Only Fox News Concerned With Obama's Census Bureau Coup

February 7th, 2009 3:24 PM

The Obama administration revealed Thursday that whoever ends up being director of the Census Bureau, a position yet to be filled, he or she will be required to work closely with the White House.

This is a departure from the autonomy the Bureau had under President Bush, and is worrisome given the census which will be taken next year.

Despite this revelation by Congressional Quarterly on Thursday the only major media outlet which gave this much attention was Fox News.

Before we get there, here's what CQ reported:

The Obama administration acknowledged Thursday that the as-yet-unnamed Census Bureau director will have a direct line to the White House but sought to define the relationship as one in which the director would “work closely with” rather than report to President Obama’s senior staff.

After black and Hispanic leaders raised concerns over Commerce Secretary-nominee Judd Gregg ’s commitment to core functions of the Census Bureau, a senior White House official told CQ on Wednesday that the director would report directly to the White House.

That brought fire Thursday from Republicans, who accused the White House of attempting to gain advantage in the politically delicate process of counting Americans and of violating the law by circumventing the Commerce secretary. The decennial census is used to determine the apportionment of congressional districts among the states and federal funding for numerous programs. [...]

House Republicans are incensed about the prospect of the Census Bureau director reporting directly to the White House staff, which is led by former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (2003-09), a longtime political operative and onetime chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Any attempt by the Obama administration to circumvent the census process for their political benefit will be met with fierce opposition as this ill-conceived proposal undermines a constitutionally obligated process that speaks to the very heart of our democracy,” said California Rep. Darrell Issa , the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issa and North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the subcommittee that oversees census issues, sent a letter to Obama detailing their concern that such a move might circumvent existing law and be used for partisan gain.

“Requiring the census director to report directly to the White House and placing responsibility for administration of the Bureau outside the Department of Commerce may even violate federal law,” they wrote. “According to Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Bureau is to be administered ‘within, and under the jurisdiction of, the Department of Commerce.’ ” [...]

“The constitutionally mandated decennial census needs to be fair, accurate and trusted. By circumventing the secretary of Commerce’s oversight of the Census Bureau and handing it directly to a political operative such as Mr. Emanuel, you are severely jeopardizing the fairness and accuracy of the 2010 census,” Issa and McHenry wrote.
Seems like big news, right? Apparently not, as from what I can tell, the New York Times completely ignored it. Ditto USA Today. The Washington Post published a couple of paragraphs about it at the end of an unrelated piece on page A15 Friday.
As for television, there was no mention of this on any of the broadcast networks either Thursday or Friday. Ditto CNN. 
For some reason, only Fox News found this issue to be at all concerning. In fact, after Bret Baier and the Panel discussed it during Friday's "Special Report" (partial transcript below), Greta Van Susteren and Glenn Beck addressed it on their programs as well:

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the historical precedent of this is there is a director of the census that works for the secretary of commerce, the president, and also works closely with the White House to ensure a timely and accurate count. And that's what we have in this instance.


BAIER: Hmm. It is the Friday lightning round. We will start with a topic, one topic about the census, the 2010 census, being taken out of the Commerce Department, essentially, and put into oversight at the White House.

We will start with this topic--Bill Sammon?

SAMMON: Think about this. The Commerce Department has always had the Census Bureau for many years, because you're supposed to insulate the Census Bureau from politics.

Every ten years we take a census, and the results have great significance. You redraw the congressional districts so it impacts political power, and you distribute federal dollars based on population.

So it's a political football. What do they do? They take it away from Judd Gregg, the newly minted nominee for Commerce, and put it in, presumably, Rahm Emanuel's portfolio, which is very alarming.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: Politics? The census has always been about politics. And what we have here are Latino officials who are concerned that Judd Gregg was going to be in charged, and they said that when Judd Gregg was in the Senate, he was not supportive of making sure there were enough officials to get the census.

This will redraw distributes, it has political consequences. So I don't see any problem with bringing it to the White House. It just makes official what we have all known--it's political.

KRAUTHAMMER: You will make it un-political by sticking it in the White House? That sounds illogical to me.

The constitution has a lot of "shall nots" about Congress and the executive. One of the rare items it demands is a census, and it expects that it would be objective, and it ought to be Commerce.

Exit question: why was Fox News apparently the only major mainstream outlet to find this revelation newsworthy? Could it be that liberals are thrilled by this news and don't want the rest of the citizenry to understand its ramifications?

Before you answer, consider how pleased MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was Friday about this announcement:

Finally, on Wednesday night`s show, Rep. Barbara Lee of California, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, voiced her opposition to Barack Obama`s nomination of Sen. Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary. One of Rep. Lee`s biggest concerns, Gregg`s record on the census, which has major funding and policy implications for cities and states across the country and it`s something that minority groups in particular want to make sure is done right.

The reason Congresswoman Lee is concerned is because the census reports to the Commerce Department and would-be Commerce Secretary Judd Gregg fought against efforts by the Clinton administration to boost funding for the census.

The big follow-up to the story is that yesterday, it was reported that the White House is going to take the census out of the Commerce Department, and by extension, away from no-friend-to-the-census, Judd Gregg. The Census Bureau will reportedly now report directly to the White House.

I`m not saying that our discussion here had anything to do with this, of course, but I was wearing my lucky socks on Wednesday night. I`m just saying.

Hmmm. So, Rachel and her ilk -- including likely Barbara Lee -- are thrilled by Obama's coup.

Any question as to why this isn't getting a lot of coverage?