Friday, February 13, 2009

Personal Aside: From Selective Leaks—the Judd Gregg Story.


New Hampshire’s Steady Leftward Drift.

Sifting through my contacts…Senate staffers, old—and I mean OLD--Commerce hands and business lobbyists from New Hampshire, this is the story I’ve pieced together about Judd Gregg’s abortive stint as potential secretary of commerce:

At 62, having been governor, U. S. congressman and Senator, Judd Gregg is beginning to see the handwriting on the wall—that New Hampshire is becoming a Democratic state—and he has no desire to lose his first election next year (others say he is too pessimistic but he’s a laconic, thoughtful New Englander with no particular charisma). In the old days a New Hampshire Republican with distinguished lineage could be expected to serve until they carried him out of the Senate on a stretcher. That normally would go to Gregg (superb education: a governor’s son, Philips Exeter and Columbia university undergrad and Boston University law school. At 31 he was elected to the New Hampshire executive council—the only such body in the country--where a handful of elected trustees serve as a legislature… which dates from colonial times, engaged in approving expenditures and confirming state appointments.

Gregg distinguished himself as a Reagan Republican on the Council and as such ran for the U.S. House in 1980 the same year Reagan ran for president and was elected handily. He is almost identical to Reagan on issues…fiscal and social…but without the charisma. In 1988 he ran for governor of New Hampshire and was elected to two terms…New Hampshire being only one of two states to retain the 2-year term tied to a two-term limit. Things worked out smoothly so that by the time his second term ended in 1992, Warren Rudman was ready to retire as a Republican (well—a squishy liberal Republican) senator. Gregg was ready to succeed him, normally a slam dunk by old New Hampshire standards…but good old Rudman, a pro-abort and liberal (who had given us his great and good friend David Souter by fooling John Sununu that Souter was a conservative) had other plans. Rudman found a primary opponent for Gregg…a pro-abort like himself, a retired businessman named John Rauh who attacked Gregg strenuously for being pro-life.

Like Vermont, New Hampshire has been filling up with refugees from New York city. Gregg took the campaign easily, expecting to coast into the nomination but he very nearly lost it…beating Rauh by only three points (48% to 45%). To his great credit, Gregg’s service in the Senate has not been shaped by his fears of not getting reelected. He has been a taciturn policy wonk and is regarded as one of the superb fiscal experts in that body…and has been a bear-cat on spending. He had no primary opposition in 1998 and won the general by a landslide. But the conservative base was steadily being eaten away by New York city immigrants…and to his astonishment, in 2000, Gregg’s once highly vaunted political organization could not deliver for George W. Bush (the way Hugh Gregg’s team had done for Bush’s father).

Liberal Republicans (aided by snake-in-the-grass Rudman) set up some traps for Gregg in his next reelection drive. Rudman found one Tom Alciere, a former state rep, to run against him in the primary but Alciere was found to have posted messages on the Internet supporting the killing of a police officer (good candidate selection, Rudman!) and Gregg was re-nominated. For the general election, Rudman had found another winner—a former state senator Ben Cohen who wanted an income tax. The fact that Cohen was willing to campaign on an income tax stunned Gregg who noticed that the electorate of New Hampshire was not all that turned off with higher spending (because Rudman among others, preaching balanced budgets, didn’t care about cutting so an income tax was sold as “responsible.”).

No one knows whether Rudman’s pal Cohen would have beat Gregg or not—because shortly before election, Cohen’s campaign manager disappeared with much of his treasury and Cohen stepped down. Desperate for a nominee, New Hampshire Democrats nominated…believe this or not…a 94-year-old woman, Doris (Granny) Haddock, a former leftwing activist ala Molly Yard who had walked across the U.S. in support of “campaign reform.” (Note: when she got to Illinois she was warmly greeted by our old Pat Quinn who thought it was worth a publicity shot or two to be photographed with her: it didn’t take).

Gregg beat Granny 66% to 34% in 2004. But in 2008 his colleague and close friend, Sen. John Sununu was defeated by former governor Jean Shaheen. The fact that Shaheen was not even a moderate but a raving left-winger, former national chairman of John Kerry for president, seemed to decide Gregg that he couldn’t win reelection in 2010. He seemed to undergo a period of torment where his soul was concerned. One, he decided he would not undergo a sudden liberal conversion in order to save his seat. But two, he thought he is ideally suited…with his strength on finance and taxes…to wind up his days as a CEO somewhere.

