by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
When Colin Powell's position shifted, it was heralded as a sign of the times; proof momentum was here and it was time to finish the fight. President Obama's position is not only against gay marriage (sorry, no Federal benefits for gay couples unless you work for Hillary...how's that for some irony?) yet the lip service he pays to extending and addressing gay rights are then followed up with the coldest of shoulders.
I think it's fair to hold former President Clinton accountable for sleights both perceived and real. I don't think it's fair to take him to task for being able to evolve his opinion more now that he's not in the middle of a political bloodbath where he has to carefully consider his every word and action lest he lose even more votes to Newt's revolution. Isn't it a little ironic that we're holding the former President to a different standard than the sitting one?
I've read so many pieces by Obama apologists saying he really does support gay marriage but can't afford to spend so much political capital on it -- and that's why his public position is negative. I've read opinions saying he's working behind the scenes to line up every domino he can. I've also seen a couple of pre-emptive apologies saying he'll push harder for it once he's out of office; his hands are tied by healthcare and the economy and we're just going to have to wait in the back of our bus for the right time.
For all this, President Obama's most effective time in office is drawing closer to its end and his focus is squarely elsewhere; even if it were not, he hasn't indicated he's willing to push for fully equal protection.
We can make excuses all we want to try and demonize former President Clinton, but his political world was vastly different than Obama's. He was embroiled in a scandal, his party's power was waning, and he was effectively being held hostage by Republicans. Even before the massive losses in the House and Senate, Democrats had much less legislative backbone and were busy trying to appear to be Republican Lite to keep seats and not offend the delicate sensibilities of their constituency.
Whether Clinton is throwing his full weight behind the issue or not, it's still more than I'm getting from President Obama. I'm grateful for whatever support he's willing to lend us.
I take all the points about Obama and have never been one to excuse the president's actions (or lack thereof), but former president Clinton is obscuring the substance of his record on gay rights. He needs to admit that section 3 of DOMA was wrong. He needs to recognize that DADT is a failure. It's good to have Clinton say nice things about marriage equality, but let us not pretend he has recanted fully and forgive all past sins.