December 19, 2008

But beyond Warren, Obama is doing a lot of other important stuff

While there is much wringing of hands regarding Rick Warren giving a prayer at the inauguration (and yes, I completely understand and share that outrage) Obama has appointed some really serious people to serious positions. John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are two very serious scientists who not only believe in climate change, but the need to address it. And the Energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, only has a Nobel Prize in Physics to bring to the table.

His appointments have not been without problems. I don't particularly like the Vilsack nomination for Ag, but the Hilda Solis labor pick looks very solid, and his economic team is not lacking for smarts. Bush nominated mostly friends of his and friends of industry to all the meaningful posts. In terms of science, he nominated people who fought science at every turn, and we will all pay the cost of that. By comparison, Obama's team looks more than impressive.

Not only that, but while he has asked Warren to give a prayer, he has appointed Nancy Sutley, or the first (as far as I know) openly gay person at this level to lead the WH Council on Environmental Quality. As Upper Left's Shaun (who has a much more personal connection to this than I realized) put it,
I'll save my outrage for policy matters.

I completely understand BB's and Leighton's very legitimate outrage for the Warren nod. As I posted in the comments, Publius made the point that Obama may (and he admits may) accomplish one tiny thing--the elevation of an evangelical leader who does not spend all his time bashing liberals. That could have very important long-term possibilities for progressives.

Anyway, 31 days left in this disastrous administration. Keep the faith, people.


Bootleg Blogger said...

Streak- I agree that policy is what's going to count in the long run and the appointments thusfar are looking good. However, some actions are largely symbolic and give a hint about underlying philosophies and agendas that will be played out in the future. The Warren invite really bothers me on that level. There will not be another first Obama inauguration and this is the one begging for symbolic gestures. Warren feels like a big step backwards and a missed opportunity.

Ok, I'll try to shut up about it:)- BB said...

Could it be that the Warren invite is in fact a symbolic gesture--i.e., inviting those who disagree with you to the table? That's how I see this, leftist grumbling aside, and think this is a huge move for Obama in terms of reconciling people in small ways. Just a thought.

Streak said...

Anglican, that is where I am headed too. One point of comparison is that this kind of gesture, symbolic or no, was completely absent in the last 8 years. This really is change. It just might not feel like it from certain perspectives.

Bootleg Blogger said...

I understand that Obama gets the benefit of the doubt from alot of us at this point and a hope for a much better government. However, over the last 8 years, if memory serves, there have been an awful lot of bytes exchanged on this blog by Streak, me, and many others in frustration and outrage over just the positions that Warren espouses very publicly. If Bush made such a move I would see it as a statement of support for positions held. Now that Obama does it it's being inclusive? I hope so. I hope my skepticism is poorly founded, "much ado about nothing", all goes well and Warren's influence is minimal.
Sorry for belaboring. BB

ubub said...

Da Trib's Clarence Page wrote a great piece on Warren, and as usual, he articulates is much more clearly than I can.

Regarding evangelicals, Page writes, "If you want to change people's minds, you need to reach out first to those who, at least are willing to give you a listen."

The column can be found at,0,5205139.column

Tony said...

I know I am the odd man out here, but I find Warren a lot more encouraging than, if this is a token nod to the right, those whom he COULD (Robert Jeffress??? Or even Jim Smryl, ascending SB who just called all Catholics heretics) have asked to do it. Further, and I am a broken record, it is a prayer and not an extensive right-wing policy treatment.

My word verification is "croppola". Heh.

steves said...

I agree, Tony. Streak linked to a great post from Obsidian Wings that had some good points. Warren annoys me at times, but I think he supports some things that most people can get behind.

Streak said...

Thanks, Ubub, for sending that Page column. I have a lot of respect for him and think he is correct here.

Ultimately, we will all have to wait until Obama is more than just the President-in-waiting (30 days, and 6 hours left) to see how he will govern. But on meaningful appointments and decisions, he has done embraced expertise, tolerance, inclusion, and other progressive values.

leighton said...

After reading several things like this, I am coming around to the view that because of this unique situation where Warren is a very influential leader whose "core" principles are surprisingly--almost scandalously--fluid and dependent on the company he keeps, it is worth trying to make sure that he spends as much time around progressives as possible.

When talking about unity, there's a sense in which you want to build lasting relationships with new allies you can trust to have your back. But good politicians will also cultivate relationships with people who have to be "handled." Cole seems optimistic that Warren is waking up and taking off the ethical blinders that are part of the holy raiment of American evangelicals. I'm less convinced; he seemed just as kindly and amiable with Sean Hannity as he ever did with Obama. I read him as a sucker for seeming goodwill, in other words, which is a desperately dangerous quality for a public figure of his stature to have. But Obama has the skill to use it to his (and our) advantage.