Republican Ray Gets Big Reward

Obama's favorite Illinois Republican named to Cabinet

The last time Ray LaHood was in the news at the same time impeachment proceedings were going on, it was because the downstate legislator was presiding over House Republicans trying Bill Clinton.

Now LaHood is back as Barack Obama's pick to be Transportation Secretary, yet another Cabinet choice that has left increasingly disillusioned party progressives saying: What?

Progress Illinois notes that LaHood's touted support for Amtrak, for example, is not all that.

"Just this past year, LaHood . . .  declined to endorse extending Amtrak service to Peoria, telling a downstate public radio station that 'the probability of Amtrak serving Peoria is almost nil when it already serves two communities [Normal and Galesburg] that are 45 minutes away'," PInotes. "Of course, this was before the Illinois Department of Transportation even completed a feasibility study on the proposed route."

PI also reports that "In 2004, LaHood said he was opposed to high-speed rail in Illinois because of cost and the fact that 'people in rural Illinois . . .  do not want a train traveling 120, 125, 150 miles per hour through the rural areas'.”

John Judis writes on The Plank, a blog for The New Republic, that Obama's selection of LaHood "suggests to me that he is not serious" about transportation.

"Rep. Ray LaHood has a terrible record on the environment," Mike Lillis writes at The Washington Independent. "The Illinois Republican, picked by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Dept. of Transportation, voted to expand oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to gut a green-building initiative, to slacken protections of grasslands and wetlands, and to kill a proposal hastening the nation’s move to renewables. And that was just this year."

The commenters at Daily Kos are hurling a range of complaints about LaHood's appointment, advancing the notion that Obama's Cabinet will have more Republicans than progressives in it to and admonition that "There's nothing remotely progressive about Barack Obama or the platform he ran on."

Meanwhile, somewhere former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who held Obama's seat before Obama, is screaming into the night. LaHood was one of the Republican members of the Combine who pushed Fitzgerald out of office after he fought against pork-barrel cronyism and took on corruption in his own party, something Obama has been criticized for not doing in Illinois.

More recently, LaHood considered applying to be president of his alma mater, Bradley University before withdrawing his name from contention. Now he's won a more considerable reward.

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