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    December 29, 2007

    Nodding and dodging for Edwards

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnedwards A week after the Washington Blade's editor Kevin Naff endorsed Hillary Clinton, the gay paper for North and South Carolina, Q Notes, has given its nod to native son John Edwards:

    After a series of meetings between the editors, the staff and the publisher, Q-Notes has endorsed John Edwards for President. His concrete, progressive policy positions (including steadfast support for pro-LGBT issues), his commitment to returning power to the people from moneyed special interests, his outstanding polling strength against the Republicans and his positive impact for down-ticket candidates nationwide combine to make him the best candidate in the race.

    Besides the obvious geographic connection, the Q Notes nod seems to be about factors other than gay issues. Where Naff was persuaded by Hillary's (supposed) electability, Q Notes went for Edwards' angry populist appeal. I can't imagine why a country that has been so divided by cultural issues, war and politics would elect a president who would further divide us by class, but so be it.

    Notably, neither Naff nor Q Notes claims their candidate is best on gay issues, probably because there is little daylight between the Edwards, Clinton and Barack Obama. The same can't be said, however, for Edwards' "official" gay adviser, former Stonewall Dems E.D. Eric Strern.

    Ericstern Flaking for Edwards on the campaign's gay blog, Stern resorts to blatant half truths to completely misrepresent the two gay rights issues on which there actually is some difference between the leading Dems -- gay marriage and immigration rights:

    Edwards supports immigration equality and repealing all portions of [the Defense of Marriage Act] — Hillary and Obama do not. And while John Edwards is not yet a supporter of marriage equality, he has pledged to use the power of the White House to rid the federal laws of anti-gay discrimination and extend all of the federal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in committed relationships.

    Some of these same half-truths and outright lies have been regularly repeated by Stern and other gay Edwards supporters in other venues. So let's count the misrepesentations:

    1. Edwards supports repealing all portions of DOMA:  Yes, now he does. But when he ran for president just four years ago, he said on national television that he agreed with the same half of DOMA that Hillary wants to preserve: the provision that allows each state to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states.
    2. Obama does not support repealing all portions of DOMA: Wrong and Stern knows it. Back in 2004, the same year Edwards was telling the nation he agreed with half of DOMA, Obama went on record saying he disagreed with DOMA when it was adopted and favored immediate full repeal.
           Stern no doubt bases his claim on candidate questionnaires submitted by Obama in 2003 as part of that same U.S. Senate campaign, in which "no" was checked on whether he favored DOMA repeal. I wrote a post about the discrepancy, which was most likely a campaign error and ought to be explained more completely by Obama himself. Regardless, Obama's position since at least January 2004 -- four years earlier than Edwards' recent reversal -- has been for full repeal of DOMA.
    3. Edwards is "not yet" supporting full marriage equality,  but "has pledged to use the power of the White House to rid the federal laws of anti-gay discrimination and extend all of the federal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in committed relationships."  Misleading. The "not yet" moniker is especially inapposite, considering Edwards was actually citing his own religious beliefs to justify his opposition to gay marriage in this year's nationally televised Democratic primary debates. When the audience changed and was almost all gay, at the HRC/Logo forum, Edwards was willing to back away from imposing his own religious beliefs.
           As far as federal recognition of civil unions, etc., Edwards has made that commitment, to gay audiences on the gay section of his website and the HRC candidate questionnaire. Clinton and Obama have done the same.  Obama also repeated that commitment to general audiences -- twice on national TV, an MTV candidate forum and the "Ellen Degeneres Show," and also in Des Moines, Iowa.
    4. Edwards supports immigration equality and Hillary and Obama do not. Wrong and Stern knows it. All three of them said they support equal immigration rights for binational couples in response to HRC's candidate questionnaire. Neither Hillary nor Obama has signed on as a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, but then again, Edwards when he was in the Senate didn't cosponsor UAFA's precursor legislation (the Permanent Partners Immigration Act), in either the 108th and 109th Congresses.
           At least Hillary and Obama have explained their reluctance, citing fraud concerns since UAFA offers less effective fraud barriers than marriage is for straight couples. Finally, UAFA would be rendered somewhat unnecessary if the half of DOMA blocking federal recognition of gay marriages is repealed. As noted, all three leading Democrats support that.

