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Who's Afraid Of Pastor Rick?

Matt Yglesias, writing about Obama's decision to have Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the inauguration, makes an odd analogy:

If Ahmadenijad is defeated at the next election by a candidate promising to take Iran on a different, more constructive path in international relations a lot of people will be excited by that. If said candidate follows up his electoral victory by elevating a cleric who’s well-known for his high-profile endorsement of assassinations, people will be upset about that. And rightly so.

Of course, a cleric who's elevated in Iran presumably enjoys a lot more influence and power than a pastor who gives an inaugural benediction in the United States. I understand the disappointment people are feeling over Obama's selection of Warren. I share it. At the same time, it's worth remembering that this is a one-off for Warren. He gives his benediction, he goes back to Saddleback. He's not going to be staying around Washington, heading up an agency or attending cabinet meetings.

Warren's pick is symbolic, which is why, as Andrew writes:

[I]t seems important to me that Obama at some point offer gay couples and gay servicemembers something a little better than symbolism in the next four years. Like: a federal civil unions bill and the end to the military ban.

Voicing disappointment with Warren's pick is one way of putting pressure on Obama to do just that. But it's worth remembering that Obama's invitation to Warren could also offer Obama some political cover to pursue these goals.

Update: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has some smart thoughts about what Warren's pick might mean for HIV/AIDS policy:

While it is right for the LGBT community to register its outrage and hurt, we must also act quickly to adapt to a new political climate: We are no longer living in the age of either single issue or identity politics. The LGBT community needs to develop a clear-sighted 8-year strategy for the pieces of legislation we want to get passed within two Obama terms, and this legislative agenda must extend beyond LGBT civil rights. It should, for example, include legislation related to HIV/AIDS funding both domestically and globally.

LGBT people also care about global poverty and the AIDS pandemic (which is both a global and domestic issue). We cannot, and should not, absent ourselves from the table of communities coming together around these shared concerns. The LGBT community has long years of experience working around HIV/AIDS and the opportunity to share this knowledge and these skills with a global community. If Rick Warren is serious about addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis then he needs to be working with LGBT people, and he needs to approach the disease from a holistic framework that sees the virus for what it is: a pandemic that affects all identities. 

--Jason Zengerle