Obama Census Move a ‘Nixonian’ Power Grab, Gingrich Says
February 13, 2009Hours after President Barack Obama's second nominee for Commerce secretary withdrew his nomination on Thursday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered a sharp critique of the new administration and also knocked the spending policies of the former George W. Bush administration.
Twice calling the Obama White House “Nixonian,” Gingrich criticized the administration for its partisan economic stimulus bill and called to attention the turbulent cabinet nominations by Obama.
“The Obama campaign was very disciplined, very intelligent, I think very impressive,” Gingrich said. “The Obama presidency has some problems because governing is about 10 times harder than campaigning.”
After listing the other withdrawn cabinet nominees, Gingrich said the White House “had mistreated Sen. Judd Gregg so decisively that he has withdrawn his name today from being secretary of Commerce. This is a very revealing mistake.”
Since Obama took office on Jan. 20, three executive branch nominees have withdrawn, and others have come under scrutiny.
Gingrich talked about Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was confirmed despite tax troubles; nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle, who withdrew his nomination because of tax issues; nominee for Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson, who withdrew his nomination in the midst of a federal corruption probe; and designated chief performance officer Nancy Killefer, who withdrew because of a tax problem.
On Thursday, Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican and the most recent nominee for commerce secretary, withdrew, citing differences with the Obama administration on the stimulus bill and the administration’s plan to place the Census Bureau – currently with the Commerce Department – more closely under the control of the White House.
Gingrich said Republicans should take a firm stance against politicizing the census.
“The idea they would have U.S. Census [controlled by the White House] is such a terrible idea that Republican senators should announce that no member of the Commerce Department will be cleared and approved until they put the census back in the Commerce Department,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich was speaking to the Stafford County, Va., Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.
“My personal hope is that the president will learn from today’s mistakes,” said Gingrich. “It is not good for America to spend four years with an administration that is incompetent.”
Moving control of the Census Bureau apparently to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was overtly political, Gingrich said.
“The person it would report to at the White House is the most viciously partisan chief of staff since H.R. Haldeman served Richard Nixon,” Gingrich said. “I did not set out a month ago to find myself this consistently critical of the new administration. But you cannot allow people to do a series of terribly destructive things and then say, ‘Well, we have to be pleasant while they ruin the country.’”
Obama did not formally announce plans to take over the census, but numerous press reports cited unnamed senior administration officials saying he planned to have the Census Bureau’s director report directly to White House staff. Further, in withdrawing from the nomination for Commerce secretary, Gregg cited concerns over the census.
The White House issued a statement Feb. 5 clarifying the earlier news reports, saying the Census Bureau director would “work closely” with the White House, not be controlled by it.
“There is historic precedent for the director of the Census, who works for the Commerce secretary and the president, to work closely with White House senior management — given the number of decisions that will have to be put before the president. We plan to return to that model in this administration,” White House spokesman Ben Labolt told Congressional Quarterly.
Gingrich also criticized Obama’s consistent talk of bipartisanship when compared to his actions, such as supporting congressional Democrats writing their own stimulus bill.
“What you are watching, no matter how pleasant the president may be, no matter how much he talks about bipartisanship, is the most systematic, deliberate, partisan, one-sided operation in American history since Richard Nixon left the White House,” said Gingrich.
Gingrich also talked about his American Solutions group that has proposals on cutting taxes and energy independence, but the crowd of about 500 Virginia Republicans reacted the strongest to the former speaker’s icy remarks about the Obama administration.
“We’ll be above politics, right after RE [Rahm Emanuel] finishes ruining the U.S. Census and gerrymandering the entire country and counting every illegal alien he can find,” Gingrich said.
In a week when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received a cool reaction from Wall Street over his banking proposal, Gingrich said, “This is really the Geithner administration, and when you understand that, everything else makes sense.”
Gingrich joked about Geithner’s backtaxes problem as evidence that if the U.S. tax code is too complicated for the Treasury secretary and former president of the New York Federal Reserve, then it shows a need to scrap the code for a flat tax or national sales tax.
Gingrich also criticized the national GOP for becoming “the right wing of the party of big government,” but he added that Obama is essentially continuing the policies of George W. Bush.
“The country is a mess – it’s a bipartisan mess,” Gingrich said. “The Bush-Obama strategy of more spending is not working. It’s not change. It’s continuity.”
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