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By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine Staff Writer

In what seems to be a continued march towards the traditional right, president-elect Barack Obama’s various political appointments took a spectacularly provocative turn on Wednesday with the stunning announcement of Rick Warren to lead the opening prayers on inauguration day. According to the Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Rick Warren, a right-wing millionaire evangelist, was the choice of president-elect to lead the ceremonial prayers at his up-coming investiture on January 20. The invitation was later confirmed by Obama himself.

That announcement sent shockwaves to many liberal organizations that staunchly supported Obama during the campaign. They considered the choice of Warren, a controversial figure virulently hostile to gay rights and abortion rights, a slap in the face. Warren is said to be a believer in creationism and a “free market enterprise for religion” who never hides his great thirst for America’s global dominance.

Many observers believe Obama’s aim is to win support among the most reactionary elements of the population in order to claim victory in his illusory dream of “America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.” These were the words of president-elect at a press conference on Thursday when he firmly defended the Warren choice. “This is part of the magic of this country … that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated,” he went on to say.

For sure we are a society of multi-layers with irreversible differences—differences that will never be bridged, for they are strategically entrenched from one another. And the issue of creating a harmonious society across strategic lines amounts to nothing but a mockery and a shameful disregard to those who wallows in poverty every day.

The New York Times described the action as “an olive branch to conservative Christian evangelicals.” The Times may purposely overlook the fact that Obama’s other aim was to reassure wary Time Square financiers. Warren’s simplistic, but arrogant, view of the Church as an instrument of free market capitalism was long understood and embraced by Wall Street.

Furthermore, providing this huge political platform for a reactionary element like Warren undermines the very notion of unifying the country along ideological principles. To the contrary, this will enflame ideological passion and will further polarize an already divided nation. Far from justifying the shrewdness of Obama’s political character, the Warren choice, a rationale for the worst sort of unprincipled politics, underscores Obama’s political ruthlessness vis-à-vis his diehard supporters.         

The vast majority of the population displays no interest in “coming together” with people like Warren and, for that matter, the entire echelon of the fundamentalist-evangelical Christian Right. The idea of intertwining irreconcilable interests is “magical” indeed, rooted in fantasy and in a black-and-white simplistic viewpoint.   

When political reality belies the rhetoric 

When he announced on Wednesday the appointments of Colorado Democratic Senator Ken Salazar for secretary of interior and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be agriculture secretary, Barack Obama appeared to have reached the end of his hectic nomination process. A day earlier, he named Chicago schools superintendant Arne Duncan as secretary of education.  Critics say in the nomination of Salazar, someone who is described as a senator standing on the right of the conservative elder Democratic senator Robert Bird of Virginia and the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus. As far as endorsing the policies of the departing George Bush administration, critics said that only Connecticut’s “independent-Democrat” Joseph Lieberman surpasses him.

A fervent supporter of the Iraq war—a war that Obama used to bolster his political campaign for his staunch opposition to it—Salazar never hides his firm approval to the war. In a political twist, Salazar shocked the world by personally leading Alberto Gonzales onto the Senate floor during his confirmation hearings in 2003. Gonzalez was George Bush’s choice for Attorney General. Salazar then vigorously testified on Gonzalez’s behalf.

The choice of Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture, however, sent two distinct messages. First, it reaffirmed Obama’s conviction for politic of inclusion, for it was the fourth time Obama has chosen a Democrat who challenged him in the 2008 election to serve in his administration. Vilsack joins former candidates Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson. Second, it sent a message that lied beneath an irrefutable altruism: political reality usually belies the rhetoric.

Vilsack is a prominent advocate of agribusiness, especially subsidies to big farm interests for the development of corn-based ethanol—something that has already dealt a colossal blow to developing countries as worldwide food prices soar to an alarming proportion. While this may fall in line with Obama’s green energy policy, it does not remove the underlying factor: protecting the big agribusiness interest, although in a preemptive move, Obama tried to diffuse criticism by saying the choice was not “designed to serve [only] big agribusiness or Washington influence-peddlers, but [also]family farmers and the American people.”

In CSMS Magazine, we have always reminded our readers that Barack Obama may be a politician with some humanist views, but he is by no means the San Salvador that many voters were longing for. Obama has been ushered to power at a time of great political and economic uncertainties. His success or failure will be measured on his ability to tackle tangible issues confronting the country and the world by extension. Revolutionary measures are needed to successfully win over dicey obstacles that lie ahead. The awkward paradox is that only revolutionaries lead revolutionary actions toward successful conclusion. Former Clintonites, who now occupy front and center of this upcoming administration and diehard right-wing elements in the Democratic Right in the fringe, will hardly provide the mechanisms to move the country forward. Only the ruling elite stand to win and win big in the coming months and years. As far as the vast majority of the American poor, four years from now they may still be clinging on the message of hope—a message out of which the messenger, by then, may very well be different.           
Also see Obama’s upcoming administration: a new dawn in American politics? 

Historic by all account: the US presidential election enters its final hours 

As Barack Obama ends his historic trip abroad, serious questions arise over his antiwar credentials 

Barack Obama rocks the Middle East and Europe 

Obama’s candidacy and the bittersweet feeling within the African American leadership 

When will race seize to be the cornerstone of American politic? 

Hillary Clinton’s Paranoia and the Democrats Dilemma

 Hillary Clinton wants to clinch the nomination at all cost

Is Barack Obama unstoppable after his stunning victory in Iowa last week?   

The Obama campaign plunges deeper into the defensive after the Nevada lost last Saturday

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