The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Commerce Secretary Will Not Be Bill Richardson (UPDATED)

Fox News reports Bill Richardson is withdrawing as Obama’s nominee to be Commerce Secretary.

The reason? That grand jury investigation into “play for pay” allegations that emerged right after Blagojevich was arrested. The one that prompted him to flee reporters’ questions.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” Richardson said in a statement. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

Obama said he was accepting Richardson’s request to withdraw with “deep regret.”

“It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time,” the president-elect said in a statement. “I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.”

Yes, it’s just swell of him. He would be facing confirmation from a Senate with 58, maybe 59 Democrats. If he insists that he’s done nothing wrong, what would disturb the Senate during that confirmation process?

Between this and Penny Pritzker, Commerce Secretary is turning into the Bermuda Triangle of the Obama cabinet.

Interesting question: If Rod Blagojevich had not been arrested and turned into an ever-expanding gas giant of a scandal, would the allegations before that New Mexico grand jury be enough to persuade Richardson to withdraw his nomination? In other words, is Richardson a casualty of Blagojevich?

UPDATE: Spurred by a question from a reader, I’m not sure whether this constitutes a failure of the Obama administration’s vetting. (It would be interesting to know if the transition team knew about the grand jury’s investigation when the story broke on December 15.) Something in the past two weeks must have changed that issue from what was seen as a minor mess to something that could seriously gum up the confirmation hearing.

I’m sure we’ll hear from Obama administration spokespeople that we should not expect ethical problems from the crew they’re bringing in; all of their nominees have been vetted. But then again . . . so was Richardson, right?

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