This article in the Denver Post (DP) indicates that President-elect Obama may be preparing to announce the appointment of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. According to the DP piece,
“U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is a leading contender to become President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of the Interior, two sources have confirmed.”
News of a possible Salazar appointment will likely stir continued discussion that about the “Clintonization” of the Obama cabinet. By appointing Salazar, a member of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council (also see DLC website) Obama would probably also draw strong criticism from progressive and Latino constituencies for the Colorado Senator’s controversial positions.
Salazar’s most high profile media moment since being elected Senator in 2004 came during the 2005 Senate confirmation hearings of then-Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales . Salazar, who was one of 6 of Democrats supporting the Gonzalez nomination, accompanied, sat next to and spoke on behalf of Gonzales as he (Gonzales) was bombarded by questions about the now infamous torture memos he wrote, which are widely believed to have enabled the acts of humiliation and torture perpetrated at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons. While several Republican and Democratic Senators, including Sens. Kennedy, Leahy and Judiciary Committee Chair Specter voiced repudiation and disgust about Gonzales’ role, Salazar smiled and said, “It is also an honor and privilege for me to appear before you this morning to make an introduction of Judge Alberto Gonzales” adding that he thought that “…Gonzales is better qualified than many recent attorneys general.”
And after voting in the full Senate to confirm Gonzales, Salazar, like the leaders of National Council of La Raza, LULAC and other Latino Gonzales supporters, remained silent about the many scandals at the Justice Department – controversial policies around torture, the right of habeas corpus, and the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. Only after the scandals and criticism surrounding Gonzales and the Justice Department rose to massive levels did Salazar call for Gonzales to resign in May of this year.
A Salazar appointment will likely not do much to satiate concerns about what progressives worry are the overly-centrist Obama appointments to date. Salazar has draw strong criticism among progressives for several of the positions he has take including his support of the Patriot Act and his support for the candidacy of Conn. Senator Joe Lieberman in his 2006 race against popular progressive Ned Lamont.