I had expressed some concern about Barack Obama, because his political record and his political rhetoric didn't give us a very good idea of how he would govern. The fact that his first press conference as President-elect was to call for a hand-out to the domestic auto makers was making me especially queasy. But, I am happy to report that, so far, his administration is shaping up to be a good one. With every cabinet post I hear on the radio, I'm cheering, "Hooray! He really is a moderate!" Both sides of the aisle are generally happy with his selections, although there's been a little bit of grumbling from the left that he's not picking the hyper-liberal folks they expected; for instance, picking middle-of-the-road Ken Salazar for Interior outraged all the greenies who thought he would pick one of their own. And by deciding to keep Gates in Defense, Obama shows he's willing to overlook politics to have the right person in the job. And the sheer speed with which he's made such good picks speaks of a competence and discipline that we haven't seen in the Oval Office for quite a while.
But Obama's crowning achievement of moderate-ness was picking Rick Warren, the superstar of the evangelicals, to do the Inaugural invocation. The liberals were utterly outraged. How could their chosen one have picked him, of all people: a conservative who spoke against gay marriage? The invocation is a symbolic honor, devoid of political power, so Obama could only have made the choice because he wanted to make a statement. What is he saying?
Obama, always cool and disciplined, makes no apologies or explanations for his pick. But I heard a very articulate defense of Obama's choice on NPR from singer Melissa Etheridge, a highly visible figure in the gay community:
Barack Obama wants to be the President of the entire United States. Pastor Rick Warren reached out to him, brought him into his church during the campaign, which outraged many members of his church, yet, he reaches across. And I think this is Obama reaching back and going, "We can disagree on things, yet we can still all move forward and get past our differences." And I just want to be sure that as the liberals and progressives and Democrats or whatever you want to call us that are moving into this new time with this new President, that we do not say, "Well, they, the evangelicals, who say such horrible things about gays, they have to stay over there and we're not going to let them in." That makes us no better than the last administration.
Rock on, Melissa. I must say, that's probably the first time I heard a liberal clearly say, "Just because I disagree with someone, doesn't mean I can't talk to him or enjoy his company." The liberals who swooned when they heard Obama's rhetoric about "reaching across divides" and "uniting all Americans" during the campaign are now suddenly shocked and outraged when he actually does it. They wanted a take-no-prisoners conquest of Washington, and to cackle in glee as conservatives were humbled . . . and now their savior is cozying up to the worst of their foes. It reminds me a little bit of the Jews who expected their Messiah to be a warrior king to drive the Romans out of Israel, and instead got Jesus, who asked them to love their enemies. Let's hope things go better this time around.