Sen. Judd Gregg is being tapped as Commerce Secretary. Mickey Kaus wonders what Judd Gregg could “possibly do in a second-tier cabinet position–Commerce–to advance his conservative philosophy that would possibly make up for giving his ideological opponents a 60-seat majority in the Senate? Stop card check? Achieve a free trade agenda?” As Kaus observes, a moderate Republican place-filler can’t be counted on to hold the line as Gregg has on key filibuster votes.
But even aside from a potential shift in the alignment of the Senate (which is no small matter), there is something inherently troubling about taking money (lots of it) from Republican donors and the RNC only to leave 2/3 of the way through your term and join the other party’s administration. At the very least, shouldn’t Gregg give back 1/3 of the money? Even if control of the Senate doesn’t necessarily flip, it is at bottom a rather selfish act, no doubt meant to avoid the embarrassment of losing his seat in 2010 and to put a feather in his cap at the tail end of his political career.
Are we reduced to getting candidates to promise party allegiance in exchange for money? I can’t imagine the people who gave Gregg money, voted for him, or worked on his campaigns feel this is what they bargained for. And, yes, this is fundamentally different from moving “up” within in your own party (to a cabinet post or higher office) during your term — which at least has the benefit of keeping one consistent in regard to interests and agenda.
Well, if there is karma, Kaus suggests, “Gregg could go down as the biggest sucker since Arthur Goldberg, who let Lyndon Johnson con him into giving up a lifetime Supreme Court seat to become Ambassador to the U.N.” Gregg likely didn’t obtain any promises about his influence or longevity in the Obama administration. I suppose he’ll have to trust the people who hired him — and hope they have more loyalty than he showed the people and party that supported him as a U.S. Senator.