Obama's Cursed Commerce Secretaries

PHOTO: Penny Pritzker, chairman and chief executive officer of PSP Capital Partners LLC, listens during the "Titans at the Table" Bloomberg Television program in Chicago, Illinois on April 18, 2012.
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Penny Pritzker

The woman rumored to be President Obama's first pick for the job back in 2008 didn't even make it to an official job offer before vacating the post. Pritzker, a businesswoman and heir to the Hyatt hotel business, pulled her own name out of the running in late November 2008. Pritzker stated that she believed she could better serve her country in the private sector, but it was widely discussed that her business background had presented obstacles in the vetting process.

PHOTO: Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, laughs during the 2012 CERAWEEK conference in Houston, Texas on March 9, 2012.
Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Bill Richardson

Then-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was the frontrunner for the Commerce Secretary position after Pritzker pulled her name from the running. By December 2008, Richardson was generally accepted as the president's probable nominee. However, just weeks later, Richardson also yanked his name from the short list after a background investigation indicated that he had directed federal funding towards large-scale contributors to his campaign. The Department of Justice declined to seek indictments in Richardson's case within months, but by then the damage was done, and Obama was out yet another Secretary of Commerce.

PHOTO: Judd Gregg reacts during the Senate Budget hearing on President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget proposal in Washington D.C. in this Feb. 2, 2010 file photo.
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Sen. Judd Gregg

Later in January 2009, it seemed that Obama had managed to secure a new candidate in Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. Despite optimism about bipartisanship and the value added to Obama's cabinet by throwing another Republican into the mix, Gregg wound up withdrawing his candidacy in early February, citing irreconcilable ideological differences. While fewer were shocked by Gregg's pullback than were by his original acceptance of the position, it still came as a blow to the Obama Administration, which found itself kicking off four years in the White House without a lasting Commerce Secretary.

PHOTO: The US Ambassador to China Gary Locke gestures during the US-China People-to-People Exchange at the National Museum in Beijing on May 4, 2012.
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Gary Locke

Gary Locke was announced as Obama's next nominee later in February 2009. Finally, one stuck, and Locke, formerly governor of Washington, was sworn in as Commerce Secretary in March 2009. The first Chinese-American to serve in the position, however, did not finish out his term. Following Jon Huntsman's decision to leave his post as ambassador to China in order to pursue a presidential run, Obama named Locke his replacement in March 2011, two years after finally filling the Commerce Secretary seat.

PHOTO: US Commerce Secretary John Bryson gestures at a function in New Delhi on March 26, 2012.
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John Bryson

Former executive and environmentalist John Bryson was selected to fill Locke's vacancy in October 2011. Following two car crashes reportedly caused by a seizure on June 9 in California, however, Bryson announced on June 11 that he will be taking a medical leave of absence effective immediately to focus on the health issues that caused the incident. Representatives for Bryson have not released further details about his condition, nor have they specified whether he plans to return to his post. Deputy Secretary Dr. Rebecca Blank has taken over Bryson's duties for the time being, but the future of the post is unclear.

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