    There is even more misleading rhetoric in Stern's argument for Edwards, from making cynical use of Edwards' wife and daughter's views on gay marriage, to dredging up the Donnie McClurkin controversy.

    Actually, the McClurkin flap -- in which Obama camp refused to reject an "ex-gay" Grammy winner invited by his campaign staff to perform on a South Carolina campaign tour -- the Edwardses on marriage, immigration, DOMA -- all of these issues speak to the primary difference between Obama and Edwards (and Clinton, for that matter) on gay issues.

    Edwards is pathological about telling every given audience what they want to hear -- he is the Pander Bear of the 2008 campaign -- and on gay issues he's always great when talking to us while not-so-great or completely silent when speaking to the general public, much less anti-gay crowds.  Maybe that's why Edwards ranked last among  the top three when the Los Angeles Times asked voters nationally whether each candidate says what they really believe or what they think voters want to hear.

    Obama, on the other hand,  talks about civil unions to a national audience and condemns homophobia in the black church to a roomful of African American ministers. And he doesn't pander to us, either, refusing to apply a pro-gay litmus test to his supporters and raising perfectly reasonable concerns about gay rights legislation.

    I would much rather be dealt with honestly and straightforwardly than to be lied and pandered to, but on that score, clearly Eric Stern is perfectly suited to flak on behalf of his candidate, John Edwards.

    H/t: Queerty

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_2 For related stories and the breaking news, click or bookmark:  gaynewswatch.com/DemPrimary



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    1. Eric Stern on Dec 31, 2007 1:13:26 PM:

      Dear Chris:
      Your personal attack on my integrity and character is unnecessary. I am a volunteer for the Edwards Campaign because I believe it is important as a member of our community to continue to be involved in the political process. I am supporting Edwards because of his focus on social justice issues. However, I will be proud to support Obama or Clinton should one of them become the nominee.
      Your inflammatory and very personal accusations serve to discourage LGBT individuals from getting involved in the political process and strenuously advocating for the candidates they have chosen to support. Without the participation of LGBT individuals in campaigns—whether at the presidential or local level—there would be no opportunities for our community to educate and push our candidates to more fully understand our quest for equality.
      It is important for all of us to have a dialogue on the issues and to expect campaigns to respond to questions raised on issues of importance to the LGBT community.
      Your strategy of “attack and divide” really only serves to circumvent a healthy discussion many of us on all of the different campaigns have been engaging in—with civility, respect and a lack of personal attacks. We will all need to come back together when we have a nominee—these kind of attacks are just not helpful in terms of moving the debate forward.

      Eric Stern

    1. Kevin on Dec 31, 2007 8:29:00 PM:


      Not a single denial that he lied in that response. In fact, I wonder if his posting above has anything at all to do with what you wrote.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 1, 2008 12:52:37 PM:

      So let me get this straight, Eric. You can actively misrepresent the positions of your candidate and the others in the race and then take personal offense when you're called out on it? Since when does misrepresentation qualify as "education"?

      Involving yourself in the campaign of a candidate you believe in is a noble thing. But doing so dishonestly, way beyond the bounds of zealously advocacy, makes you part of a broken system. And I make no apologies for pointing it out.

      Kevin's right; there wasn't a word in your reply that dealt with the substance of what I wrote. If in fact you want real dialogue, then why not try actually engaging in some?

    1. Eric Stern on Jan 1, 2008 3:38:27 PM:

      Dear Chris:
      I think just as I am being clear and honest about the candidate I am supporting, you should begin to do the same with respect to your clear support for Obama.
      1) Q-Notes Endorsement: With respect to the Q-notes endorsement, clearly Chris—you are apparently far more knowledgeable than the Q-notes editorial board about issues of importance to LGBT voters in North Carolina and South Carolina. And I suppose you also know more than New Hampshire State Representative Mo Baxley and the board of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition—all of whom endorsed Edwards for President and deemed the best candidate for the LGBT community. Perhaps you should ask them why they believe Edwards to be a better candidate for the LGBT community rather than Obama (your candidate) or Hillary (your former employer’s candidate).

