How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

Bruno, weren’t you wondering at some point what the Commerce Secretary does? Now we know:

President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to quickly nominate a commerce secretary after his first choice, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, withdrew this week. Frankly, the far more pressing task at the Commerce Department is to name a new director of the Census Bureau.

With only a year to go before the nationwide count in 2010, Mr. Obama needs to nominate a strong new director who can move swiftly to counteract years of political meddling and neglect that have left the bureau ill prepared to conduct the next census.

This page has issued many warnings about the bureau’s state of unreadiness, as have members of Congress and advocates for groups that tend to be undercounted in a less-than-robust census, especially racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, the poor and the disabled. In November, Congressional investigators named the 2010 census as one of 13 issues requiring Mr. Obama’s immediate attention.

Any further delay increases the chances, which are already too high, of a botched census in 2010. That would be a very expensive failure of a constitutionally mandated duty on Mr. Obama’s watch. The damage would be compounded in 2012, when the new census data will be used by state governments to redraw electoral districts. If the census is not accurate, the electoral map also would not be — for years to come.