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  • August 21, 2008

    And then there were three . . .

    Posted by: Chris

    Jaredpolisnyt . . . Well there aren't three yet actually, but gay Colorado businessman Jared Polis was the surprise winner last week in a highly competitive Democratic primary and is the heavy favorite in November in his bid to be the third out gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Even better, he would be the first gay man to win a congressional election as a non-incumbent. Lesbian Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was the first to do it, way back in 1998.

    Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former reps Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) all came out after they were already in office.

    Polis is due belated congratulations for pulling off the victory in a three-way contest with no incumbent for the congressional seat representing Boulder and some of the top ski resorts in Colorado. Polis, a  former chair of the state board of education who made a fortune from the e-card site bluemountain.com, spent more than $5 million of his own money to beat former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth.

    Fitz-Gerald had been as the favorite and her lengthy record of strong gay rights support earned her support against Polis from many local gays, notably Tim Gill, another wealthy entrepreneur whose Gill Foundation has done ground-breaking political work in Colorado and elsewhere.

    Polis was endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, whose mission is to help elect more openly gay politicians, but the Human Rights Campaign stayed neutral.

    Normally I would have jumped all over HRC for that decision, because it was very likely driven by fear of offending locals (i.e. donors) who backed Fitz-Gerald. It's not surprising that Polis had to beat a gay-friendly opponent; that's likely to be the case in almost all the liberal congressional districts where out gay candidates are going to have the best shot.

    That's the primary reason -- along with homophobia, of course -- for the 10 very long years since Baldwin's landmark victory. Kudos to the Victory Fund for jumping into the Polis race when lots of pundits and analysts were saying it was a loser.

    Still, I'm cutting HRC a break on this one -- close that gaping jaw, please -- because for one thing they often stay out of primaries with no incumbents. Much more importantly, I've had my own misgivings about Polis ever since he made clear he would have voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act introduced by Barney Frank and passed by Congress, on the grounds that it included sexual orientation but not gender identity as protected categories.

    Without being drawn back into that bitter debate, it reinforeced why ideological purity has no place in a legislative body that inevitably horse trades, compromises and moves along incrementally. Like most activists and GLBT groups in the "trans or bust" crowd, Polis was maddeningly naive in his analysis, explaining it this way this way to a transgender writer for PageOneQ:

    Q: So, among your endorsements is Congresswoman and ENDA co-sponsor Tammy Baldwin...

    A: She was on the right side of [ENDA], you know. I was disappointed, along with many progressive members of our community, that we seemed to be cutting political deals and leaving part of our community behind.

    Q: I felt it on a personal level, too, one of my best friends being a transwoman. We were being very pointedly pitted against each other politically, especially in the blogosphere.

    A: I do think there was a good grassroots response from gays and lesbians nationally, to push back against our political leadership in Washington. I know that HRC and others got a lot of negative letters from gays and lesbians. I have a lot of transgender friends as well, and I think the best thing I saw was some protesters at one of the HRC dinners saying, "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'."

    An inclusive ENDA is all we should really be talking about. I don't think that we should talk about a piecemeal version that pits part of our community against one another.

    Not only is Polis flat-wrong about Baldwin, who voted for the gay-only version of ENDA, he's also frighteningly simplistic. "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'"? Seriously? Since you can spell "Equality" without a G, L or B, should we assume he'd be all for a trans-only version?

    Fitz-Gerald said she would have voted for Barney's ENDA, and that was enough for me for the primary. But Polis' victory is still a very important one, so let's hope he gets a reality check, whether from his general election race against someone to the right of kum-ba-yah or from good-ole Beltway politics.

    (Above: Photo of Jared Polis celebrating victory via the New York Times)

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    May 17, 2008

    Let's count the states . . .

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryclintonsd Hopefully you didn't miss Jon Stewart nailing the shifting criteria by which Hillary Clinton is (still) claiming she deserves the Democratic presidential nomination. After showing several clips from early in the campaign in which she says "voters will decide," Stewart serves up more recent Hillary, haltingly saying, "Voters are an important part of the process." 

    If you missed it, the clip is at the end of the post; with the Hillary switcheroo about 1:50 in.