      2) DOMA: I am still a bit confused and concerned about why Obama indicated that he was in support of DOMA on two separate candidate questionnaires, but then a few months later in Feb. 2004 said that he had opposed DOMA since 1996. That just doesn’t make much sense and requires further explanation on your candidate’s part. If he was against DOMA since 1996, why would he say he was for it in two separate questionnaires? Was he trying to pander to the two community organizations to whom he was addressing? If so, why and what does this say about his propensity to shift positions and try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one?
      You are also correct that Edwards also did not have the most consistent position on DOMA when he ran in 2004. He declared in a debate that he would have voted for DOMA had he the opportunity to do so in the Senate. But, then, as you point out in a couple of talk show appearances, he seemed to take the Hillary position—only supporting partial repeal. Since becoming a candidate for the second time, he has been consistent from day one—clearly stating from day one on the easy to find LGBT issues page of his website that he supports fully repealing DOMA---period. Edwards has spoken about his support for full repeal of DOMA (see the Washington Times article to which you cited on your blog) on the campaign trail before straight audiences in Iowa—something Obama has not done to my knowledge.
      Bottom line—undecided LGBT voters need to know that both Obama and Edwards support full repeal of DOMA and that Hillary now only supports partial repeal. All of that being said, I think Obama still needs to explain how he could have been against DOMA in 1996 (which he declared in the Feb. 2004 letter), but then been for it in two separate questionnaires in 2003 and 2004 as an IL Senate candidate. Having worked on a number of campaigns—2 at the presidential level—I can tell you that high-profile policy decisions on potentially controversial pieces of social issues legislation do not get made in a vacuum. They get made at the highest level and with the candidate’s input. I think you are being a little too easy on Obama here by suggesting that his support for DOMA in two separate questionnaires was simply the mistake of a junior campaign staffer who had failed to consult Obama and his senior staff. (The same logic applies to Obama’s inclusion of homophobes in South Carolina fundraising events. Obama did the right thing by apologizing and reiterating his support for our community—but again—I think Obama thought he could get away with this and that our community would simply understand. I don’t buy it. I know how these things work and all surrogates are carefully vetted these days).
      On Immigration Equality, the bottom line is that Edwards supports the bill without any reservations. For some reason, both Obama and Hillary believe that same-sex couples will attempt to commit fraud at a higher level than heterosexual couples and that the stopgaps and regulation that is in place to safeguard against fraud for straight couples is not sufficient for all of the sneaky, insincere same-sex couples attempting to unify our families in the U.S. I think Obama and Hillary need to explain this further.
      Look, we have terrific candidates—all of whom I would proud to support. There is no need during this debate to get nasty or to throw around personal insults by calling our colleagues liars.
      With Obama’s campaign rising and a couple of key early mistakes (McClurkin, failure to immediately denounce Pace), their campaign would be served well by the addition of your counsel and advice. There are some terrific LGBT folks working on the campaign—that is why Obama was able to do a great job of damage control after the SC event. Consider joining the campaign as an adviser. Pundits and Democrats talk about the fact that it doesn’t matter who wins the nomination---Democrats have this one in the bag. I really don’t believe that. The GOP beat us on the ground in 2004 because they were better organized and because they were unified on message. In this battle, we need smart folks like you to help us win in 2008. Let me know if you are interested and I will be happy to connect you to the Obama folks.
      Happy new year,
      Eric Stern

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 2, 2008 10:48:02 AM:

      Eric, I am happy to see you focus at least primarily on the substance, so let me address the points you've raised.

      First, whether Obama is "my candidate" the way Edwards is "your candidate." I have not endorsed a candidate in the race, and I have certainly not taken on a role -- voluntary or otherwise -- on any campaign. I have written very little about the primaries outside the scope of gay rights issues, and I think we would both agree that there's a lot more that goes into voting that this single issue.

