With the inauguration of Barack Obama just a couple of days away, I invited David Mark (senior editor of Politico) onto my WLS/Chicago show to talk about what we should expect in the first few days of the new administration.

We discussed the policy priorities Obama will undertake once in office, why his transition team wasn’t more thorough in its vetting of Bill Richardson and Timothy Geithner, whether the Democrats in Congress will have hearings on actions taken during the Bush years, and how DC will handle the massive gridlock of inauguration day on Tuesday.

Like me, Mark was surprised to hear Obama’s team talk about doing away with the restriction on gays in the military. It’s not that I agree with the policy — it should never have become law in the first place — but the Clinton team made the issue one of their first priorities, and then stumbled badly when they ran into strong resistance. Granted, attitudes are different now than 16 years ago, but there are more important things that Americans want their new President to do, like work on fixing the economy, and then work even more on fixing the economy.

I also think it’s folly for Obama to say that “peace in the middle east” is one of his early priorities. That’s a pronouncement every President has made for decades, but they might as well have said they were going to bang their head against the wall and gotten the same result — a long-lasting headache. There is simply no chance of peace in the middle east anytime soon, no reasonable way to change the attitudes brought on by centuries of ethnic, religious, and sectarian hatred. We’re talking about a part of the world where people still strap bombs to their bodies, walk into crowded restaurants, and blow themselves up, killing dozens of innocent bystanders in the process. Any US president who thinks he’s going to heal the rifts that have defined the middle east for generations is fooling himself.

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