Disgrace – Obama’s position on marriage equality

Richard Just (Nation – “Disgrace: Obama’s increasingly absurd gay marriage position“) draws some interesting parallels between Woodrow Wilson’s weak stand on women’s suffrage and Obama’s weak position on same-sex marriage equality:

In the fall of 1912, as his campaign for president entered its final stage, Woodrow Wilson was speaking in Brooklyn when he was asked for his opinion on women’s suffrage. The issue was very much in the political ether, but Wilson had declined to take a stand on it. According to John Milton Cooper’s excellent biography of the twenty-eighth president, he responded by insisting that it was “not a question that is dealt with by the national government at all.” The woman who had asked the question was apparently displeased by this blatant dodge. “I am speaking to you as an American, Mr. Wilson,” she retorted.

I am speaking to you as an American: It was a wonderful rebuke, one that anticipated the rhetoric of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders who would not rail against America but instead demand to be fully part of it. Wilson, however, was unmoved. And his slippery treatment of women’s suffrage–like his slippery approach on matters of race–did not end once he was in the White House. Running for reelection four years later, he was still playing the same exasperating game. That year, the Democrats did not endorse a constitutional amendment providing for women’s suffrage but, instead, called on the states to extend voting rights to women. Such a half-measure looks cowardly in retrospect, of course; but it also looked cowardly at the time. In November 1916, The New Republic excoriated Wilson for his weak stand on the issue. During his reelection campaign, TNR wrote, Wilson had told a group of suffragists that “[h]e was with them,” even as “he confessed to a ‘little impatience’ as to their anxiety about method.” From this, the magazine concluded that the president had “at best a vague, benign feeling about [the issue], and no conviction whatever that woman suffrage was creating a national situation which called for thorough sincerity, nerve and will.”

An evasive stance on a controversial civil rights issue from a liberal president; an insistence that the issue is primarily local, rather than national, in character; a complete failure of sincerity, nerve, and will: If these things sound familiar in 2010, it is because Barack Obama is taking exactly the same approach on gay marriage.

He goes on to discuss how Obama’s strange position – that he’s not in favor of same-sex marriage, but that constitutions shouldn’t outlaw it – sends a message not just to America about the issue but sets a tone on a world stage that is already far ahead of us.

There are also some really interesting discussion going on in the comments – dbgoroff:

As you know, Congress legislates in the area of marriage all the time. It has passed more than 1100 laws that tie benefits, at least in part, to the status of being married. It then passed DOMA, stating that for purposes of all of these federal laws,same-sex marriages will not be treated as marriages. This means that a same-sex couple married in Iowa still cannot be a “family” for purposes of the federal Family Medical Leave Act, ensure that insurance benefits for their spouse are transportable under COBRA, or partake of social security survivor benefits if their husband or wife dies, to name a few. DOMA rests on the illogical premise that the institution of marriage somehow needs to be “defended” from legal gay relationships. Obama’s current position–that he is against the right of same-sex couples to marry because of the religious association evoked by the word “marriage”–plays into that.

Also, while nominally opposing DOMA, Obama defends its constitutionality. His position is crappy constitutional law, as Perry v. Schwarzenegger and Judge Tauro’s decisions in the Massachusetts DOMA cases show. Congress, just like states, cannot legislate away the benefits of a fundamental constitutional right from a particular group. You argue that Presidents should only very sparingly not defend laws that they deem unconstitutional. First, this simply does not comport with the oath of office. Enforcing unconstitutional laws does not defend the Constitution. Second, it is not how administrations have behaved, including Obama’s, on other subjects. Third, Obama’s Department of Justice did not just say in its DOMA briefs “We have our issues with DOMA but are defending it because that is our job.” They raised every slur in the book about gay couples and compared same-sex marriages to incestuous relationships, among other treats.