    Another Clinton tactic, of course has been to push the Democratic Party to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan, which held primaries in violation of party rules. Both candidates agreed, of course, not to campaign in either state, and Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

    Nonetheless, Hillary's latest formulation of the argument surfaced in her Indiana victory speech:

    "It would be a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states," she argued.

    This week, Katie Couric asked, "If Barack Obama declares victory, Senator Clinton, once he reaches that magic number of 2,025 [delegates], will you still hold out if Florida and Michigan have not been counted? "Absolutely," Hillary said.

    Because that's not the right number.  How can we have a nominee based on 48 states?

    And yet that very same day, her excitable campaign chair Terry McAuliffe announced she was officially ahead in the "popular vote." How did he arrive at that conclusion? After noting that Clinton actually trails in four different methods of calculating the popular vote, CNN concluded:

    The only scenario in which Clinton would appear to the lead is a fifth scenario that only counts primary states –- including both Florida and Michigan –- and excludes any votes cast in the party’s caucuses. In that count, Clinton currently holds a lead of about 225,000 votes.

    Ahh yes. It would be "a little strange" to have 48 states pick a nominee, but perfectly valid to have 35 states pick the nominee, since the Clinton camp is excluding the 15 states that held primary caucuses.

    And now, your Moment of Zen (with the Hillary switcheroo 1:50 in):

    (Photo of Hillary Clinton in Bath, S.D., via Associated Press)

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    May 13, 2008

    Dissecting West Virginia

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm not a snob. Really. I'm originally from Arkansas, after all, so I've felt the brunt of redneck jokes and the like.  But now that Barack Obama has a mathematical lock on the nomination, it seems a bit silly for CNN's Bill Schneider to dissect the exit poll data from the Mountain State as if it were Iowa or New Hampshire (or even North Carolina or Indiana).

    Up till now, Schneider has come up with only one data point from West Virginia that speaks to me:

    Is Barack Obama's former pastor still an issue for voters? We asked West Virginia Democrats whether they think Barack Obama shares the views of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    Just over 50 percent say Obama does share Wright's controversial views while 47 percent say he does not.

    Whatever you think about Obama's judgment remaining in Wright's congregation, etc., to believe he shares Wright's twisted values requires actual malevolence toward the Illinois senator -- or, more likely, a sense that "those people" are all alike.

    One other West Virginia nugged, this via Politico's Ben Smith:

    "I'm going to vote for the colored guy," said Henry Ford -- "no, not that Henry Ford," the 87-year old retired carpenter in the Napa Auto Parts hat pointed out. "I don't dislike her, but I don't think a woman can be president of the United States. I don't think she can handle the job."

    Even Borat couldn't have said it better.

    Saturday Night Live - Appalachian Emergency Room

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    May 08, 2008

    Don't cry for her, Democratic Party

    Posted by: Kevin

    Clintonx_2The festering Clinton boil is finally being lanced within the Democratic Party, at least for this election cycle.  It's a tremendous bit of luck not only for the party -- despite its idiotic blindness to this fact.  It's a relief for the country, given the brand of politics that this couple would practice if it regained control of both the party and Washington.

    I haven't written much since Hillary Clinton entered the fatal win-at-all-costs phase of her doomed presidential campaign a couple months ago, frankly because there wasn't much more to say.  The ship would inevitably sink, it was just a matter of whether enough of the remaining idiots in her camp would get into the lifeboats and save themselves in time from the wake of her titanic disaster.

    A lot of tripe is thrown around about gay Republicans in the gay media, and has been for over a decade.  But not enough has been written about the toxic impact that Clintonism has wrought on the gay community and its political leadership.  The cravenness of it, the poisonous combination of raising hopes with glistening promises, and dashing them at the first sign of political risk -- all the while shifting the blame to others -- has done more to destroy what was once a potentially powerful movement than anything a small band of hapless, closeted gay Republicans on Capitol Hill (now "cleansed" for the most part) could ever have done.

