- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Wednesday nominated former Washington Gov. Gary Locke to be Commerce Secretary, saying his pick would be “an influential ambassador for American industry.”

It was the president’s third nominee for the post, prompting a quick joke.

“I’m sure it’s not lost on anyone that we’ve tried this a couple times,” Mr. Obama said. “But I am a big believer at keeping at something until you get it right and Gary is the right man for this job.”

Mr. Locke, 59, was the first Chinese-American governor in history, serving from 1997 to 2005. He learned English at the age of 5 and his family owned a grocery store, the president said.

“Gary knows the American dream, he’s lived it,” Mr. Obama said. “This is why he shares my commitment to do whatever it takes to keep alive the common man.”

Mr. Locke illustrated the struggle his family endured with the story of his grandfather moving from China into a house that was one mile from the Governor’s mansion where he lived.

“It took my family one hundred years to move that one mile,” Locke said. “That is a dream that is only possible in America.”

Mr. Locke aid the Commerce Department would be an “active and integral partner” in advancing the president’s economic agenda and in creating “jobs our country needs.”

“America wants President Obama to succeed so that America can succeed,” said Mr. Locke, who initially supported Mr. Obama’s primary rival, now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

President Obama placed equal confidence in Mr. Locke to fulfill his responsibilities if he is confirmed in the position by the Senate.

“Gary will be a trusted voice in my cabinet, a tireless advocated for our economic competitiveness, and an influential ambassador for American industry who will help us do everything we can especially now to promote it around the world,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m grateful he’s agreed to leave one Washington for another, and I look forward to having him on my team as we continue the work of turning our economy around and bringing about a stronger, more prosperous future for all Americans.”

The pick came after two previous nominees withdrew from consideration.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, nominated in December, removed himself in January due to an ongoing ethics investigation in his home state.

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire was nominated last month to hold the post, as a symbol of bipartisanship. But he withdrew in a surprising - and embarrassing for the White House - press release one month later citing irresolvable conflicts.

At Mr. Obama’s address to Congress the night before, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel approached Mr. Gregg on the floor of the House chamber and they briefly exchanged pleasantries.

Mr. Gregg held his applause along with most Republicans at several key points in the speech.

Earlier this month Mr. Obama also lost Health and Human Services Secretary designate Tom Daschle, who withdrew his nomination due to the revelation he had three years of unpaid taxes on a friend’s gift of a car service and driver.

Chief performance officer-designate Nancy Killefer withdrew that same day due to a small tax lien on her home.

Vice President Joe Biden also attended for the announcement decorated with the traditional ash for practicing Catholics in the middle of his forehead for Ash Wednesday.

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