Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quick Takes: The Cabinet, Kudos to Bush, Rick Warren, The Auto Industry, Harry Reid, MN & NY Senate

The Centrist, Diverse Obama Cabinet

I was initially a little hesitant when the names of potential Obama cabinet members started circulating what seems like a lifetime ago and also concerned with the selection of the highly partisan Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. My concern was misplaced. It is hard not to be impressed with the true diversity of his cabinet by any measure: race, gender, party affiliation, political philosophy, etc. Here are some statistics.

Ethnic Diversity: African-American = 1, Hispanic = 3, Asian-American = 2, White = 9

Gender Diversity: Women = 3, Men = 12

Party Affiliation: Republicans = 2, Independents = 1, Democrats = 12

Note: I am counting Eric Shinseki as an Independent having served as Army Cheif of Staff under both Clinton and Bush, although I am not sure of his leanings. I am counting Robert Gates as a Republican as he has supported Republicans in the past although he is a registered independent. I am counting Timothy Geithner as a Democrat as he served as an undersecretary in the Clinton administration, although his party affiliation is undeclared.

Beltway Affiliation: Insiders = 10, Outsiders = 5

Note: For purposes of this definition an insider has worked in either congress or the federal executive branch, an outsider has not.

A truly impressive and qualified crowd. Of his 15 cabinet members, only 1, Eric Holder, will face any significant opposition in congress.

The far left (Daily Kos, etc.) is mad at Obama for not naming a more liberal cabinet. Conservatives are largely praising his choice or staying quiet, except for Holder. Even Fred Barnes said he was happy with his picks.

Bravo, Mr. President Elect.

The one chink in the armor for some -- no openly gay cabinet members. There is some buzz about openly gay undersecretaries and non-cabinet level secretaries, but the gay community appears to feel somewhat slighted. And Rick Warren didn't help him here either -- see below.

Kudos to Bush

I haven't said that often, but I have to say, Bush has gone out of his way to provide an orderly transition and support Obama as he has started his Presidency. He has made himself available to the President-Elect, he has refrained from criticism, he has had his cabinet prepare contingency plans for disasters shortly after Obama takes office and he has praised Obama's historic candidacy. This is nothing like the childish behavior of the Clinton administration in its last days or the cold hand-off from Bush's father to Clinton.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Bush has not been a great President, far from it. But he deserves credit for the service he is doing this nation by enabling Obama to hit the ground running.

The Rick Warren Situation

There has been a firestorm from the left and the gay community since it was announced that Rick Warren would give the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

For any who don't know, Rick Warren is a prominent pastor who has staunchly conservative views on social issues, most notably gay rights. He is a staunch opponent of gay marriage and social unions and gay adoption. Warren's Saddleback Church hosted joint interviews with both John McCain and Barack Obama early in the campaign.

Let me state my nuanced view to this very touchy topic.

If I were Barack Obama, I would not have Rick Warren in my circle of friends. I believe gay rights is the crowning civil rights issue of our time. Gay Americans are the only group that still face legal and socially accepted discrimination. I find his sermons on the topic disturbing.

But this is exactly what Obama promised. Lest we forget, Obama is opposed to gay marriage as well. Obama went to Rick Warren's church at Saddleback to be interviewed. He has stated repeatedly the need to reach out to the evangelical community. Rick Warren is not being put in government, he is simply giving an invocation.

So while I disagree with Warren and Obama on gay marriage, I find it hard to criticize Obama for doing what he said he would do.

Who would've thought at this point that conservatives would be praising Obama and liberals criticizing him? Maybe he is a different kind of politician.

The Auto Industry

Now that the bailout package has failed, the ball is in the Bush Administrations court. Bush cannot simply kick the can down the road as almost certainly GM and possibly Chrysler would already be in bankruptcy by the time Obama takes office (Ford has a much stronger balance sheet and may well survive without bankruptcy or financial assistance.)

Bush had initially hinted that he would provide loans out of the remaining TARP funds. He is now indicating that an "orderly bankruptcy" may be the way to go. What exactly this means is not 100% clear yet, but I will restate my position that I think that the Big 3 are unworthy of a taxpayer bailout without bankruptcy and the sort of strict restrictions on executive compensation and financial restructuring that were not (but should have been) part of the financial industry bailout.

I am sick and tired of practicing capitalism with corporate gains and socialism with corporate losses. This is a preverse reverse socialism where the rich make out when times are good and the rich are still protected when times are bad.

I recognize the economic criticality of the auto industry and nobody favors the companies shutting down, but I cannot fathom why investors should get a return on a company that has been incompetently managed.

The Incompetent Harry Reid

While I did not support the bailout package, its failure to pass is another strike against Harry Reid. Seriously, can this guy get anything done? Since Democrats have taken the majority, can you think of one piece of major legislation he has pushed through?

Democrats and Bush reached an agreement on immigration reform. Didn't pass.

Democrats and Bush reached an agreement on the first bailout bill. Didn't pass.

Congress controlled the purse strings on Iraq. Bush got his way.

Democrats and Bush reached an agreement on the auto industry. Didn't pass.

What an abject failure. Democrats need to give Reid the boot. The country deserves better. And Democrats better wise up if they hope to hold their new found seats in 2010.

The Long Road in Minnesota, the "Election of One" in New York

The election that seems to never end in Minnesota is getting closer to over and shockingly, after seeing Norm Coleman lead throughout the recount, he could actually lose this one. It is still far from decided given the narrowness of the margins. Norm Coleman officially leads by 5 votes (no that is not a typo), but the challenges are not yet all sorted through, so those numbers will shift again, we just don't know in which direction.

Also, the state supreme court ruled today that about 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots should be counted, meaning another round of counts, another round of challenges and another round of resolving the challenges.

This is all supposed to be over by December 31st according to the ruling. Don't count on it being resolved any sooner.

In New York, Caroline Kennedy is running a campaign of sorts to get Governor David Patterson to appoint her to Hillary Clinton's seat. While I have nothing against Kennedy, who seems to be a pleasant, kind and decent person, I detest legacy blue blood politics. Kennedy has done nothing to earn a Senate seat other than have a famous name. Governor Patterson should appoint the person he thinks is best qualified, and he would have trouble convincing me that that is Kennedy. If Kennedy wants the seat, let her run for it in 2010. Heck, she'd probably win -- New Yorkers love both celebrities and the Kennedy family. But if she ran and won, she would be definition in a democracy, earn the seat. As it is, it feels like just another backdoor deal if she gets it by appointment.

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