The Commerce Department Delenda Est

Way back in August, when the nomination of the Commerce Secretary – see if you can recall his name without checking – was being filibustered, I recommended that President Obama slash the Gordian knot and take a Republican issue away.

[W]hy not start downsizing the Commerce Department, pull the Bryson nomination, and announce that the government’s goal is returning to the pre-Woodrow Wilson regime of a unified department of commerce and labor? Sure, you’d leave around 40,000 government workers in the cold – or would you? The gimmicky appeal of junking a whole cabinet post and department would get more notice than some consolidation of tasks and work forces.

Looking back, I should have wished for something more exciting, like peace in Palestine or a car that runs on positive thinking instead of gasoline.

President Barack Obama will ask Congress on Friday for authority to close the Commerce Department and create a new export agency, an overhaul that could save $3 billion and help inoculate him against Republican election-year charges that he is a big-government liberal.

Brilliant, sort of! The president is copping an idea that Republicans have proposed, with some levels of seriousness, since 1995. In the two hours since this was officially announced, though, I hear no Republicans crying out with delight. I’ve asked them, and I’ll report what they say, but cynicism is rarely higher than when Barack Obama says he’s ready to cut something.