Via Mediaite, 16 years after going on the record in support of gay marriage, The One finally decides it’s safe to reclaim his old position. (AmSpec’s James Antle tweets, “Obama may be the only person in America who supported gay marriage in 1996 but opposed it in 2011.”) His base will swoon over this, needless to say — expect the mother of all leg tingles on “Hardball” tonight — but even as someone who agrees with him, I can’t get past the pure opportunism of it. In fact, fellow gay-marriage supporter Andy Levy flags this NYT tweet in naked disgust:
Some Obama advisers were divided on decision to support same-sex marriage, but concluded his brand has been damaged enough by hedging.
That’s what it was all about: The brand, plus the political awkwardness created by Biden’s candor on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday. I used to ask whether anyone seriously believes O opposes gay marriage. Now I have to start asking whether anyone seriously believes O would have stopped feigning opposition if it was still a clear political winner for him to keep it up. His “courage” here, as in all things, is about his own reelection chances. If there’s anything for gay rights supporters to celebrate today, it’s the fact that popular opinion has shifted enough that even an opportunist as transparent as The One thinks it’s safe enough to take this position before a national election.
Note the fine print, though:
The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.
I don’t believe that for a moment either but that’s going to be his new compromise. Instead of “I support gay rights but oppose gay marriage” it’s now “I support gay marriage but oppose federal intervention.” Even so, if/when the Supreme Court finds a right to same-sex marriage in the Equal Protection Clause, rest assured that the statement from the White House that day will be nothing but celebratory. This position too is a charade.
As for the politics, Karl notes in the Greenroom that Team Hopenchange may now be shifting from a campaign aimed at winning back disaffected working-class swing voters to a campaign aimed mainly at maximizing turnout among their base:
What yesterday’s elections may have told Team Obama is that the bitter clingers out there are bitter enough to give 41% of the Democrat vote in West Virginia to a convicted felon and to ease a ban on same-sex marriage into the North Carolina constitution. They may have concluded that their energies are better spent targeting more socially liberal white college graduates in the suburbs of northern Virginia, Philadeplphia, Denver, etc. than wasting time on trying to persuade Rust Belt Jacksonians to pull the lever for Barack Obama again while (as Allahpundit suggests) considering discontent among socially conservative African-Americans an acceptable risk now. The establishment’s mockery of Obama’s unevolved position may have suggested to Team Obama that painting Mitt Romney as a right-wing extremist is made more difficult when the president shares Romney’s position on SSM.
For an extended list of pros versus cons, read Chris Cillizza. Romney reiterated today that there’ll be no “evolving” on his end so the contrast is there if Obama wants to draw it. Which, I think, he almost surely doesn’t: There’s too much uncertainty on both sides about how swing voters will react if it becomes a major issue in the campaign. Will they follow North Carolina’s and other states’ lead by voting against gay marriage and its proponent-in-chief? Or will they tune Romney out because he’s not talking about jobs and his economic program? Outside of LGBT fundraisers, I doubt you’ll hear O talk at length again about this issue before November. Exit quotation from GOProud’s Chris Barron: “It is time the left came to terms with the fact that this president will only be for same-sex marriage when he believes it is a political winner for him.”
Update: Some buzz on Twitter for this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in O’s remarks: “when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf…” His behalf?