What does Republican Senator Judd Gregg's withdrawal from his nomination as President Obama's Commerce Secretary mean? First, it demonstrates that Obama's ability to assemble a Lincoln-esque "Team of Rivals" is heavily overstated. Gregg, a Senator from New Hampshire, withdrew today due to what he called "irresolvable conflicts" between he and the President. The two that he singled out were the bloated stimulus package that the President continues to try to push through Congress without Republican input and the overtly political decision to move the U.S. Census from the Commerce Department to the White House. Gregg, a principled legislator and former Governor of New Hampshire, said that although he admires Obama as a leader, he could not follow him down this particular road.
Second, Gregg's withdrawal shows that beyond being incapable of building a truly bipartisan team, Obama is having trouble merely filling his posts. This is the third major Cabinet appointee to withdraw, although the only one to do so for reasons other than a scandal. Tom Daschle bowed out of his Health and Human Services appointment because of tax problems, and Bill Richardson was forced to withdraw from the Commerce position because of a pay-for-play scandal in New Hampshire. One would think that Obama would be able to find someone competent, clean, and willing to hold this powerful national position. The fact that he's having so much trouble doing so is telling about both his judgment and his leadership style.
Obama has made major missteps with his appointments thus far, and for his presidency's sake, he had best be very careful when choosing his next Commerce appointment.