May 10th, 2012
The debate over same sex “marriage” has engaged the heartfelt feelings and convictions of millions of Americans. Then there is Barack Obama.
In his ABC interview, the president pretended that his much touted “evolution” had now led him, ineluctably, to speak out now, today; he simply could longer stay silent. ABC let him off the hook, but this is not a credible account. In March, the Washington Post was reporting the debate among his advisers on whether the issue would help or hurt the reelection campaign and what, therefore, Obama should say: “Obama’s top political advisers have held serious discussions with leading Democrats about the upsides and downsides of coming out for gay marriage before the fall election.”
The same advisers told the Post that Obama would make the decision based on his gut, but that is an insulting way to refer to the vice president. There is no evidence that Obama planned to speak until Joe Biden said last weekend that he was for gay “marriage” and forced the issue.
In fact, Obama has not “evolved”—he has changed his position whenever his political fortunes required him to do so. Running for the Illinois state senate from a trendy area of Chicago in 1996, he was for gay marriage. “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,” he wrote in answer to a questionnaire back then. In 2004, he was running for the U.S. Senate and needed to appeal to voters statewide. So he evolved, and favored civil unions but opposed homosexual “marriage.” In 2008, running for president, he said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.” Now in 2012, facing a tough reelection campaign where he needs energized supporters of gay “marriage” and has disappointed them with his refusal to give them his support, he is for it. To paraphrase John Kerry, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again.
Mr. Obama’s statement today is a marvel:
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don't ask, don't tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
The president, when he says, “at a certain point I’ve just concluded,” appears to refer to the point where Joe Biden smoked him out, unintentionally no doubt (as are most of Biden’s actions). And it is important “for me personally” to speak, the president says; this isn’t politics, you see, but some kind of testimony, a baring of the soul.
But Mr. Obama actually did bare his soul unintentionally today (perhaps the Biden disease is catching) with his astonishing characterization of American fighting men and women, whom he referred to as “those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf.” Really?
Most Americans thought they were fighting for the country, not on Barack Obama’s behalf. Slip of the tongue, to be sure, but can one think of another president who’d have made it? They are fighting under his command, under his orders, to be sure, but this particular locution is offensive and solipsistic. Mr. Obama has switched his position on the sanctity of marriage back and forth and has a new one, again, today, revealed when politics made that advisable to him and to his campaign. Whether this is the end or he will “evolve” some more is anyone’s guess.
But let’s leave our soldiers out of this. They aren’t fighting for Mr. Obama and his campaign, and no one sent them out to risk their lives to win same sex “marriage.”
Recent WS Blog Posts
May 10th, 2012
Judge Michael Urbanski suggested a possible compromise to the issue that has been raging in the Giles County school system.
Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.
Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?
That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.
After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation - with a suggestion:
Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.
Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
"If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn't it make sense for Giles County to say, 'Let's go back and just post the bottom six?'" Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
"But if it's really about God, then they wouldn't be willing to do that."
After delaying a ruling on the lawsuit, Urbanski directed attorneys on both sides to meet with Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou, who will lead mediation sessions in the coming weeks.
If those discussions do not produce a settlement, Urbanski must decide whether the school board had religious intentions when it voted 3-2 last June to put the commandments back up after angry public reaction to their earlier removal.
That decision will be guided by a myriad of precedent-setting cases that have prohibited the Ten Commandments in schools and other public buildings, such as courthouses, while permitting them under certain, narrow circumstances.
There is no federal case allowing the commandments in a school, said Rebecca Glenberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the student. While Urbanski agreed, he called the details of the Giles County dispute "very nuanced."
Because the commandments appear with other historical documents, and because they are mentioned in the curriculum of Giles County schools, there's reason to find the board had a secular mission when it approved the display, argued Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, a Christian-based law group that is defending the county.
While allowing for that possibility with the board's 3-2 vote last June to put up a multidocument display, Urbanski said it clearly was not the case earlier in the year, when the Ten Commandments issue erupted into controversy.
After the commandments were removed in response to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school board reversed course in January 2011 after more than 200 angry residents packed a meeting to complain.
At the time, no one was clamoring for more historical documents in the schools. They were furious about the removal of the Ten Commandments, the ACLU argues, and the school board appeased the masses and violated the First Amendment with the same vote.
Urbanski noted how one board member thanked the crowd for turning out to support the commandments.
