So let me get this straight — did everyone on both sides of the political spectrum in America think that Barack Obama was going to invite the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to give the invocation at his historic nomination?
Father Michael Pfleger? Oh, that would have been good.
Heck, why not just invite the Rev. James David Manning? (Rev. Manning was absolutely a gracious man when I met him about a fortnight ago, but I must say that it been too long since my last foray into the merits of the “white womb,” and the inauguration could be the perfect time for a rehash!)
With Obama’s selection of Rick Warren, evangelical pastor and author extraordinaire, the president-elect managed to anger people on the right and the left. The gay rights activists on the left are angry because of Warren’s vocal dissent as to the recently shot down Proposition 8, and the pro-life contingent on the right is upset that Warren would accept the invitation from Obama, who famously argued against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would have provided life-saving medical treatment to infants born alive after botched abortions.
So he made the GLBT folks angry. He made the pro-life folks angry. Shoot, unless Obama insists that Warren travel to Washington, D.C. in a solar-powered vehicle, he’ll probably end up on the wrong side of the environmentalists as well.
What I’ve continued to find amazing about Barack Obama, both in the lead-up to the election and the aftermath, is the extent to which everyone seems to project their own expectations onto the guy. Everyone, left and right. On the left, the aforementioned environmentalists assume that he is the second-coming of Al Gore, ready at the drop of a hat to drop oil executives like Dick Cheney with a quail gun; the pro-choice groups no doubt picture him in a long white lab coat, ready to accept the Get-Out-of-Pregnancy-Free cards his administration would undoubtedly give to inner city victims of parenthood (on that one, they might be right); the Brady anti-gunners think of him like Superman, bending barrels on so-called “assault rifles” like plastic drinking straws. On the right, many assume that he will personally fire rockets into Israel, invite Al Qaeda leaders to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom like Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat, and drop “Mission Accomplished” leaflets on Iraq and Afghanistan as he pulled out every remaining soldier on January 21st.
Nobody seems to want to admit that the man is a politician. On the war front, he has kept Defense Secretary Gates. On the economic front, he has loaded his stable of advisors with believers in a free market. On the national security front, he has chosen Gov. Janet Napolit–no, wait a minute, that pick was awful.
Mostly, Obama has been pragmatic. His selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, for example, was a brilliant political move for both himself and for Clinton, immediately establishing [perceived] legitimacy across the globe while simultaneously removing his most serious competition for 2012. The choice of Warren for something as innocuous as giving an invocation as his inauguration is no different.
Warren is respected on the right, and reviled on the left. Still, he gave Obama a seat more than once at his Saddleback megachurch, and Obama is looking to return the favor. Warren may be reviled by those in the gay rights movement, but his work for AIDS victims in Africa is fantastic. Obama is still left of Planned Parenthood and NARAL on the abortion issue — no pastor will change that.
Above all else, we need to stop projecting good and bad on President-Elect Barack Obama and accept him for what he is–a politician–knowing full well that not-so-deep below the pragmatic surface is a guy who desperately wants to govern from the far, far left. So long as he is pragmatic, however, we need to praise him on the rare occasion when he does well, and loudly criticize him when he does otherwise. Regardless, the whole time, as conservatives we need to be getting faster, smarter, quicker, sleeker and more efficient in order to fight him in 2012.
Remember, we need Apollo Creed.
In the meantime, let’s not cry wolf and be ready to jump on the president-elect wholeheartedly when he truly deserves it. The Fairness Doctrine. Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Cap-and-trade. These are issues that matter, these are issues for which Obama will likely surrender that pragmatism. Let’s be ready.