I’m surprised only one commentator so far as I know, Michael Barone, and few Democrats like Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee, have made this point. By putting Judd Gregg at Commerce, Obama has put a Republican in charge of one of the most politically frought tasks facing any president: the Census. Mandated by the Constitution, the Census is, of course, essential for allocating congressional seats as well as the disbursement of certain federal funds.
The methods of Census collection are often in dispute. In 2000 Democrats pushed for statistical sampling to achieve a better count of underrepresented groups–the homeless, transient poor, and so on. They lost. It’s not clear that there will be as much controversy in 2010 when the next Census will take place but by putting Gregg at the Commerce Department–which oversees the Bureau of the Census–Obama has handed a potentially very politically sensitive position to a Republican. My old colleague, Barone weighs in against sampling as liberal subterfuge although any number of groups of like the American Association for the Advancement of Science have supported it.