"That's not an endorsement of religion?" he said. "Come on.
"It's clear to me that when the school board voted, there was only one thing on their mind. And that was God."
But does that improper endorsement of religion taint the school board's later decision, made on the advice of Liberty Counsel, to take the commandments back down and replace them with the current historical display?
That will be a question for the judge if the mediation fails.
A key issue in the case will be whether there is a secular basis for the school board's vote -- "as opposed to responding to a religious fervor," Urbanski said.
At Monday's hearing, Urbanski was asked by both sides to grant their motions for summary judgment, which assume that the facts are not in dispute and the matter is ripe for a legal analysis. The ACLU wants Urbanski to order the commandments be taken down; Liberty Counsel wants him to dismiss the lawsuit.
Not long into oral arguments, Urbanski posed his suggestion about removing the first four commandments.
Staver, who has studied countless Ten Commandments cases and argued one before the U.S. Supreme Court, said after the hearing he was not aware of such an outcome in any such case.
In court, Staver first said there was no legal reason to edit the commandments. When pressed by the judge to say whether the county might consider it, he said the question had never come up before.
"Well, it's going to come up today," Urbanski said.
What remains unclear is whether the county would be willing to make such a move - likely to produce more political turmoil - during future discussions to come from mediation.
In suggesting the compromise, Urbanski cited the potential of Giles County facing huge legal bills. Although Liberty Counsel is representing the board for free, it would have to pay the ACLU's legal costs should the student prevail. Two rural counties in Kentucky were stuck with a $450,000 tab in a similar case.
The judge said that "in today's economic climate, with school boards as taxed as they are ... financial issues are real issues."
The board may not have many options, said Wat Hopkins, a Virginia Tech communication professor who studies First Amendment law.
"It was not a good day for Giles County," said Hopkins, who sat in on Monday's court session. "He kind of left them with one door to go through."
Today's top local news from The Roanoke Times
May 9th, 2012
Takei and Partner
of Allegiance/ Barry Secrest of Conservative Refocus
mar·riagenoun \ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij\
Definition of MARRIAGE1a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage> b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage23: an intimate or close union <the marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross>
George Takei: Today marks the first time in history a President of the United States has stated his support for marriage equality. I am thrilled by this news, and I commend the President for taking what many pundits inevitably will say was an “unnecessary” risk in an election year. Such an assessment, however, sadly only underscores the second-class status many LGBT Americans experience daily, knowing that their rights and lives are nothing more than a political tool to be hauled out to rally the base, for or against.
Secrest: Well, Sulu, quite frankly, I am thrilled too, as a Conservative North Carolinian, and I'll tell you why. Obama is in fact telegraphing the fact that he is desperate; you see, most blacks in America are not in favor of gay marriage. This is a gambit for Praitor Obama; however, he feels that the odds are in his favor and that blacks will flock to the polls for him, regardless of what he does , at the same rate of about 95% as in 2008.
You see, Obama has little to nothing to run on as it regards performance, so he simply must find something to liven up his Liberal base. What better thing than to find a way to further divide America across hetero/non-hetero lines than to create yet another fissure that is socio-political in nature? But what he actually has done is simply to parade his socially-radical leanings for all of America to see.
The only problem is, his black base is also suffering from the highest unemployment numbers, by race, than under any other President of the past. Kind of ironic, huh? When I see you playing your role on TV, as it regards your "second class " comment, I don't see a gay guy, by the way, but rather, I see the best starship pilot (in fantasy land) ever conceived. You just have a different way of firing your photon torpedos, I suppose.
Takei: It is time to stop the politics and address the basic question of fairness, for that is what this is about. We cannot say we are a nation that stands for equality, while in the same breath denying basic rights of happiness, financial parity, and state-recognized companionship to millions. Nor can we any longer trot out the tired notion that civil unions and marriages are the same. For if they were, we would not call them by different names. Separate can never be equal–a lesson we learned during the Civil Rights era that we have yet to apply to the struggle for LGBT rights today.
Secrest: Stop the politics with Obama? Now, that's just funny. You might as well try to stop the climate from changing or staying the same. Equality? You are no less equal than anyone else; what you want is a special cut-out for your type of relationship. The fundamentalist Mormons, who are being locked-up on a fairly regular basis, want that special dispensation as well, and who can blame them, when looked at from a raw male, self-ingratiating, view?