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Salon’s Election 2008 analysis of Clinton and other democrats

Salon’s interesting article “The Hillary Juggernaut” gives some strong reasons why Clinton will be the democratic candidate to beat in 2008:

But otherwise, you will face in Hillary the most formidable presidential front-runner in modern political history. (And, yes, I am counting George W. Bush in 2000.) Here are 10 reasons why the junior senator from New York will be a daunting foe:
1) Universal name recognition. (In contrast, JPW, only 3 percent of likely Democratic primary voters know that you were originally the president in the Gershwin classic “Of Thee I Sing.”)
2) Her capacity to raise $100 million without once working late into the night cold-calling strangers to beg and grovel for money.
3) The ability to dominate the free media. Hillary will never make a public appearance in this campaign without being tracked by 100 reporters. (In contrast, JPW, imagine how much coverage you will get for your first press conference bragging about your gubernatorial record and the “Tennetucky Miracle.”)
4) Her emotional support from a significant percentage of women voters out to make history.
5) Nostalgia for the Clinton era of peace and prosperity in the 1990s.
6) Continuing Democratic resentment over impeachment.
7) Hillary’s over-cautious political style that avoids risk and, quite likely, deliberate mistakes.
8) The most potent candidate surrogate in political history in the form of Bill Clinton.
9) The ability of the Clinton name and legacy to attract 75 percent of the African-American vote and a large slice of the Hispanic vote.
10) At least a half-dozen candidates (including JPW) who will divide the anti-Hillary Democrats, so that she could win major primaries with just her hardcore base of, say, 35 percent of the vote.

And they round up who they think the other democratic candidates will be:

The Non-Hillary Field: Start with Mark Warner and 2004 V.P. candidate John Edwards, who are unabashedly running. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh has privately put his own odds at 90 percent, and the latest word from Iowa is that Gov. Tom Vilsack is similarly poised to run. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold — who wins headlines every other week with an anti-Bush gambit like a censure resolution — has to be counted among the likeliest contenders. And finally, Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware motor-mouth who performed so garrulously during the Alito confirmation hearings, keeps insisting that he’s definitely running.
Depending on whom you talk to, John Kerry is either running or merely keeping his options open for a mid-2007 decision by maintaining his visibility and e-mail list. (An e-mail appeal from Kerry raised over $100,000 for Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran running for the House in Illinois.) Al Gore represents another puzzle; his wife, Tipper, is said to be definitely opposed, while his politically active daughter Karenna seems severely tempted. Bill Richardson is seriously mulling his chances, while former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is also playing the maybe game. And don’t forget former Gen. Wesley Clark, who has never lacked ambition or self-confidence.

The have some other great analysis of how to examine the candidates and compare them — and who stands for what, which is very interesting preliminary research for democrats who are studying up on the whole thing. They analyze them from the “electability” versus “left-wing purist” standpoints and throw in a few other ideas as well. This article is a great read.
Personally, I don’t think Clinton has been enough of a friend to GLBT issues to win my heart and soul, and her tendency to play to the middle on bullshit issues is disturbing as well. I honestly don’t know where I am on the “electability” versus “left-wing purist” issue; I go back and forth, which is why I haven’t decided yet. And when it comes to the hometown boy, I’m more of a fan of Vilsack than Bayh, who is only a Democrat because in Indiana the political spectrum is skewed so far to the right — in any other state he’s a middle of the road Republican.
I have to do a lot more research before I can pick my horse for this race. But in the end, it will probably just come down to “Whoever’s running against the retard in the White House.” Same as the last election.
If you’re planning to comment, please read the article beforehand, ’cause it’s tiresome to hash out all the issues that have already been examined in the piece.

Continue ReadingSalon’s Election 2008 analysis of Clinton and other democrats

Democrats no longer allowed to ask questions

Via the Washington Post, here’s something you should be seeing more prominently discussed in the news:

The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.

The decision — one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual — was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the “Mission Accomplished” banner for President Bush’s May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled “congressional questions” to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing “the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process,” he wrote: “Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee.”


It’s saying we’re not going to allow the opposition party to ask questions about the way we use tax money,” said R. Scott Lilly, Democratic staff director for the House committee. “As far as I know, this is without modern precedent.

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