A New York Times Sunday Magazine article that went up on the website Wednesday makes clear what everyone suspected – that President Obama’s opposition to gay marriage was wholly political and that he made the decision to change it only after Vice President Biden accidentally smoked him out.
Obama’s gay marriage stance is one of the best items in evidence that a man who presented himself to the public as some kind of un-politician who would change the way things work was really just a new type of political animal – born of the Chicago machine, no less – who was using authenticity as salable brand to get himself into the White House.
It’s clear from the piece that Obama, who has somehow moved in no time from an opponent of same-sex marriage to someone who sees the cause as a branch of civil rights movement, never really opposed gay marriage and tried to fool the public with a charade suggesting he was “evolving” on the issue.
From the piece:
Despite the president’s stated opposition, even his top advisers didn’t believe that he truly opposed allowing gay couples to marry. “He has never been comfortable with his position,” David Axelrod, then one of his closest aides, told me.
Long before Obama publicly stated that he was against same-sex marriage, he was on the record supporting it. As an Illinois State Senate candidate from Chicago’s liberal Hyde Park enclave, Obama signed a questionnaire in 1996 saying, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” But as his ambitions grew, and with them the need to appeal to a more politically diverse electorate, his position shifted.
In the course of an unsuccessful run for a House seat in 2000, he said he was “undecided” on the question. By the time he campaigned for the presidency, he had staked out an even safer political position: Citing his Christian faith, he said he believed marriage to be the sacred union of a man and a woman.
Obama hid his support of gay marriage during the 2008, and while there was some argument made within the White House that coming out in support during his reelection campaign could help drive the youth vote, it doesn’t seem he was going to reveal himself in 2012 either.
In mid-2011, Michelle Obama counseled gay rights activist Chad Griffin to be patient.
At a fund-raiser in Los Angeles, Griffin had a private conversation with Michelle Obama, in which she indicated that her husband had given as much support as he could at the time.
Her message, he told his team, was clear: “Hang in there with us, and we’ll be with you after the election.”
Michelle wanted Obama to state his true position, though:
Inside the White House, the first lady urged her husband to declare his support for same-sex marriage. The Obamas had a number of gay friends, and though the White House kept it quiet, the first lady attended a wedding celebration for her hairdresser when he married his husband . . .
But other advisors were more cautious, and indecision reigned:
The assumption going into the 2012 campaign was that there was little to be gained politically from the president’s coming down firmly in favor of same-sex marriage. In particular, his political advisers were worried that his endorsement could splinter the coalition needed to win a second term, depressing turnout among socially conservative African-Americans, Latinos and white working-class Catholics in battleground states.
Obama’s political advisers remained worried that the costs outweighed the benefits — a fear that intensified as it became clear that North Carolina, a battleground state that Obama narrowly won in 2008, was poised to easily pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage . . .
By spring 2012, there still was no move to come out in favor of gay marriage. The Times piece makes the point that if he were going to do it, he would have wanted to do so as early as possible in order to let the dust settle. So it seemed he was on track to play it safe until Biden made perhaps his greatest gaffe yet, during an May 6 appearance with David Gregory on Meet the Press.
“And you’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?” Gregory pressed.
“I, I — look — I am vice president of the United States. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”
The White House was not pleased.
When the White House press team received a transcript of the interview, tempers flared. Jarrett, who was still hoping that Obama might make a groundbreaking pre-election announcement, accused Biden through an intermediary of disloyalty. Campaign officials were also agitated. “They felt they already were vulnerable,” one White House official told me, “and they had not fully resolved yet what they wanted to do.”
The White House quickly tried to walk back Biden’s comments. “What VP said — that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights — is precisely POTUS’s position,” Axelrod tweeted on Sunday, May 6, the day Biden’s interview aired. Biden’s office was told to put out a “clarification” echoing that sentiment: “The vice president was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue,” it said . . .
But this was obviously transparent nonsense.
Obama and his team knew that he had to take a stand, soon, or risk looking as if he were “leading from behind,” a portrayal the White House hated.
On Tuesday, the White House hastily offered Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” an exclusive interview with the president the next day. She was a woman . . . and the White House liked her conversational style. She was also African-American, which provided a chance to reach out to black voters.
And so he said it.
I know, you’re deeply disillusioned. At least it was the only time he deceived us. Well, wait a second . . .