Tuesday, January 29, 2013

EXTRA: Infuriating the ideologues

I always got a kick out of the presence of Ray LaHood in the cabinet of President Barack Obama -- largely because I knew how much his presence infuriated the conservative ideologues.
LaHOOD: A rarity in partisan politics

LaHood was supposed to be Obama's gesture of bipartisan cooperation when he put together his cabinet for his first term in office. He was, is, and likely always will be, a member of the Republican Party.

AND HE WAS a downstate Illinois presence in what some considered to be Obama's overloaded Chicago influence amongst his top advisers.

But the one-time member of Congress from Peoria who went on to serve as Transportation secretary was never the rigidly ideological type who would appease the conservatives.

Heck, he is a Republican official whom I have actually voted for (during my time working and living in Springfield, Ill., he was my member of Congress, as opposed to Bobby L. Rush now).

But he also was a chief of staff to Robert Michel back in the days when the congressman from Peoria was leader of the entire Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.

OF COURSE, MICHEL was never Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was the long-time minority leader, and it was his retirement that opened up the vacancy that allowed Newt Gingrich of Georgia to become House speaker.

Remember the Contract with America that pushed the ideological  agenda down the throats of the rest of the country? LaHood as a member of Congress thought there were portions that made sense, but others that did not.

He was one of the few Republicans back in that era who didn't sign the deal, and tried to be a little more rational rather than the rigid partisanship that Gingrich tried to enforce.

The result is that I know the ideologues who despised Michel always thought just as little of LaHood.

THAT SENSE OF having to acknowledge that not everyone is just like you, and that those people have just as much a right to expect something of the government as you do. It is an attitude that has been lacking in our political people in recent years.

Which is why I have been pleased with the idea of LaHood in the transportation position. Considering that Chicago, because of its location, is such a transportation hub, it has come across as pleasing that someone who comprehends our Midwest region would have a say in determining federal aid for highway and other transit projects.

But now, LaHood is leaving. He's 67, and it seems would like to retire. Besides, the mid-point of a presidency is usually when a lot of transition takes place (nobody except for Obama himself stays the entire eight years).

So learning that LaHood made it official on Tuesday that he wants to step down isn't a surprise. Particularly since he tossed hints out right after Election Day and Obama's victory last year.

LAHOOD WILL BE missed, even though I'm sure the ideologues will find a way to spew rancid rhetoric and trash his reputation.

Let's just hope that the real majority of our nation have enough sense to see through such nonsense-speak. And let's hope that Obama can come up with a new transportation secretary who can handle himself in as professional a manner as LaHood -- who has referred to himself as one of the highest-ranking Lebanese-American officials in government.


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