Obama Nominates LaHood Despite Past Controversies in Congress

160px-ray_lahoodThis has been a strange and stressful weak for Obama supporters. Environmentalists are reeling over the selection of Sen. Salazar for Interior Secretary and liberals are denouncing the selection of Rev. Rick Warren for the inauguration prayer. In the meantime, Obama has assembled the most establishment cabinet of any recent president — picking the very same power figures who have run the government for years. However, nothing prepared Democrats for yesterday when Obama picked Rep. Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois, to lead the Transportation department. I represented the democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Larry Hanauer, who was savagely and unjustly attacked by LaHood. LaHood’s attacks — found to be baseless — led to threats against Hanauer and his family.

Honestly, when I was first told yesterday that LaHood would be nominated, I thought it was a joke. For those who are disgusted with Washington, LaHood personifies the practices that have given Congress the lowest approval ratings in history.

While liberals are reluctant to admit it, Obama’s cabinet is far more of an insider and establishment group than Bush’s cabinet. Bush actually picked a number of people from outside Washington. Obama’s “change” appears to be switching out the red team for the blue team — giving power to the same party leaders who have been ridiculed by voters for years for their failure to confront Bush on issues like torture, unlawful surveillance, and are cited for the very same abuses of earmarks as Republicans.

Then there is LaHood. LaHood gleefully carried out the wishes of the Bush Administration on the House Intelligence Committee, which virtually shutdown any oversight of the unlawful programs. Even by congressional standards, he was a thuggish partisan who painted democrats and liberals as insufficiently patriotic or a danger to national security.

In the Hanauer matter, LaHood went to the media, which then leaked his name (without giving a source). However, LaHood is quoted as expressing mocking skepticism that it was a coincidence that Hanauer requested to see a National Intelligence Estimate that was given to the New York Times. The resulting story was embarrassing for Bush in showing that the Iraq war had caused an increase in terrorism recruitment and attacks. In a letter (also leaked to the media), LaHood says “This may, in fact, be only coincidence, and simply ‘look bad.’ But coincidence, in this town, is rare.”

It was an outrageous act because LaHood knew that Hanauer had merely retrieved the document at the request of a member — which was one of his jobs. The suspension of the staffer was done shortly before the election and used to flog the White House claim that democrats have endangered the nation. LaHood knew that the article referred to multiple executive branch and legislative branch sources, who had discussed the NIE. The timing of the article made clear that, by the time Hanauer was asked to bring a member the NIE, the New York Times already had the document and was interviewing people on its content.

None of this stopped LaHood who used the life and career of this staffer to score political points for the GOP. Despite my demands that the staffer’s suspension be lifted and that he be returned to work, LaHood kept flogging the accusations through the election. Indeed, he and Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., would not clear Hanauer until after the election despite the fact that all of the facts were established long before the election. In the meantime, Hanauer and his family were threatened by conservatives who believed LaHood’s baseless claims. LaHood’s role in the matter was, in my view, disgraceful.

While the Obama camp has called LaHood a “respected member,” he has also been denounced for years of earmark abuses. Some of these earmarks led to scandal, though he refused to answer questions on his conduct.

LaHood’s nomination is baffling and highly disturbing. This is someone who trashed an innocent democratic staff member for overtly political reasons. He was one of the key members who shutdown oversight of the Bush Intelligence abuses. He is a member who is accused of earmarks abuses. The only “change” in his nomination is to give him unexpected power in a Democratic administration.

What is particularly distressing is that someone who has been criticized for earmarks abuses in Congress and who has defended earmarks will now be in charge of the agency with the longest history of special dealing and earmark abuse.

For the full story, click here.

14 thoughts on “Obama Nominates LaHood Despite Past Controversies in Congress

  1. JT:
    I am having trouble reconciling your statements that LaHood is a “leading bipartisan voice,” with your previous statement that he was a “vicious partisan who painted democrats and liberals as insufficiently patriotic or a danger to national security.” Should I take from that a change in his philosophy or a more pragmatic, though cynical, approach given the polling of the times?

  2. I went to hear Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater, speak before the election. He said a lot of his friends were in love with Obama and he was hoping they’d cheat on him, just a little bit. Since then he’s written a number of anaylsis on Obama’s picks. There’s also one from Chomsky, saying how Obama’s treasury picks should be handed indictments, not appointments. (All articles may be found on Alternet.)

