I understand the short-term politics behind Barack Obama’s nomination of  New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as Secretary of Commerce. It portrays the president as a uniter not a divider (for real) and puts the onus of partisanship on the Congressional Republicans. That’s important as key votes on the stimulus bill near.  But why Commerce and why Gregg?

I know Commerce was the only available position, although Health and Human Services could be opening up. Still, it and Transportation are important sources of political patronage for a Democratic administration. They function like the Post Office used to, and it seems odd to give these positions to two Republicans. And what about Gregg? Unlike his former counterpart, John Sununu, who was a high-tech guy, he has never displayed (has he?) any great interest in advancing American business. And his economic positions have been deplorable.

Early last month, Gregg aired his disagreement with Obama’s economic program in The Wall Street Journal. He warned that the government shouldn’t build up debt by “expanding social welfare programs.” Read here: national health insurance. He opposed the auto bailout. He wanted tax cuts for “job creators” – in this case, small business. And he recommended TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief  Program) as a model for government intervention. In this respect, the best that can be said about Gregg’s nomination is that it will remove his voice from the Senate debate.

--John B. Judis