Obama: No Closet Centrist

Is Barack Obama a closet centrist?  That’s the conclusion some political commentators are reaching as the president-elect forms his cabinet and makes some of the over 1,000 appointments necessary to populate the new administration.  A different view is that, though a radical by instinct, Obama has developed a pragmatism that will compel him to govern cautiously a nation that yearns for stability in uncertain times.

Obama has indeed pleased some conservatives, and dismayed some liberals, with a number of appointments and nominations that include holdovers from George W. Bush’s presidency and even some officials from the Reagan years.  One conservative commentator called Obama’s selections thus far “strikingly centrist in nature, a group of people known more for competence than for ideology.”

Meanwhile, Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America, wrote recently, “[Obama] has confirmed what our suspicions were by surrounding himself with a centrist to right cabinet.  But we hope that before it’s all over we can get at least one authentic progressive appointment.”  

But while some of Obama’s foreign policy and economic selections may be, to quote Karl Rove, “reassuring” in their relative moderation, one area in which the president-elect does not deserve praise from the Right, or criticism from the Left, is social policy.  In fact, after reviewing many of Obama’s personnel decisions, it’s clear that Obama intends to be anything but a centrist on social issues.

Many of Obama’s social policy advisors are leading figures in the abortion industry and heavy hitters of the homosexual lobby.  White House Communications Director Ellen Moran is a former executive director of Emily’s List, the leading abortion-focused political action committee.  And Dawn Johnsen, former legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, recently was appointed to Obama’s Justice Department Review Team.

Then there’s Melody Barnes, who Obama has tapped as his White House Domestic Policy Advisor.  Barnes is a former top legal aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy, former board member of Emily’s List and previous Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, a leftwing public policy organization funded by George Soros.

As Ronald Reagan’s Domestic Policy Advisor, I know how important that position can be.  Barnes will have direct and daily access to President Obama, coordinating and leading the cabinet secretaries of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Energy and more.  

Obama’s social policy choices have certainly made the homosexual lobby happy.  As Lisa Keen of Bay Windows, “New England’s largest GLBT newspaper,” put it “…so far, most [of Obama’s selections] sound like good news for the LGBT community.”  

Keen describes Health and Human Services Secretary-Designate Tom Daschle, a former U.S. senator from South Dakota and Senate Democratic leader, as “a longtime friend to the LGBT community.”  And, according to Bay Windows, seven openly LGBT people are part of Obama’s transition team.   

And as a bonus to the homosexual community, Obama chose Arne Duncan this week to head his Department of Education.  Duncan is a Chicago education chief infamous for recently unveiling plans for Chicago’s first “gay, lesbian and transgender” high school. The so-called “School for Social Justice Pride Campus” would “seek to foster a violence-free atmosphere for students who are often targeted for their sexual identities.”

But it’s not just in his personnel decisions related to abortion and homosexual issues where Obama’s radicalism is revealed.  Consider Dr. Steven Chu, Obama’s choice for Energy Secretary.  Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, has called coal “a nightmare” and supports raising U.S. gas taxes to European levels to promote conservation.  These are not moderate positions.  Coal is America’s most abundant energy source, and gas prices in Europe are two to three times those in the U.S.

Then there’s immigration.  Last month Obama chose Alexander Aleinikoff to lead his immigration policy transition team, a selection that has drawn criticism from immigration and homeland security experts.  Like so many of Obama’s appointments, Aleinikoff was a top official in the Clinton Administration and directed a program at the Immigration and Naturalization Service called Citizenship USA. The program was designed in 1996 to expedite a backlog of more than one million immigration cases. But critics contend that it was callously exploited for partisan purposes and was a bureaucratic disaster that allowed tens of thousands of criminal aliens to slip through the cracks undetected. Some of those illegal immigrants made use of immigration fraud to enter the U.S. and commit terrorist attacks.  

Even some of Obama’s high-profile foreign policy choices should concern social conservatives.  Planned Parenthood Executive Director Cecile Richards stated that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations would make “a strong foreign policy team that will approach issues of women’s health and rights, family planning…with a seriousness and commitment they deserve.”

Clinton, a leading voice for abortion at the United Nations in her husband’s administration, will work with the U.N. to promote abortion abroad at taxpayers’ expense.  She may also try to realize her hope that “all governments will make access to reproductive health care and planning, family planning services, a basic right.”  

This list is far from exhaustive.  But it should be enough to disabuse conservatives of the idea that Barack Obama will govern from the center on social issues.

Yesterday it was announced that Obama has selected Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.  The selection of Warren, while attracting predictably fierce attacks from the homosexual lobby (Warren is a vocal opponent of same-sex “marriage”), is being portrayed by some political commentators as a gesture of conciliation toward social conservatives.  

But, barring divine intervention, Warren’s inauguration prayer will sadly have no affect on the way Obama will govern or the policies his administration will champion.  An old Washington truism is that personnel is policy.  That’s a frightening thought for social conservatives to consider with Inauguration Day looming.