Here's David Axelrod on MSNBC explaining Obama's position on same-sex marriage after the Prop 8 trial decision. I comprehend that position, but that doesn't mean it makes sense (transcript's after the jump):
This is exactly why people hate Democrats.
Leaving aside my thoughts on the institution of marriage, the politics of the White House's position is stupid. But let's start with the logic first.
Obama supports "equal rights" for same-sex couples, meaning the same rights as married, heterosexual couples but it shouldn't be called marriage.
Prop 8 did what he says he wanted it to do, by taking away the word "marriage" from domestic partnerships in California but keeping all the same state-level rights in there.
Obama opposed Prop 8.
Yes, I think people can be forgiven for not understanding a politician who opposes a law that does exactly what he says he wants done.
Obama believes that it's up to the states to decide same-sex marriage, which is the status quo.
When a federal judge intervenes and tells a state it must honor same-sex marriages, he refuses to say anything negative about the decision, releasing this non-statement:
"The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans."
Exactly what he says he opposes happens, and he... is ok with it? Or not?
On the political side, this makes even less sense. First, he has a position he can't even explain, much less persuade people to adopt.
Second, the right already assumes he supports same-sex marriage, so he's getting the political downside of supporting it.
Third, there are plenty of queers (and straights) who place more importance on the word marriage than they do on the benefits that come with it. These tend to be the people who care the most about the president's position on marriage, so the people who care the most about this position in the Democratic tent are going to be the most pissed off by it. So he gets the political downside of opposing same-sex marriage.
People in the middle on this issue aren't going to be persuaded, and those on either side dislike his position. Instead of thinking that they're a bunch of clever, wonky insiders whose genius no one understands, maybe the White House could recognize the fact that they've completely messed up the politics and take on a new, clearer position.
This one seems like a freebie to me, since the president and Congress don't determine who marries; it's a state issue that is making its way through the federal court system. So Obama could take any position and it wouldn't affect policy. Considering how the right will never give him credit for opposing the homosexual agenda no matter how hard he tries (remember Kerry in 2004?), he might as well try to satisfy his base and close the enthusiasm gap.
As Robert Reich points out, it's what Obama's done on most issues: caved to the right, pissed off the left, and not gotten any credit from the right because they're not living in the same reality the rest of us are. It does give me some solace to see him do this on marriage; at least it isn't just the money lobbyists are dumping into the federal government that makes it impossible for him to take a real stand since marriage opponents don't have as much money as, say, the oil or pharmaceutical industries. It's (also) a personality or ideological issue: Obama wants to please everyone and ends up pleasing no one.
For the record, what I would have loved to have seen him do on this issue, even though it's out of the realm of possibility for our centrist president, is announce that he's going to work with Congress to look for ways to open all the federal benefits of marriage to everyone by creating actual universal health care and legislation that supports people defining their own families and to make the federal government a model employer by no longer using marriage to distribute employment benefits, thus bypassing the need for the government to bless certain relationships and insult others. Sure, conservatives and liberals would probably get mad over that, but at least we'd move the country forward on this issue.
Transcript for video:
>> yeah, we'll get into that. while the spth here in chicago, the senior political adviser holding down the fort in washington. he joins us live from the white house briefing room this morning. thanks for being with us.
>> good to be with you guys.
>> so let's start with the news, the federal judge striking down the ban on same-sex marriage that california voters passed in 2008. i think the american public could be forgiven if they're a little confused about where the president stands on all of this. he said he opposes same-sex marriage. he's said in the campaign he didn't mind what california voters trying to do, banning prop 8. yesterday, though, the white house says, well, the president has spoken out against prop 8 in the past and said he'd work to repeal the federal defense of marriage act but the justice department since he's been president has litigated on behalf of that law. so let's just forget all of that in the past and ask you, where does the president stand today? does he still opposed same-sex marriage?
>> well, savannah, let me just correct something in your rather lengthy litany of events there. the president opposed proposition 8 at the time. he felt that it was divisive and mean spirited and aposed it at the time so we reiterated that position yesterday. the president does oppose same-sex marriage and supports equality for gay and lesbian couples and benefits and other issues and that's been effectuated in federal agencies under his control. he's supports civil unions. and, that's been his position throughout. so nothing has changed.
>> but david, can i just say i'm looking at an interview right here for abc back in june of 2008 where tapper asks him, does it bother you what california's doing and the president responds, no.
>> well, savannah, i'm at a loss here because i'm just zitting on a set but be happy to ship you the statement that the president made on specifically proposition 8 and opposition to it at the time. you're working off of incomplete information there.
>> david, clear this up. does the president support states trying to go their own way on same-sex marriage? do you think it's appropriate for a state to ban it and appropriate for other states to decide it's okay?
>> well, look. he does believe that marriage is an issue for the states. and he did oppose proposition 8.