Obama and teh Gays

One of the emerging memes over the holiday weekend has been the dissatisfaction from gays that President Obama has paid lip service to their issues but not exactly gone out of his way to take a strong public posture on what they consider to be the most compelling human rights issue of our time.  There was a big dinner, which Obama spoke at, and a decent sized march, which Obama did not attend.

Andrew Sullivan, author of one of the seminal mash notes to Obama during the primaries, was hugely disappointed in the president’s speech, which he terms “highfalutin bullshit.”

He says he will end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but he has done nothing, and he offered no time-line, no deadline for action and no verifiable record that he has done anything, despite his claims that he has.

He says he is ending the HIV ban, but it is still in force, a year and a half after it was signed by George W. Bush and passed by massive majorities in both houses.

He says he favors equality for gay couples but said nothing tonight to support the initiatives in Maine or in Washngton State or the struggle in Washington DC for marriage equality. That’s a test of real sincerity on this matter. He failed it.

He says he wants to end discrimination in employment even as he is firing more gay people solely for being gay than any other employer in the country – as commander-in-chief. And if an employer is firing gay people all the time, is it tolerable to accept as a response that he will stop doing it one day – but gives no time-line at all to hold him to?

Sully gets that there are other priorities at the moment — and still enthusiastically supports Obama on a whole range of issues — but feels that the gay agenda is being ignored.  And he mostly blames gays themselves, notably the leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, which hosted the speech in question and is, in Andrew’s estimation, “a racket” to garner power and attention for the leadership while constantly asking its membership to bide their time.

John Aravosis has similar complaints but is in a less forgiving mood.  He, too, is angry at HRC:

I like HRC, I know a lot of people who work there, I’ve defended them when others in the community have been highly critical of them. But it is criminal that any gay rights organization would invite an embattled president to their dinner, giving him political cover for repeated broken promises and slaps in the face to our community (like the DOMA incest brief), and then get absolutely nothing in return. HRC’s actions only feed the suspicions of critics who say that the organization is more interested in fundraisers than in advancing our rights.

Steve Clemons complains the White House website, which is usually pretty fast, took its sweet time in getting the speech online and is totally ignoring the matter on the main page, which is instead given over to more pressing matters, such as the birthday of First Dog Bo.

And, apparently, some unidentified White House staffer dismissed all this with some rather unkind words: “Barack Obama is doing well with 90% or more of Democrats so the White House views this opposition as really part of the Internet left fringe.”  NBC’s John Harwood adds,  “For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn’t take this opposition, one adviser told me those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed, and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.”

Aravosis, who runs a gay blog in addition to his regular blog (which sometimes focuses on non-gay issues) and Jane Hamsher (whose blog is not gay) are not amused. For its part, the White House denies that the quotes represent their views, noting that some of their best friends “we’ve held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth.”

I’m surprised that anyone is surprised by any of this.  Obama’s whole career is built on a mastery of talking in such a way that people on opposite sides of issues come away thinking he said exactly what they wanted to hear.   During the primaries, he made it quite clear that he was opposed to gay marriage and otherwise downplayed gay issues, speaking only in benign platitudes about tolerance.  There’s simply no way in hell that he’s going to spend substantial political capital on an issue that will energize the opposition, further erode his support among independents, and gain him very little with the Left.  Indeed, he’d actually alienate a substantial part of the black base, which is quite religious and anti-gay.   And, frankly, he’ll never do enough on this issue to satisfy the “Internet left fringe.”

Meanwhile, California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “has signed two gay rights bills, one honoring late activist Harvey Milk and another recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.” Go figure.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Furhead says:

    I think the meme is “teh gheys” not “teh Gays”.

  2. davod says:

    “and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.”

    I thought it was a landslide?

  3. Clovis says:

    and Jane Hamsher (whose blog is not gay)

    Um …
    Not the most felicitous construction I’ve ever seen here.

    Unless it is.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    …on what they consider to be the most compelling human rights issue of our time.

    Perhaps you would feel the same way if you could be fired from your job for no other reason than who you are or you couldn’t marry the person you loved because you weren’t of the “right” sexuality or you were drummed out of the military simply for not keeping who you are a secret…

  5. James Joyner says:

    Perhaps you would feel the same way if you could be fired from your job for no other reason than who you are or you couldn’t marry the person you loved because you weren’t of the “right” sexuality or you were drummed out of the military simply for not keeping who you are a secret…

    It wasn’t a snide dismissal but a brief encapsulation of the debate.

    Not the most felicitous construction I’ve ever seen here.

    It was just a cutesy take on Aravosis having a “gay blog” rather than any sort of commentary on Jane’s sexuality. Indeed, given the odds, my strong presumption is that she’s straight.

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    He says he will end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but he has done nothing, and he offered no time-line, no deadline for action and no verifiable record that he has done anything, despite his claims that he has.

    Why should being gay have anything to do with serving at all? It’s 2009,plus We need every good solider we can find, war on terror and all that.

    He should just make it not matter anymore, but conduct should remain conduct.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    And, apparently, some unidentified White House staffer dismissed all this with some rather unkind words…

    Looks like that staffer wasn’t referring to “all this” in particular…

    In an email to the Huffington Post on Monday, Harwood clarified that the quote was not meant to convey any displeasure on the part of the administration for the gay community’s public advocacy.

    “My comments quoting an Obama adviser about liberal bloggers/pajamas weren’t about the LGBT community or the marchers,” he wrote. “They referred more broadly to those grumbling on the left about an array of issues in addition to gay rights, including the war in Afghanistan and health care and Guantanamo — and whether all that added up to trouble with Obama’s liberal base…”

  8. anjin-san says:

    Why should being gay have anything to do with serving at all?

    That is an excellent question. Ask Rush, Beck, & the other chickenhawks who run the GOP.

  9. Triumph says:

    Meanwhile, California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “has signed two gay rights bills, one honoring late activist Harvey Milk and another recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.” Go figure.

    With Schwarznegger’s acts and–especially–Tom Delay’s appearance on “Dancing With the Stars,” it is pretty clear that the Republican party is trying to court the gays, big time.

  10. Mike says:

    Anjin – being gay has nothing to do with serving which is why I don’t understand why the dem’s past idol helped get DADT passed.

  11. anjin-san says:

    being gay has nothing to do with serving

    Really? Gay people who are ready to give their lives to defend America are forced to live a lie for the privilege. How vile is that?

  12. glasnost says:

    why I don’t understand why the dem’s past idol helped get DADT passed.

    Because it was an improvement on “Ask, tell, and get dishonorably discharged, and maybe prosecuted”.

  13. Mike says:

    glastnost – you clearly know nothing about the UCMJ nor discharge options 1. you can only get a dishonorable discharge at a courtmartial 2. dishonorable discharge are handed out only for the most serious offenses: rape, murder, treason (with exceptions depending on the case)

  14. Mike says:

    to clarify – when i said “handed out” – it must be by a judge or panel (jury) – a DD cannot be issued by a bureacrat, commander, etc..

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    Really? Gay people who are ready to give their lives to defend America are forced to live a lie for the privilege. How vile is that?

    lol, forced to live a lie? it’s your job, no your duty to be a solider till your job is done, who cares if you like to have sex with people with the same plumbing our both, save that crap for leave!

    My name is private G.A. And I like perverted sex. Why should this be an issue that has anything to do with serving your country?

    You are there to kill shit and break stuff or to support the people who do!

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