Sunday, December 21, 2008
Quick Takes on Recent Events
Official O.G. talking points on various items in the news:
* The auto-bailout was a necessary thing that should've passed in the Senate. The GOP turned it into a bludgeon to beat down the auto unions. Detroit bears much of the responsibility for its current position, and the Big 3 have made terrible decisions over the last few decades, especially in gorging themselves on unsustainable SUV and truck sales, but these are crucial industries tied to thousands of jobs. Obama and the Dems should make sure Detroit survives, but with stringent conditions on the types of cars they should make (i.e., fuel-efficiency, hybrid and electric technologies, etc.)
* I am pro-gay marriage. I was vehemently opposed to Prop 8, which represents a horrific intrusion of religion into the realm of civil law. That said, I am not up in arms about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the invocation at the inauguration. First, if you're going to have an invocation -- and as a non-Christian and a firm believer in the separation of church and state, I question whether we should have one, since this is supposed to be a secular, governmental ceremony, and not one that should have any religious component -- you could pick a very liberal religious leader (say from some left-leaning church in San Francisco or New York), but that wouldn't be very representative of Christian belief in this country (if that's what you're trying to achieve). The fact is, America is still a very religious country. Obama's pick is merely trying to acknowledge this significant demographic.
Second, Rick Warren is the undisputed leader of the new generation of evangelical Christian ministers: he is the new Billy Graham. He represents a huge demographic in this country -- one that cannot be ignored (though it certainly need not be appeased). He represents a new face of evangelical Christianity -- one that is more concerned with the health of the environment, with social justice, poverty issues, AIDS, etc. (And also note that he and his wife have given away 90% of their income to charitable causes.)
Don't get me wrong, Warren espouses views that I (and our President-elect) completely disagree with (e.g., on gay marriage, abortion, etc.). Obama is not signalling agreement with or acceptance of all of Warren's views with this selection. Rather, Obama's selection of Warren demonstrates once again Obama's willingness to work with those with whom he disagrees, while focusing on those things on which they agree. Warren's selection has zero effect on policy-making, he is not being appointed to anything, and his presence will be purely symbolic. (I suspect that a lot of the uproar around Warren's selection for the invocation has a lot to do with the relative ease with which the relevant Outrageous Issues are grasped, as opposed, say, to the tedious issues associated with the appointments to Treasury, Interior, etc.) Obama is showing evangelicals that while he does not agree with them on everything, he is giving them a place -- however meaningless -- in the inauguration.
Everything about Obama's approach suggests that he genuinely wants to be perceived as a president for all Americans. Shouldn't we embrace this approach after the militant partisan slant of the last eight years? And I may just be fatuous or still Obamatarded, but I do believe that while Obama's appointments and selection of Warren are intended to assure everyone that he's a moderate, and that he won't be too radical, all of this is helping to set the table for the genuinely left-leaning initiatives he will be launching in his first term: inter alia, a huge New Deal-style infrastructure spending plan, real health care reform, and a new engagement with the Muslim world, including an address in a Muslim capital.
I very definitely could be wrong, but Obama has not yet let me down. The one thing I've learned over the last four years of watching Obama is that most decisions of his that initially seem dubious turn out to make a lot of sense in the end. E.g., his decision to run for Senate in 2004, his decision in 2007 to run for President, his strategy to wage a long-term, 50-state campaign of attrition against Clinton, his reaction to Reverend Wright, his choice of running mate, his reaction to the economic crisis in September, etc. I know, just because he's been so successful in getting here does not mean he'll go in the direction his liberal base wants. We will see. But over the past four years, he has won my trust, and has yet to let me down. I believe that he is the most liberal and left-leaning president we have had since LBJ, and that time will bear this out.
So I am not throwing a fit and protesting Obama's choice of Warren. I am waiting to hear what they both will say.
[UPDATED: See also Bob Ostertag on Rick Warren. FURTHER UPDATED: But see Katha Pollitt in today's LAT on Warren.]