Look, you can do what you want, dude, but don't ask the entire nation to celebrate your lifestyle, embrace it, coddle it and even sanction it, so that you can feel better about being "different." Marriage is a divine union sanctioned by God for societal stability, the furtherance of the species and the poignant union of two human beings "built for each other." Last time I checked human anatomy, your dog just ain't going to hunt in that fashion. Look, isn't it enough that we see persecution against your chosen lifestyle as being not very cool and even prosecute those who would persecute you as a special type of crime? Instead of insisting on emulating heteros, why not conceive your own type if inimitable union? Can't you people be original, or is that just "illogical?"
Takei: The President has done the right thing, and history will remember him for it. But for today, I am all smiles. On behalf of the LGBT community, and all those who support our cause, thank you, President Obama.
Secrest: A majority in about 31 other states say the President has not done the right thing. The people seem to think that the natural order intended was built for a specific type of relationship. You disagree, and that's unfortunate. But when most of us look at the numbers, we largely see the tale wagging the dog on this subject. I am glad you are all smiles about Obama's move, because, once again, I am too.
But the one thing I should note in all of this, is that your right to persue happiness should not be abated, whether I agree with it or not, because what I think is largely immaterial. Yet, you can still be married in a number of churches, you just want us to recognize such a marriage as being essentially the same as traditional marriage when it isn't. Why is that?
Takei: Today, I can proudly feel wholly American.–George Takei
Secrest: We have never thought of you as anything otherwise. But, even if We sanctioned it and called it fully the same as traditional marriage, at some point, would you actually feel any better about it, or would you insist on even further carve-outs because of some other imagined disadvantage?
Where does this all end, George?
May 9th, 2012
Chron.com / By Rick Dunham
Previously published on CR...bears repeating...CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!!! WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama suffered quite a political slight in Tuesday's West Virginia presidential primary when a Texas prison inmate defeated him in eight of the state's 55 counties. Keith Judd, federal prison inmate No. 11593-051, took 41 percent of the statewide vote. Obama, American president No. 44, received 59 percent. Judd, 53, also known as "Dark Priest," is serving time in a Texas federal prison for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. Judd calls himself a Rastafarian-Christian and claims Texarkana, Texas - his prison address - as his home city. Disaffected West Virginian Democrats are not in favor of the administration's policies on issues ranging from health care to environmental policy. Ronnie Brown, from Cross Lanes, W.Va., told the Associated Press that he voted for "that guy out of Texas."
Previously published on CR...bears repeating...CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!!!
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama suffered quite a political slight in Tuesday's West Virginia presidential primary when a Texas prison inmate defeated him in eight of the state's 55 counties.
Keith Judd, federal prison inmate No. 11593-051, took 41 percent of the statewide vote. Obama, American president No. 44, received 59 percent.
Judd, 53, also known as "Dark Priest," is serving time in a Texas federal prison for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. Judd calls himself a Rastafarian-Christian and claims Texarkana, Texas - his prison address - as his home city.
Disaffected West Virginian Democrats are not in favor of the administration's policies on issues ranging from health care to environmental policy. Ronnie Brown, from Cross Lanes, W.Va., told the Associated Press that he voted for "that guy out of Texas."
"I voted against Obama," Brown said. "I don't like him. He didn't carry the state before, and I'm not going to let him carry it again."
Washington Republicans could hardly suppress their giggles.
"The president's policies met blue-collar reality in West Virginia last night," exclaimed Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. "When you're losing to a guy who's sitting in prison in Texas - in Texas. Not that there's anything wrong with Texas."
May 9th, 2012
CBS News / By John Dickerson
CR Note: "an act of conviction and political expediency--what measure of each we may never know"--puhlease...Obama's coming out TODAY is a political move...nothing more, nothing less...
(CBS News) Joe Biden has such power over evolution he might make an amoeba get up and walk. Three days ago the vice president announced on Meet the Press that he supported same-sex couples getting married. Wednesday, President Obama announced that after a many-year evolution on the issue, he believed the same thing. The first African-American president became the first ever to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
This is a landmark civil rights moment that happened awfully fast. It was both an act of conviction and political expediency--what measure of each we may never know. What we do know is that this was the president's private position. What's less well known is the thinking behind the timing of the announcement. White House and campaign officials have been talking about it for months. According to several sources involved in the campaign, the president was going to make his announcement soon, before the convention (and maybe even very soon) if for no other reason than to avoid a fight over the party platform and to rally gay supporters. Biden stepped on his plan, making it look like the president was backing into a decision and controlled by events.
