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.
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.