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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Gregg Follies May Hurt GOP

Open Left‘s Chris Bowers has a fun takedown of msm reports that term Gregg’s withdrawal a “blow” to Obama. Bowers is exactly right. The idea is pretty silly.
Yes, No-Drama Obama would rather have had all of his appointments go smoothly. But reasonable voters understand that there was no way to predict Gregg’s histrionics. Most U.S. Senators get it that cabinet secretaries are charged to carry out the President’s policies, as part of a team, not as unelected free agents doing their own thing. I remember being taught that in middle school civics class. Gregg’s realization comes a little late and invites ridicule.
Characterizing Gregg’s vacillations as a “blow” to the President, rather than the GOP, is also a stretch. More on point is this from the comments following Bowers’ post:

He’s shown the whole world what we in NH have always known – that Judd is all about what Judd wants…And he, the last major GOP figure in NH, has become the laughing stock of both parties.

and another:

Merits of the appointment aside, I don’t see how this is a “blow”; the public is left with the clear impression that Obama made yet another attempt to bridge differences with the GOP, only to be rebuffed…This doesn’t make him look bad; if anything, he looks magnanimous, and the GOP looks petty.

Well said. Like Obama’s bipartisan outreach efforts or not, his sincerity, goodwill and consistency in reaching out are not in doubt. Indeed, they are highlighted in contrast to his Republican adversaries.
The Gregg withdrawal may also recall memories of McCain’s erratic behavior concerning his decision to debate or not following the economic meltdown. That can’t be good for the GOP.
Especially given Ed’s point in his post yesterday about the importance of the Census, Gregg’s withdrawal is not unwelcome among Democrats concerned about strengthening our case for reforms. President Obama now has plenty of cover for nominating a strong Democrat to head the Commerce Department, and it would be a shame not to use it. In that regard, Larry J. Sabato’s contribution to a round-up on the Gregg withdrawall in today’s WaPo may prove instructive:

The Gregg withdrawal can be a watershed. It’s been a grand and noble experiment, but now the Obama administration should abandon aggressive bipartisanship. The president deserves great credit for reaching out to Republicans in Cabinet appointments, frequent consultation and some substantive compromise on the stimulus bill. President Obama read public opinion correctly: Americans want civil debate between the parties, and that aspect of bipartisanship should be continued.
Yet pleasantries should never be exchanged at the cost of an electoral mandate. Obama secured a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic presidential nominee since 1860, save for Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Splitting the difference on issues of principle waters down his mandate and dilutes the changes his supporters expect him to deliver. We have a two-party system, not a one-party scheme, and the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans create clear choices for the electorate. Obama should succeed or fail based on enactment of the Democratic platform. Voters will be the judge of Democrats’ handiwork in 2010 and 2012. Leave “national unity” governments to parliamentary nations, and let the American two-party system work.

It may be that the President’s bipartisan outreach will get better results later on, after his Administration is more securely established. For now, Sabato’s argument makes sense.

One comment on “Gregg Follies May Hurt GOP

  1. ducdebrabant on

    Mostly, I think people will view it through their own prism. Kneejerk Conservatives will think he came to his senses and wonder why he lost his mind in the first place. Democrats will think he’s a flake and take it as more proof of the Republicans’ vindictiveness, narrowness and pigheadedness. Independents will mostly split the Democrats’ way. Some conspiracists will think he offered himself in order to embarrass the President by snatching the football away at the last moment out of “principles.” Other conspiracists will think ……. well, I’m not as good at thinking up Democratic conspiracies as the Republicans are, so I’ll leave that to them. But I definitely don’t think this is going to damage Obama much. I agree with David Gergen that he needs to appoint a CEO, to help oversee the bank bailout item by item.


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