Wanted: GOP figurehead for Census bureau.
Senator Judd Gregg looked a little sheepish and sounded more than vague Thursday about his reasons for withdrawing his nomination to be Commerce Secretary. He was asked whether he had pulled his name in response to the White House's decision to take away Commerce's control of the Census after left-wing groups complained about a Republican being in charge of the all-important national headcount. "The census was only a slight catalyzing issue. It was not a major issue," he said, refusing to discuss his concerns in detail.
My own sources say the unilateral decision of the Obama White House to transfer oversight of the Census to the White House was the final straw in Mr. Gregg's disillusionment with the idea of joining the Obama cabinet. CNN's Jessica Yellin confirmed that view Thursday night when she reported: "Sources close to Senator Gregg say the bigger issue for him was the White House's effort to take control of the census."
The dispute became a dealbreaker for the Gregg nomination after it became clear liberal groups haven't given up their dream of using computer models and "sampling" techniques to adjust the Census count upward to make up for supposedly "missing people" not picked up by Census enumerators. Those "adjusted" numbers would have real political significance because they are used to redraw Congressional and state legislative districts and allocate federal money.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that "historical precedent" exists for the White House to ride close herd on the Census, but every living former Census director supports a pending bill in Congress to make the Census an independent agency and further insulate it from politics.
When President Obama met with Senator Gregg at the White House on Wednesday, he could have simply told him he hadn't known of the White House power grab and that the Census Bureau would continue to report directly to the Commerce Secretary. But he didn't, which played a major role in Mr. Gregg's decision to withdraw. Given a choice between his vaunted "new politics" and the left-wing pressure groups that were demanding White House influence over the Census, Mr. Obama made a clear choice to side with the liberal base of his party.
A Census of One - WSJ.com