      All that said, on gay issues I have said repeatedly that I think Obama is the best candidate, although Bill Richardson had the more complete gay rights record before he squandered it with gaffes and a perpetually second-tier candidacy. My syndicated column this week lays out my reasons, and you can also find them in a blog post here: http://tinyurl.com/2qyv6r

      The difference, then, is that while I view Obama as the best on gay issues, I feel no compulsion to advocate on his behalf when I disagree with him, or to point out where he could be better or where others are better than him.

      I am also a political independent, hence the tagline for my blog, and that freedom from partisan allegiance affords me a greater objectivity about politics. As you well know, during my years at the Blade (and since), many accused me of being a closet Republican. Now that you are accusing me of being a closet Obama supporter, I feel a certain vindication in maintaining that independence.

      Not signing up with a candidate or a party by no means makes me "better." Those of you who are actively in politics make a huge difference and have a critical role to play. But so do we as journalists, and in that role I feel political independence is the best place for me.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 2, 2008 4:06:11 PM:

      Eric, part deux: OK, let's talk about DOMA. I'm glad to see you finally acknowledge that Edwards said he agreed with half of DOMA during the 2004 presidential campaign and that Obama favors full repeal. Why haven't you corrected those two very important errors in your posts on the Edwards campaign blog?

      Comparing the two candidates, Obama checked 'no' on whether he favored repeal of DOMA in two candidate questionnaires in December 2003 and then said in a letter to the Windy City Times in February 2004 that DOMA was wrong and discriminatory when enacted and he favored full repeal.

      Edwards said during the 2004 primary debates that he would have voted along with John Kerry against DOMA in the Senate, but when asked about that issue later on national TV said he agreed with the half of DOMA that allows each state to ignore gay marriages from other states.

      In this election cycle, both Obama and Edwards have committed to full repeal, which was a change for Edwards, whose last stated view was favoring half-repeal only.

      Both candidates -- not just Obama -- could explain better their positions on DOMA. For Obama, that means explaining whether the "no" was a campaign error, as I surmised given the reversal two months later, or a change of position. For Edwards, it means explaining why (and when) his view on DOMA changed since the '04 race.

      It's hardly an important distinction, and on balance Obama's support for full DOMA repeal is four years earlier than Edwards'.

      On immigration equality, you are dodging the real issues. If Edwards supports UAFA without hesitation, why didn't he cosponsor the Permanent Partner Immigration Act during his last two sessions of Congress? When did his view change and why?

      Obama and Clinton have never said, as you suggest, that same-sex couples are more likely to commit fraud in immigration applications and it is disingenuous for you to suggest as much.

      As we all know, civil marriage is a massive legal entanglement for couples, putting at risk all sorts of assets and imposing all sorts of responsibilities. As such, marriage in and of itself is a barrier to fraud for binational hetero couples. Since that option isn't open to gay couples, that fraud barrier doesn't exist.

      As a result, most countries that extend immigration rights to unmarried gay and straight couples require some additional evidence the relationship is real, whether cohabitation for a year or more, intermingled finances, etc.

      As someone who left behind my job, home, family, friends, dogs and life to live in exile with my partner, I can say that I understand the fraud reservation raised by Obama and Clinton and believe that UAFA would be much stronger if a cohabitation requirement were added.

      I actually don't doubt for a second that an Edwards administration would push for such an additional requirement and it would be a political necessity anyway. That he won't say so now says more about his willingness to pander than anything.

    1. Double T on Jan 2, 2008 6:28:14 PM:

      First off, I swear I’m not trying to be a smart@ss.

      You made reference in a couple of different post and it got me thinking. True to form,
      I’m certain you will think my idea absolutely insane.

      In the NYC tourism post you stated, my lover IS my family, or something too that effect.
      Then again in the Edwards piece you speak about UAFA.

      Why not adopt Anderson ( as your ward ). Return to the USA and then sponsor him to enter the country.

      1) You can adopt an adult.
      2) It’s fraud, you truly do believe he’s family
      3) Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, does not require the relative to be related by blood.

      Yes, it’s a crazy idea and thinking outside of the box.
      I bet it will sound saner if Huckabee becomes President.
      I don’t see you living in exile for 8 more years.

      Ok Kev - attack

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 26, 2011 3:32:02 AM:

      I don’t see you living in exile for 8 more years.

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