President-elect Barack Obama spent the campaign fighting the notion that he’s an unabashed liberal.
Now he can point to Exhibit A: a Cabinet that’s a middle-of-the-roader’s dream
In fact, as that Politico article discusses, the mix is more complex, with some arenas ‘traditional’ / moderate, and others (labor, health care, civil rights), according to Jonathan Tasini, executive director of the Labor Research Association, “this Cabinet is going to be progressive compared to the last eight years” [not exactly a high bar].
Politico and others are missing another arena, one where the Administration looks to be so strongly related based that it clearly fits a “progressive” profile and, without a doubt, will be called ‘radical’ by the likes of James Inhofe and Marc Morano: Energy and Climate Change.
A question to ask:
- Are there arenas where Obama’s picks stand out as not ‘middle of the road’?
- Are there arenas where they are particularly ‘reality-based’ and meeting a sensible direction for the future?
While I have expressed concerns in my domain over several (such as Jones, due to US Chamber of Commerce; and Vilsack over ethanol even though he has other strengths re energy/GW issues), I would suggest that Obama’s climate change / energy picks have been generally very (extremely) strong, perhaps stronger than what I might have expected. Consider the following six:
- Clinton (SecState): I think that Hillary ‘gets it’ (despite gas tax) as to the challenges of global warming, her Presidential energy/global warming positions were pretty (very) good, and I have high confidence that she can hold up her end of the conversation well in terms of understanding energy technology / basic climate science enough for policy making. She will be a strong voice when it comes to these issues in dealing with other nations.
- Richardson (Sec of Commerce): Richardson’s energy plan was the strongest of any of the D candidates during the primaries. Again, as per Clinton, I believe that he ‘gets it’ and that he will be a proponent of ‘clean’ (clean energy technologies, etc) commerce options.
- Solis: Merits praise for a range of issues and, well, is probably the most ‘progressive’ of all of Obama’s Cabinet appointments, but her key committee focus in the House was really in the Energy / Global Warming arenas. Proponent of Green Jobs as Secretary of Labor as well as, within the Cabinet, a strong voice for environmental justice
- Holdren (Science Advisor); Chu (Sec of Energy); Lubchenco (NOAA). All merit their own praise, but what are common characteristics:
- Highly regarded members of the science community, with prestigious resumes. Chu is a Nobel Prize winner and Holdren/Lubchenco are both past Presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Science-Policy Focus: Chose to shift their career from ‘pure’ science to the interaction of science and policy, to try to promote a greater influence of science on policy making.
- Strong voices as to Global Warming’s path and risks.
- Made strong calls for action, now, to avert catastrophic climate change.
- Raised concerns (both in public and private) over efforts to undermine science, especially in regard to public understanding of climate change and humanity’s role in driving global warming.
These (especially the last three) are not, somehow, “middle of the road” choices when it comes to energy and global warming. Certainly not in the body politic as a whole and, well, not even within the Democratic Party. These are not “blue dog Democrat” selections that place environment vs the economy, but each view them as crucially interlinked/interrelated.
To the extent that reality has a progressive bias, when it comes to energy and global warming issues, the Obama Administration looks to be highly progressive. Thus, while there are many reasons to describe / discuss Obama’s cabinet and key Cabinet picks as a “middle of the roaders’ dream’, I don’t see that to be the case when it comes to Global Warming and climate change.
UPDATE: Some related pieces, by others, on much the same theme:
- David Roberts, Progressivism is Pragmatism: Steven Chu is a progressive environmentalist because he’s a good scientist
- Joe Romm, Obama Declares End to Dark Ages, “It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda.”