President-elect Barack Obama ruffled feathers within the gay/lesbian community and within the larger Left community when he announced that Reverend Rick Warren would deliver the invocation at Obama's swearing-in ceremony. "Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans," the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. "[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination." Reverend Warren is the popular senior pastor at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Warren hosted a dual interview, dubbed the Civil Forum on The Presidency, with Obama and Senator John McCain in August that focused on the candidates' values as the presidential campaign picked up steam. Warren also campaigned for California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative designed to overturn California's Supreme Court ruling that gay marriages are constitutional, hence much of the outrage.
Politico.com reported that gay rights activist and chairman of California's Courage Campaign Rick Jacobs said, "Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what's going on in America? People would be up in arms," he said. Salon.com currently has at least four posts dedicated to liberal outrage over Rev. Warren, one of which describes Obama supporters demanding their campaign contributions back.
I'm wondering if all of this outrage isn't all just a bit of overkill. Obama has promised to try to bring Americans together. To do that, he's going to have to reach out to people who didn't vote for him and who may not like him for any number of reasons, legitimate or not. Bear in mind that there is no shortage of idiots in this country who honestly believe that Obama is some sort of Secret Muslim bent on destroying America. To reach out, he's going to have to engage some people with whom his supporters have big differences.
I'm not here to defend Rev. Warren, but the fact is that he is very popular. He authored the best-selling Purpose Driven Life. And if one had paid any attention at all to Obama during his campaign, one would know that he spoke often of representing all Americans and even of strategically seeking input from people with views different from his own. This is reflected in his inclusion of Republicans in some of his Cabinet selections and, perhaps, especially in his selection of Hillary Clinton to the Secretary of State post. This strategy eliminates the group-think that develops by surrounding oneself with mere yes-men while keeping political opponents in positions where they serve at Obama's discretion, under Obama's oversight. Call it the "Team of Rivals" approach.
Given such an approach to building a Cabinet, Obama's choice of Warren to deliver an invocation is not so surprising.
Often, people on the Left imagine that the political center is further to the left than it actually is. The Right just did this to a greater degree and it cost them dearly - see Sarah Palin's effect on John McCain's Presidential aspirations. The reality is that Rev. Warren is very popular and fairly representative of mainstream America in many ways. As Americans wrestle with a perfect storm of underwater mortgages, foreclosures, job losses, and tightening credit, the Left might want to forgive Obama if he didn't chose his inauguration as the perfect moment to grant the Left its Christmas wish-list. If Obama proves even remotely competent in tackling these problems, then he might have some capital to spend on some of the Democrats' less universally popular agenda items.