Have you heard the latest on efforts at bipartisanship in Washington? President Obama announced that the director of next year’s Census report would report directly to Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel instead of the Commerce Secretary as is customary. How is this a bipartisan issue?
For those of you who don’t know what the census is, it is that constitutionally mandated decennial requirement that counts all the people in the United States. Census data directly affects how more than $300 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and much more. Census data is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redistrict state legislatures. It also affects school district assignment areas and other important functional areas of government.
President Obama, who impressed us all with his outward gesture of bipartisanship with the selection of Republican Senator Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary designate, just collapsed under pressure from Democrats in Congress who complained to the White House that Judd Gregg could not be trusted to conduct a complete census. The National Association of Latino Officials stated that it had “serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count.”
The apparent nod to Congressional pressure raises great concern for me. Why would you pick a man to be your Commerce Secretary only to announce that you really don’t trust him to be non-political with something as sensitive as the Census? I believe that this challenges Mr. Gregg’s integrity and competency to run the Department and more importantly, raises concerns once again in my mind about this Administration’s true commitment for changing the way government works, and for the calls for bipartisanship.
Think back with me for a few minutes – back to 2001. In the wake of the Election of 2000, President-elect George W. Bush (R) reached out to the Democratic Party for his nominee to head DOT, but let’s make believe it was the Department of Commerce. After the closest race in 112 years, Bush chose former San Jose Mayor and Representative Norman Yoshio Mineta (D-CA), a Japanese-American as his Secretary designate who was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce. Soon after that appointment, Bush announced that the Census Department would not fall under the Democrat, but would report directly to someone in the Bush White House, like, let’s say, Karl Rove. Can you imagine the uproar?
Bush’s actions would have been criticized by everyone as a half-hearted attempt to live up to a campaign promise. Others would have flat out condemned the President as violating the good faith entrusted to him by the American people. But today’s actions didn’t get much mention at all.
I believe that actions speak louder than words. And this newest development screams loudly. The seizure of the non-political Census Bureau by the political structure in the White House should raise red flags from Washington to San Diego. It is troubling at best, and it represents an outright power grab at worst.
Is this really the “change” that President Obama talks about? I don’t think so, and if I were Senator Gregg, I would remove my name from further consideration and return to the U.S. Senate. Really!