I think Martin misses the source of some of our disappointment in his post on LaHood. Here’s Martin:
I’ll take the opportunity to state that I’m not expecting a huge push from the administration to end the nation’s emphasis on roads, make the car obsolete, or any of the other more radical goals of public transportation advocates. The postwar consensus in favor of the auto is a bipartisan one, and there are only so many transformations of American society that one administration can successfully execute. It’s clear that the emphasis will be on the economy, the wars, health care, and climate change. I’d expect Obama, Biden, and LaHood to help out at the margins with appointments and such, but those who are really disappointed in the LaHood pick should probably modulate their expectations.
Part of the disappointment with LaHood is the realization that we are not getting a real transportation progressive. LaHood has a bad record on environmental issues, and he has voted for off-shore drilling and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He got a 66% from highway builders, and has supported Amtrak a couple of times and bicycles a couple of times. Fine so he’s a moderate.
But another huge part of the disappointment was the realization that Obama is not taking the transportation department any more seriously than previous presidents who used the department’s cabinet position for political purposes. At least Norman Mineta, George Bush’s token democrat in his cabinet, had transporation experience as chair of various house transportation committees and subcommitees. The problem with LaHood is that not only does he seem like a purely political appointment, he has shown little interest in transportation in his time in the House. Obama has said he wants to appoint the best people for the job. Is Ray LaHood the best person for this job, even among people who share his view?