    Jeremy’s point was people just weren’t paying attention to what Obama was really saying and what he was doing prior to the election. I think he was correct about that. It happened because the opposition was appalling and people of good will were completely desperate for change after 8 years of horror.

    Now that he is elected, none of us can afford to make excuses for Obama’s actions and choices when they run counter to the good of the country. We need to scream and scream loudly. It’s not healthy for any politician to think he can get away with poor choices and counterproductive actions.

  3. I should have added the most important thing I believe Jeremy was trying to commuicate in his talk. He said the most important action of the citizens was not what we do/did on Nov. 4th but what we would do on Nov. 5th. He did not want McCain to be elected but he was telling people to be vigilant after the election.

    Last sunday I was at a wonderful music performance of an afro-semitic band. Before the group played several references were made from the alter about “our liberation” on Jan 20th. I found these references scary. It’s almost like we have lost what it means to live in a democracy. We have lived 8 years under an evil, defacto dictatorship and we act like citizens of a dictatorship instead of a democracy. Obama is not our liberator. He is not our benevolent dictator. He is our president. In a democracy, people liberate themselves by our own actions. The sooner we understand very clearly just what policies Obama actually intends to implement, the better off we will be in preventing those that are not in our interests from coming to fruition.

  4. Mr. Obama apparently did not just betray those Democrats who were so vocal and supportive, he betrayed those Republicans like me who knew that real ‘Change’ was essential for our economic and environmental survival. Mr. Cooper and other conservative Republicans are elated and overjoyed with Mr. Obama’s “Change” because it is “Change” Republicans can believe in more than that which Democrats can support and those who elected the ‘great messiah of change’. It is in fact “change” with a very little “c” and the change in the wind smells very Republican.

    Horace Cooper, is a Republican attorney on the Board of Directors of ‘The National Center for Public Policy Research’ whose “environmental policy” is :


    “Environmental Policy: Firm in the belief that *private* owners are the best stewards of the environment, The National Center’s Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs advocates *private, free market solutions to today’s environmental challenges*.”

    {End Quote}

    Small wonder he said the following on Dec 16 regarding Obama’s “Change.” Here is a transcript of Republican Horace Cooper’s starting @ about timeframe 01:00 in the video:

    “I guess I don’t see this as a dramatic change in any way, I see this as a calm and more reassuring sense that we are *heading in the same direction*, so its change that is really, really very familiar.”


    “Heading in the same direction” as the 8-years of imbecilic Bush Administration failures, Mr. Obama will then head us straight into the abyss.

    Regarding Salazar:

    Mr. Salazar, a rancher who pretentiously wears a big “cowboy hat” indoors where it aint a’rainin’ er aint a’snowin’ er the sun aint’ a’shinin’. If we must put up with Salazar as DOI Secretary for 4-years or more!, then can someone politely tell him to remove his cottonpickin’ 10-gallon top hat so the doesn’t look more foolish than he already does.

    Urban, Rhinestone, and Coca-cola cowboys’ mommas ‘everwar’ tell their little boys to remove thar hats when indoors, and especially when a’sayin’ grace. However, Salazar still insists on wearin’ hisn’ to TV interviews and in the Nations’ houses of Congress.

    My fear is that Salazar will next don borrowed chaps and spurs and further denigrate the real cowboys and agricultural workers across American who wear their cowboy hats and other headgear as a part of their attire to protect themselves from the elements of the weather. Such attire for them is not a pretentious symbol of pomposity, as Salazar’s display is, or that of today’s neo-country western ‘sangers who juss caint sang indoors without a fake hand-crumbled-up “cowboy” hat.

    “Mommas please don’t let your babies grow up to be “cowboys”…like this, fur sure…

  5. FFLEO,

    Unfortunately the Rep. candidate running against Salazar wasn’t a much better option. He seemed to be of the opinion that “deficits don’t matter,” and toed the Neo-con line on just about every issue. There was a sad lack of third party candidates in that race.

    As far as his cabinet goes, I’m shocked at some of Obama’s choices. However, it is HIS cabinet and he has a strong enough personality to wrangle it into line. That being said, just because I voted for him once doesn’t mean I’ll vote for him twice, like you I have no party allegiance that he can rely on. I hope he earns our second votes by living up to the campaign he ran.

