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Locke called ‘right man’ to lead Commerce

THURSDAY, FEB. 26, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama took another step Wednesday toward completing his Cabinet with the appointment of Democrat Gary Locke, the nation’s first Chinese-American governor and an expert on trade issues, as commerce secretary.

“I’m sure it’s not lost on anyone that we’ve tried this a couple of times,” Obama said as he introduced the former Washington state governor as his third choice for the post. “But I’m a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right. And Gary is the right man for this job.”

Obama tried to make light of two in a series of missteps in his efforts to fill out his Cabinet and make senior staff appointments. Those glitches have slowed the White House process of vetting candidates and have left Obama without a secretary of Health and Human Services.

“This has been an absolutely terrible month for Obama’s appointments machine,” says New York University’s Paul Light, an expert on presidential transitions. “The whole thing has slowed to a sub-glacial speed.”

Obama’s previous picks for Commerce, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., withdrew. Richardson dropped out because of a probe into state contracts; Gregg cited “irresolvable conflicts” with Obama’s policies.

Locke’s nomination was applauded Wednesday.

“Today’s economic challenges are unprecedented, but Locke is prepared in at least three ways to address them: He understands the importance of trade, he has the political skills to get things done, and he has proven experience as an executive,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said.

As commerce secretary, Locke would preside over the population count, which takes place next year.

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