December 20, 2008
The Horror! The Horror?

Interesting take by Todd Gitlin on the Reverend Rick Warren flap, via The Rag Blog. I’m staying out of this controversy right now, having noticed that every time I got mad over something Obama did during the election season, he turned out to be right and I turned out to be wrong. It just may be that Obama plays better political chess than I do.

My initial reaction to Obama’s Rick Warren announcement was horror.

After what seems like weeks of intense back-and-forth, but in fact is only a day’s worth, I’m still appalled. It’s one thing to invite the adversary into the tent the better to defeat him with a smile — neutralize him, in colder terms — but it’s quite another to give him a throne, even if a purely symbolic throne. Warren’s political interventions are mostly terrible (AIDS and environment are the exceptions).

The argument that this was crass political calculation — triangulation, as another president once said — comparable to FDR making nice to segregationists and Stalin, falls afoul of the fact that this overture to Warren was unnecessary. To get the New Deal, FDR really did have to make deals with the racist devil. To defeat Hitler, FDR really had to ally with Stalin. It’s history: get used to it.

But I’ve yet to see a single argument to the effect that Obama’s invitation to Warren accomplishes a single practical thing, let along that it was necessary. So I take it as an ugly brush-back: a gratuitous slap at feminists and LGBT’s. I hope it’s ill-considered, impromptu, but suspect it’s actually one of a series — bridge-building to the right on principle.

But meanwhile, some proportion here, people. Other appointments are arguable but some are clearly superb. Harold Meyerson, than whom no one knows L. A. and labor better, says bluntly: “Hilda Solis is great.” (So does every union person I’ve seen quoted.) E. J. Dionne, Jr., makes a firm case for Arne Duncan at Education. John Judis calls Obama’s incoming science adviser John Holdren “the Mick Jagger of climate change,” meaning that “by the end of Holdren’s speech, I was ready to join the world environmentalist crusade.” When I was teaching at Berkeley, I heard Holdren, who taught physics there, give a fabulous talk about nuclear dangers.

Meantime, Obama still hasn’t taken up residence in the White House.

Wes Boyd and Joan Blades had the right idea, back in the fading days of the 20th century, when they started what became the excellent Move On with a simple petition.

Vis-à-vis Clinton-Lewinsky, recall that their petition read: “Congress must Immediately Censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.”

Censure Obama over Warren — directly, sincerely, viscerally — and move on.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 20, 2008 03:12 PM
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Todd Gitlin is one of these Boomers who think the time they've served as earnest principled activists entitles them to make guilt-free compromises. I don't trust his notions of responsibility, pragmatism, maturity, etc.

As for us, our Obama poster came off the refrigerator yesterday.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on December 21, 2008 3:13 AM

For a diferent take on Arne Duncan, see one Chicago schoolteacher's view--Jesse Sharkey, "No School Left Behind: Arne Duncan's Privatization Agenda"--posted on December 18th Counterpunch.

Posted by: Hoffmann on December 21, 2008 9:29 AM
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