 43 comments, “ four times more than any other story posted in the last week,” said Editor and Publisher Larry Blaskey.
The number of visitors to the website has also increased by 40 percent since Monday.
“Most of the comments are from those frustrated that the court case is even being heard and call for the judge’s ouster,” Blaskey said. “They don’t understand how the civil rights of one group is more important than the private property rights of Barnett.”
The Latin root for “civil” is “civi,” as in “civis” (citizen) and “civitas” (citizenship). Barnett made a citizen's arrest, and it is absurd that he is the defendant in this civil suit merely for protecting his legal and property rights against non-citizens trespassing on his land - and in so doing breaking U.S. laws.
Valentine’s Day Bonus
There’s Someone For Everyone
Lynne, 50, and her boyfriend, 53, have been “seeing quite a bit of each other" since they met through TrueAcceptance.com, a dating Web site for people with mental illness launched last summer by an Albuquerque social worker, reports The Associated Press:
"The Web site, because it caters to people with mental illness, you go in knowing that up front," Lynne said. "It makes communication a lot easier. You don't feel threatened by what the other person might think." …
Elizabeth Barrett, who created the site with a partner in Denver, Colo., said she observed from her work with people with mental illness that those in strong relationships are more likely to thrive. …
About 300 users have posted profiles on the site … Users can post as much, or as little, information as they like. Many list the nature of their illnesses.
For now, TrueAcceptance.com charges nothing to post a profile and to contact other users.
[Hat Tip: The Heel, an Ivy-educated attorney with a prestigious New York firm, and occasional contributor to this blog.]
Red Is For Blood, Not For Love: Part II
As they did last year, Saudi religious police are prowling shops looking for any items that are red, “including the hottest-selling item: heart-festooned red plastic handcuffs inscribed, ‘Take me, I'm yours,’ because St. Valentine was a Third Century Christian martyr and celebrating Valentine’s Day is forbidden in the Muslim kingdom. The Associated Press reports:
The Valentine's Day prohibition is in line with the ascetic Wahhabi school of Islam that the kingdom follows. Marking Christian holidays is banned in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a country where non-Muslims are banned from openly practicing their religion.
Celebrating any holidays but the two most important for Muslims - Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr - is taboo because they are considered "religious innovations" that Islam does not sanction. …
As Feb. 14 approaches, newspapers reprint a fatwa or religious edict issued by scholars a few years ago, declaring "eid al-hob," Arabic for the feast of love, a "Christian, pagan feast" that Muslims should not celebrate. Teachers remind students they must not mark the festival, and girls are warned against wearing anything red. …
Abdul-Aziz al-Shammari bought his girlfriend 10 red roses—one for each month he's known her—five days before Valentine's Day and stored the bouquet in his refrigerator to keep it fresh.
"I don't consider it a day venerating (St.) Valentine," said al-Shammari, a 24-year-old student. "I see it as an international day of love."
Editorial Note: Dating rituals in Saudi Arabia are extremely circumspect – “unmarried men and women cannot take a drive together, have a meal or even talk on the street unless they are close relatives,” notes AP, so couples are limited to “long phone conversations.” In addition to considering Valentine’s Day an infidel holiday, the religious police may fear that allowing a woman to wear red clothing will inflame her boyfriend’s passions, leading to immoral behavior like hand-holding.
The Stiletto’s Advice On Avoiding Toxic Relationships
† If you have a choice between love and money, always choose love.
† If you have a choice between love and honor, always choose honor.