This looks like another instance of the vice president stumbling his way into the history books. But Barack Obama's untenable position is every bit as culpable for the firestorm and rushed decision. The president was for gay marriage in private but wouldn't say so in public. He told the Justice Department to inform the courts that it believed the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down. He said he was "evolving" which made it clear that it was a matter of time before he came to the enlightened position of supporting same-sex marriage (or simply announced a long-held private view that had been constrained by politics). It has been a long evolution for the president. In his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, he wrote that he was "open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided."
The administration policy on marriage equality was a jerky spasm of winks and nods. It was the domestic equivalent of the "One China Policy," the strategic ambiguity that allows the United States to support Taiwan but not support its bid for independence, which angers China. It's policy by omission, not commission. It's not a policy that makes sense entirely, but it's a nonpolicy that everyone has agreed to simply treat like it makes sense. (The agreement that Starbucks makes good coffee is the consumer product equivalent.)
The White House at first tried to pretend there was nothing new about Biden's remarks. Campaign and administration aides said that he was being totally consistent with the president's view. This wasn't exactly true, but under the agreement to keep everything in limbo it might have held. This was a good storyline to get out if the president really was planning a coming announcement. Only if Biden didn't appear to be getting out ahead of the president could the president take the leading position.
The problem, say Democrats, is that the Biden comments poked an existing bruise among the president's supporters in the gay community. The rush to bowdlerize what Biden had said turned a glancing tap of the bruise into a grinding fist.
A source who raises money for Democrats says that Obama has mostly maxed out with donations from the gay political community, but that his Super PAC and other nonaffiliated support groups still need massive high-dollar donations. A lot of potential donors are influential members of the gay community who follow the same-sex marriage issue closely and who were likely to be most offended by the president holding on to his same, "evolving" stance. How could an Obama bundler--one of those financial backers who raises huge sums from their circle of friends--who had been convincing those same friends that the president was with them, continue to make calls with this fresh slap in the face. Says the Democratic fundraiser: "Once this became a litmus test if you're a gay bundler, after 100 hours saying 'the president is going to do the right thing' now you're calling saying 'sorry this happened, but I can't raise another dollar unless you do the right thing.' "
As a matter of narrative continuity, it was probably also a wise political move for the president to take a stand. The Obama campaign has consistently claimed that his opponent lacks a moral core; he shades and capers and doesn't tell you what he believes in his heart. This was all true of the president's position on gay marriage. It's good for him to be free of that wrinkle, though narrative continuity (running a campaign that makes sense) probably has a limited affect on voters and their final choices.
What was less clear was whether the president was exercising logical continuity. Based on the limited transcripts of the interview, the president said he supported same-sex marriage but didn't think it was a right. He said the states could continue to handle the issue as they saw fit. Forty-four states right now do not allow it. Under this same line of thinking, in 1967 he would have supported the right for interracial couples to marry but would have thought Virginia had a right not to allow it.
Shortly after Obama's comments, Mitt Romney reasserted his opposition to same-sex marriage and took the opportunity to point out that he had never wavered in that stance. Republican organizer Ralph Reed said the president's "flip-flop" on gay marriage would doom him. It's certain the president just helped Mitt Romney consolidate his base. How it will play in the wider electorate is less clear. The latest Pew Research Center survey found that Americans back same-sex marriage 47 to 43. The decision will turn off working class voters but perhaps energize younger voters and college educated suburban voters.
The political machinations of the moment were fascinating--what will this mean to Hispanics in North Carolina?--but this election is not going to turn on same-sex marriage. Romney wants to keep focused on the economy. The president wants to divert from certain conversations about the economy but not to this issue.
A lot of people have been comparing this election to the 2004 race. Today, they get another data point. During that election, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. According to White House sources at the time, it was an effort to stir the conservative GOP base in what the president and his team knew would be a close election. Obama's support for gay marriage may not have been aimed at getting the base excited as much as keeping some of its influential members from being angry. That anger would have been far more muted had it not been for Joe Biden. The president could blame his No. 2, but since Biden led to the culmination of Obama's evolutionary journey and put him on the right side of history, perhaps the president should thank him.