Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan both suggested they're open to supporting gay marriage. Are they telegraphing a policy change -- or just going rogue?
Updated, 11:45 a.m.
The Obama team's first messaging crisis of the week wasn't caused by Mitt Romney, Chen Guangcheng, or elections in Europe. Instead, it's the result of two top administration officials voicing unprecedented support for gay rights -- first Vice President Joe Biden, with somewhat ambiguous remarks on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, and then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's unequivocal endorsement of same-sex marriage on Morning Joe Monday (above).
Here's what Biden had to say (video is below):
DAVID GREGORY: And you're comfortable with same-sex marriage now?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I-- I-- look, I am vice president of the United States of America. 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 another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction-- beyond that.
DAVID GREGORY: In a second term, will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I-- I-- I can't speak to that. I-- I-- I-- I don't know the answer to that.
The White House quickly sprung into action with a rather Talmudic interpretation of the quote, insisting he was only arguing that gay couples ought to have the same legal rights as straight ones, not necessarily endorsing marriage. That's tenable -- and gay-marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan, to his own chagrin, agreed with that reading -- but it opened up obvious questions about whether Biden was in step with Obama.