Some Critics Blame Emanuel for Obama's Cabinet Troubles
President Obama's latest Cabinet setback -- the sudden withdrawal of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as commerce secretary nominee -- has put the White House on the defensive, particularly Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whom some critics blame for cracks in the vetting process.
"They need to do a better job in their vetting process," said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. An administration gets a pass for botching the selection of one nominee, he said, "but the third or fourth time, you have to start asking, are people doing their jobs?"
Gregg's withdrawal came just three weeks into Obama's presidency and on the heels of several other Cabinet troubles. He still needs to fill two vacancies -- at the Commerce and Health and Human Services departments. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for the latter post amid a tax controversy, while Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was confirmed by the Senate despite revelations that he had not paid some of his taxes on time.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was Obama's first choice for commerce secretary. He withdrew in early January following the disclosure that a grand jury is investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the awarding of contracts in his state. Richardson has not been implicated personally.
Obama told FOX News in an interview right after Dascle's withdrawal earlier this month that he takes full responsibility.
"I consider this a mistake on my part, one that I intend to fix and correct and make sure that we're not screwing up again," Obama said.
"Ultimately I have to take responsibility for a process that resulted in us not having a (health and human services) secretary at a time when people need relief on their health care costs."
The troubles come as the new president expends political capital in Washington -- and around the country -- for his economic package and is seeking to move forward with an ambitious agenda in the midst of an economic recession.
Emanuel acknowledged to reporters Thursday that some might question the administration's early competence.
"Some may call it amateur hour," Emanuel said, but he thinks -- given Obama's accomplishments so far -- that the current administration measures up well to the Clinton administration, in which Emanuel worked as a senior adviser from 1993 to 1998.