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Obama's Outing on Gay Marriage Was Not an Act of Bravery
On Wednesday in an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts, President Obama made a stunning announcement. He said he now supports same-sex marriage.
If you listened carefully, you might have been able to hear a collective gasp spread across our nation over the unexpected declaration by a man who just four years ago campaigned for the presidency on a platform that included opposition to gay marriage.
I'm joking of course. There was nothing unexpected about the announcement, other than its timing. If you honestly believed that the most liberal U.S. president in history was ever opposed to gay marriage, I might feel compelled to assist you with a few other revelations: The Easter Bunny isn't real, pro-wrestling is choreographed, and Obamacare won't save you money.
Of course President Obama supports gay marriage. He always has. But unlike the everyday citizen who feels relatively comfortable speaking his or her mind, he went the typical politician's route. He feigned opposition to an unpopular stance so it wouldn't keep him from being elected, then waited to show his true colors until it became politically useful to do so. He's done the same thing with the individual healthcare mandate, public and private campaign financing, the Patriot Act, and numerous other issues.
An intellectually honest person would consider that practice to be little more than a classic bait and switch, but if you're President Obama, that categorization doesn't apply. Instead, the media lets you "evolve" on the issue. That's the phrase the president and his administration have been using in recent years when pressed on the topic of same-sex marriage - he's evolving on the issue. Mr. Obama should have instructed his press secretary, Jay Carney, to flash a wink and a nod each time the phrase was uttered. That way, the charade would have at least been entertaining.
Now, the president obviously isn't the only person to have ever played this game. Mitt Romney did something similar in transitioning himself from a "Massachusetts Moderate", as Newt Gingrich used to put it, to a self-proclaimed "severely conservative" presidential candidate. The difference, of course, is that Romney didn't pull the switcharoo while he was actually in office.
Regardless, it's stuff like this that makes voters cynical. It's stuff like this that keeps people with true integrity, who are principled enough to defend their beliefs, from running for office.
To me, it's the timing of President Obama's announcement that is more interesting than the announcement itself. I fully expected him to spill the beans on his actual same-sex marriage feelings. I just figured it would come after the November election (if he won) when there would be nothing standing between him and four more years of his social justice crusade.
According to The Politico, it was Vice President Joe Biden's statement of personal support for same-sex marriage over the weekend that did indeed force the hand of the administration to let the cat out of the bag early. The administration initially tried to tamp down Biden's remarks, but the distancing angered gay rights activist groups that are a key constituency for the Democratic party. Thus, Obama went ahead and pulled the trigger on his epiphany.
You can always count on good old Joe Biden to over-sell a message, so it's interesting that he was entrusted by the administration to even entertain the topic in the first place. My guess is that the idea was to merely throw out another distraction motif to steer our national conversation away from jobs and the economy again. That, and maybe a subtle reminder to Obama's liberal base that he hasn't forgotten about them on gay marriage. As usual, Joe complicated things.
Since the president's announcement, several liberal pundits have already hailed the declaration as a brave and risky move in the run up to the election, but I completely disagree. Being honest about his feelings from the beginning would have been an example of bravery. I think what he did was actually an act of desperation.
National polls are showing that Obama's liberal base is not energized, and independents are leaning heavily for Romney. These are both big problems for the president's re-election. With the economy and job environment still doing quite poorly, it's going to be tough for Obama to win back the independents. That leaves the energizing of his liberal base as the plausible alternative.
While a slim majority of Americans, including myself, have no problem with the idea of gay marriage, it's really only activists on the issue that Obama's announcement will truly have an effect on. After all, someone who's been leaning toward voting for Obama isn't going to change their mind after finding out that he supports gay marriage. Someone who's been leaning toward voting for Mitt Romney isn't going to change their mind because of the president's personal view on the topic. What the announcement does is serve as a rallying cry for a liberal base that was lacking in inspiration.
Obama's re-election campaign needs more money from big donors to compete effectively, and Obama's announcement helps get them that money. In fact, within 90 minutes of Obama's interview with Roberts, the campaign received $1 million in donations. That's a substantial amount and much more will certainly pour in because of the president's gay marriage reversal.
In addition, the move helps Obama attract back the youth vote from college campuses around the country, which was instrumental in putting Obama into office in the first place. If we learned anything from 2008, it's that the youth demographic can be compelled to the voting booth if they believe they're making landmark, societal history. Four years ago, they showed up in large numbers to put the first black U.S. president in office. This year, it could be about legalizing gay marriage nation-wide... even if that's not really a probable outcome at the federal level.
The irony is that regardless of what Obama said about his personal feelings on same-sex marriage, he also said that from a policy standpoint, he believes the decision should be settled by the individual states. I believe this is the same policy stance that Mitt Romney holds, but that lack of distinction probably won't be widely publicized by the mainstream media.
In the end, I think Obama's evolution is more of a political winner than it is a loser. Regardless of how his revelation will be spun by his supporters and in the media, it wasn't a principled decision and it wasn't brave. I may agree with his newly expressed viewpoint on the issue itself, but I don't agree at all with insulting games that were played to get to this point.
Have enough spine to say what you mean, and have enough integrity to mean what you say.