- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President-elect Barack Obama is taking considerable heat from the left and from homosexuals for his cabinet appointments and for his invitation to the Rev. Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist and evangelical, to give the inaugural invocation.

There was obvious discontent with Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Robert Gates as secretary of defense. The anti-war left viewed the appointment as an about-face to the president-elect’s promises to start bringing troops home immediately - despite the fact that he never really said that. Mr. Gates and new leadership on the ground have made it possible for Mr. Obama’s 16-month to 20-month withdrawal strategy to become reality, and it is largely consistent with the current Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. Not to be silenced, critics began to switch their argument and blame Mr. Obama for creating the impression that Democrats can’t handle defense matters. Some people can’t be satisfied.

Criticism of former Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood, a Republican, who is Mr. Obama’s transportation secretary- desginee, centered around him having no expertise in transportation issues. Some complained that the only thing Mr. LaHood has done is shuffle through some pork transportation projects (that’s pretty much all of what pork is) from his seat on the relevant appropriations committee. Mr. LaHood is poised to run the Department of Transportation not because he is a “transportation expert” but for stances such as this: “I think if we’re going to have a pot of money where we subsidize airlines and we subsidize the funding of highways, that we certainly ought to continue to subsidize Amtrak.” That was Mr. LaHood speaking this summer to save Amtrak funding. Increased mass transportation - as opposed to additional automobiles on the roads and additional roads to accommodate the additional automobiles - is at the top of the wish list of liberals, environmentalists and transportation activists. Mr. LaHood also was chosen because he has presided over more debates as the designee of the speaker of the House than any other member.

So is it Mr. Gates’ and Mr. LaHood’s Republican Party credentials that they don’t like? An affirmative answer does not explain what is happening with Colorado’s Democratic senator, Ken Salazar, who Mr. Obama has named interior secretary. “The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward looking, reform-minded Secretary,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man.”

Mr. Suckling and others have complained that Mr. Salazar’s “mixed” (we would argue practical) voting record disqualifies him. Mr. Suckling cited Mr. Salazar’s votes against increased fuel-efficiency standards and the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil. He also included Mr. Salazar’s votes supporting offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coasts, allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming impacts in their water development projects and subsidizing ranchers and other users of public forest and range lands. Mr. Salazar received the most visceral reaction among the appointments, that is until the Rev. Rick Warren - a person who won’t spend a single day advising the president on policy, working as a cabinet head or for any government agency - was asked to pray to God to bless the inauguration and the nation.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, said in a recent television interview: “Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair … If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing. But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It was traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”

It is starting to look like liberals did not get the great author of their grand design as they expected. Having derided President Bush for not being bipartisan enough, they now are attacking Mr. Obama for keeping his promise of bipartisanship. Liberals cannot have it both ways. The confirmation process that will be conducted by a Democrat-controlled Congress will either rise to the constitutional occasion or be another exercise in partisan politics. American voters told politicians on Nov. 4 what they want. It isn’t petty partisanship.

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