One really doesn’t lobby for private sector jobs from the U. S. Senate. Gregg had hoped that John McCain would have made the cut to the presidency and that he could be appointed secretary of commerce—a superb berth from which to go dialing for dollars and a high private sector position. But as we all know, Barack Obama got elected.

Iago aka Emanuel Whispers in His Ear.

With the Senate nearing the tipping point…60 votes…to quash a filibuster, Rahm Emanuel heard via the underground that Gregg would probably not run for reelection in 2010. Emanuel used some emissaries to feel out Gregg including Ray LaHood, the veteran Republican congressman who had agreed to serve as Obama’s secretary of transportation. LaHood returned to Emanuel and said that Gregg was interested in listening and had suggested Commerce might be attractive. Thus the negotiations started. Emanuel brought Gregg together with Obama and it seemed the deal was cut—but surprisingly, Obama didn’t put conditions on the appointment, such as how Gregg would vote on the stimulus package (well, in partial explanation, the stimulus package was not fully shaped up when the two met the first time).

Gregg is nobody’s fool and, of course, understood that Emanuel and Obama weren’t interested in anything more than moving the needle up to 60 Democrats. So Gregg said there would be no deal unless the governor of New Hampshire, Democrat John Lynch, would appoint a Republican to succeed him. Lynch came up with the perfect solution. Lynch should appoint Connie Newman, Gregg’s very-very liberal ex-chief of staff who while retaining her Republican affiliation had campaigned for Lynch. Newman would make Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe look like stick-in-the-mud conservatives. By all odds she would either not run for election in 2010 or be defeated since she had alienated the conservative base.

The deal was okay with Gregg since for reasons known only to himself, he liked Newman. So with the slippery Iago, Emanuel, cheering them on everything was set. But shortly before the deal was announced, Emanuel discovered that the House Black Caucus which didn’t know about the Gregg appointment was very much interested in seeing that the census was skewed to guesswork and polling so appropriations, geared to census numbers, could be hiked for urban areas…and beyond that, higher census figures in the cities through inaccurate polling, would swell numbers and create more congressional districts for Democrats.

The Caucus, vital to Obama’s White House, had gone through several periods of exultation and keen disappointment on Commerce. They were ecstatic when it was announced that Chicago’s Penny Pritzker would be named—then crushed when she rejected the job. Delighted when Richardson was named—then sent to the doldrums when he was rejected.

When the announcement of Gregg came, the Caucus which felt it had not been sufficiently consulted, was outraged. Emanuel went to talk to the Caucus shortly after the news of the appointment and the Caucus wanted to commit drastic surgery on him. For one thing, the Caucus said Gregg had even sought to eliminate Commerce from the budget and could not be trusted to play games with Census since he was…and is…a hard rock conservative.

Then Rahm Emanuel the used-car dealer came to the fore. He told the blacks that they shouldn’t worry…that Census would report to him—but…true Emanuel whose scale of bargaining approaches but does not match Maxwell street…he told them to be quiet about it, that the deal would be cut—to Gregg’s surprise—after Gregg would be confirmed. This caused great suspicion in the Caucus (rightfully so since some members had been burned earlier by Emanuel)…so one of the members of the Caucus leaked the information.

The roof fell in. Gregg who had planned to recuse himself on the stimulus package voted against it (although Obama and Emanuel had no kick coming since they didn’t ask him to recuse)…and following that, Gregg decided he had escaped being victimized and made a fool of by Emanuel. So he called Obama…bypassing Emanuel…and said the deal is off. Gregg’s wife told him she was glad anyhow because she couldn’t fathom him being an economic player for an administration that far off center in spending and taxes.

And that’s the name of THAT tune.


  1. John Thomas Mc GeeanFebruary 13, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I am glad the Gregg bowed out of the running. He should have never alowed himself to be nominated.

    I think Ram Emanuel is showing his true colors.

  2. And lets not forget NH's business profits tax and dividend and interest tax AND the fact that the environmentalists have long wanted to return it flora and fauna with strict state environmental laws.... Live Free or Die State..... hardly!