  6. Gyges,

    I think your point that it is his cabinet is exactly the point. He’s not some hapless idiot who picks people at odds with his own philosophy. They share his philosophy. There’s no need for wrangling because they are all pretty much on the same page. He picked them because they will fullfill his ideas and agree with them. It’s a myth that he holds one set of ideas, while his picks hold strong, contrary opinions.

    Distrubingly, I heard on NPR that he and bush plan to hold a joint, mock terrorist attack trial before his inauguration. Using fear isn’t a sign of change either.

  7. When I saw LaHood as Obama’s pick, not having JT’s experience, I thought ‘Very smart’…

    I’m inclined to trust him on this one. Also from Illinois, he and Rahm have known LaHood for years.


    ‘Even with firm Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Obama will need help across the aisle. Legislation to upgrade the nation’s air-traffic control system has been stuck in Congress for more than a year and the Bush administration has been fighting airlines over flight rights in New York. Meanwhile, Obama is planning to give states an infusion of funds to create jobs by improving the nation’s infrastructure.

    “The last place you need ideology is transportation,” said Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association in Washington. “LaHood has a great reputation and track record of working across party lines. It’s very encouraging.” ‘

  8. While I am not a big fan of LaHood, I believe that Obama will provide plenty of change. One of the first things he is changing is the idea that you have to have people around you that always agree with you. That is why LaHood is part of the Cabinet. I also was not aware of the incident that Prof. Turley discussed about his client’s experiences with LaHood. I do hope that Obama keeps LaHood on a short leash.

  9. Obama is dropping the ball a little every day. He should remember that change can come in 2012 too and do what MUST be done in the name of justice. Yeah, I supported getting him over McSame but he should know that if Bush Co., the Neocons and the oil companies are not punished for starting a war on fraudulent evidence for personal profit (and I mean SEVERELY punished) then I’ll be looking to show him the door too. I don’t care about party. I don’t care you’re the first black President. I care about justice, the rule of law and the Constitution. Help restore them or get out of the way.




    and quit sucking up to our domestic enemies. Yes, we DO have enemies within our own ranks, the above named offenders. Clean up OUR house. NOW. Or I’ll do my best to make you a one term has been.

  10. Buddha,

    I think this is the message Obama needs to get, real quick. I’m glad you put it in such strong terms as that’s the only way it will get through. He is accountable to the people, end of story.

  11. Your palms must be raw for all the hand-wringing.
    The man hasn’t even taken office yet. You must really enjoy projecting your own negativity in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies. You might even get to say, ‘I told you so’.

    What a waste of time.

    We,’turlees’, have been pressing this issue on the blog and elsewhere for well over a year now and it continues.

    Listen to Carl Levin on Rachel from last night speak about Cheney’s admission to approving waterboarding ie torture…


    Patty C 1, December 8, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Frankly, I’m not that willing to believe the tapes have actually been destroyed.

    I’ve learned through bitter past experience, just because THEY say
    it, doesn’t make it true!

    I have little doubt that if it suddenly became in the interest of ’someone important enough’ to have those tapes surface, they would somehow be miraculously resurrected from the abyss of abuses.

  12. This is from an interview in Mother Jones Magazine with Eugene Jarecki, author of: “The American Way of War”

    “Who Obama chooses to put in his Cabinet is less interesting to me than whether the public weighs in on it. What is happening right now is that the public voted for change, so it has a great deal of idealism invested. It is imperative that the public look at these appointments and ask itself, “So far, does this look like what I was expecting?” Instead, what is happening is that the public has gone lame duck. We cannot afford that….
    When I talk to fellow citizens, I am very aware that for other people it is harder to conceive what they can do to change the system. We are all overworked; we operate in a totally dysfunctional economy in which long hours and multiple jobs do not pay for the costs to live. We find ourselves in a kind of a dysfunctional game where it doesn’t add up. It is incredibly taxing.

    For someone like me who does political work for a living, to stand on a soapbox and say “You need to be doing more” is offensive. To say to the public, “You have to be a Jefferson! You have to be a Madison! This country is a work in progress, you are a vital part of it, and it will go to hell in a handbasket without your vigilance,” is hard…And yet it’s true.”

  13. PattyC,
    I am with you in thinking that the tapes are still around, somewhere. I saw Levin on Rachel Maddow’s show and he really made me feel good when he suggested that the Justice department has to look at these guys who authorized torture and determine if there is enough evidence to indict them. You don’t have to look very deep to find them approving the techniques that the law calls torture,but that they call enhanced interrogation techniques. Let’s see if it happens.

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