Pastor Rick Warren has been invited to speak at Barack Obama’s inauguration and that has sparked some controversy around the blogosphere and the mediasphere. This is because Rick Warren does not hold what could be described as “open-minded views on homosexuality in general and gays and lesbians in particular.

Obama has explained his decision by using his now familiar phrase “we can disagree without being disagreable”  and also mentioning that other religious people with views different from Warren’s have also been invited to speak and this tableau of differing points of views is therefore representative of the diversity that exists in America.

Be that as it may. That was the expected explanation and anyone who has followed Obama’s campaign for the past 2 years could have written those words for him.

I think the real explanation lies elsewhere. Obama is a shrewd politician as his campaigns both during the primaries and the general election illustrate. He knows how to look at the state of affairs and rejig an electoral map to his advantage. He won against Hillary by determining that the caucus states would give him an advantage he could not get in straight primaries in bigger states. So his team went into caucus states early and built local teams that for the most part gave him the delegates he needed. In the general election, he took a page out of the Howard Dean book and decided to forego the Red State/Blue State map that had been set for the past two elections.That strategy gave him wins in traditionally Republican strongholds like Nevada, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.

The selection of Rick Warren as a speaker during the 2009 inauguration is the first move of the 2012 re-election campaign of Barack Obama.

 Rick Warren is representative of a section of the Evangelical voters that Obama has courted for most of this campaign. This extended olive branch along with programs like the continuation of Bush’s Faith-based initiative that he annonced earlier in the campaign will show Obama as a Christian who cares about his faith but who is willing to accept other Christians with differing views in the fold. He can then reinforce that message during his presidency through programs, specific speeches, appearances in strategic churches in strategic states,etc,…

In terms of the issue at the center of the controversy, I think it’s too early to tell how the Obama admnistration will handle gay and lesbian issues and I certainly don’t think we can gleam anything from the selection of Rick Warren as an inauguration speaker.