by Patrick Appel
As Mr Just says, history will not look kindly on Mr Obama when the question of gay marriage is settled. He compares the president's position on the issue to Woodrow Wilson's "slippery" stance in the debate over woman's suffragea debate he tried to avoid by defining suffrage as a local issue. Sound familiar? Like Wilson, Mr Obama seems unwilling to get out in front of his party or the public on gay marriage. It's the politically safe move. Even if a slim majority does now support gay marriage, it is not a priority for most, so why upset the very vocal, well-organised opponents? Still, it must be difficult for the president's supporters to gloss over his cynicism and ignore the realisation that, for all the elevated oratory, there's a lot more John Kerry and Bill Clinton in Mr Obama than they'd like to think. Thankfully, soon that cynicism will not only seem shameful, but politically naive.
Steinglass defends the president:
What would have been the actual political consequences of a decision by Barack Obama to come out in favour of gay marriage in the past year and a half? I don't think there can be any doubt that such a move would have re-politicised an issue that, remarkably, has become steadily less partisan in recent years. Presidents can't simply speak their minds. For presidents, words are political actions. A president who voices an opinion without considering the political consequences is acting irresponsibly. Presidents' voiced opinions about social justice are very sharply constrained by whether voicing those opinions is likely to advance their visions of social justice at that political moment. And that means that presidents' spoken views on such questions may lag far behind the pace of progressive opinion, and may become much less progressive when they are in power than they were before they were elected.
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