    And if the rich content of her presidential campaign was any indication, Hillary Clinton would have been even worse for us as president than her husband.  Unlike him, she didn't have the touch when it came to using the charming lie on gay rights.  She speaks in half-tones, half-measures and platitudes with little heart in it, and made it fairly clear by the way her campaign did gay outreach that it was all about hack-o-rama appointments and personal ambition within the gay political community.  Basically -- get on board, or be cut out.  Very Karl Rove, and very lethal for those who sign up for it.  I can attest to that personally, as can nearly every Republican of every stripe in politics right now.

    Indeed, her brand of politics seems to have divided the gay Democratic camp into two clear factions -- those who envy the Republicans so much that they want to emulate them (all the while bashing and personally destroying gay Republicans, interestingly enough, to cover their own shame), and those who are fed up with calculation and ruthlessness in politics that they are willing to try almost anything that is new and different.  (A third, unregistered group simply has walked away and taken up new interests in frustration.)

    From my vantage point here in South America, it is amazing how parallel the Clintons are to the political couple that is running Argentina at the moment -- Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.  He was president last, and now she's president, while he is about to take the chairmanship of the main Peronist party.  They, too, rail at big business, count on labor unions and blue-collar workers as their base, and spin all sorts of webs to scapegoat, capture and destroy all political opponents, from inside their movement or outside it.  They, too, deflect any and all blame for their policies that do harm, and refuse to even acknowledge reality at most junctures.  (Sound familiar?)  They came from a backwater province in the south of the country, which Néstor ran as governor, and Cristina launched her own presidential campaign last year from a Senate perch she'd recently captured outside Buenos Aires city.  But Argentina is sinking into, perhaps, its worst social, economic and political crisis since the nervous breakdown it suffered in 2001 -- completely at the hands of this self-obsessed, knuckle-breaking political machine government that the Kirchners are running.  And Cristina, pig-headed to the end (The Economist says she lives "in the land of make-believe") is mobilizing unions to beat down protesters in the name of fighting big business.  The galloping 25% inflation rate is something she blames on "greedy rich corporate owners" who won't voluntarily lower prices, raise wages, and pay for it all out of their profits.  (It has nothing to do with her, of course, nor market economics.)   She answers the new crisis with gimmicks (hello, gas tax holiday?) and populist rhetoric, not because she's incompetent.  It's because the entire raison d'etre of Peronism - like it's North American cousin in Clintonism - is to win at all costs.  To say anything, do anything, blame anyone, and never surrender to win out in the end, at the expense of anyone outside the walls of their marital union.  Over the last half-century, it has destroyed a once powerful country, probably for good.

    Ask any gay Hillary supporter to say, in plain words, exactly why Hillary would be best for the country.  You will never -- I repeat, never -- get anything in response but platitudes mixed with venomous stabs at either Obama or the GOP or both.  ¡Que peronista!  And all her most prominent gay defenders are lifetime gay Democratic hacks simply hoping for a job.  Period.  They defend the Clintons in the face of the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and stand ready to defend them again to the teeth -- and the do-nothing Democratic Congress, and the "fight-on-the-ice" DNC -- should four or eight years pass without any movement on either under their watch.  ("It wasn't the {lying, hypocritical} president's fault! It was [insert blame here]!") They are the worst detritus of the Bill Clinton era of gay Washington, and would bring a sense of blind loyalty to power more dangerous and insidious than the paradoxical, circus-freak brand that has been trotted out in hit pieces on gay Republicans who still love George W. Bush.  Because it would have the air of respectability, and could not dare be questioned without reprisal.

    So breathe easy, gay Democrats.  Hillary is finally being shoved out the door by the length and breadth of the selfishness she represents.  Whether it's soon, or after the inevitable rejection of her 900th attempt at game-changing party rules on May 31st (nuevamente peronista), it's been in the cards since February. 

    Whether you realize it or not, it's good for you.  Embrace it.  And get back to work in making your party something other than a gigantic waste of money, hope and effort.

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    May 07, 2008

    Stay in, Hillary

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Marc Ambinder offers seven reasons for Clinton to stay in the race. No. 2 and No. 7 are similar to the points I make here; No. 3 and No. 5 make good additional arguments; No. 1 and No. 4 made me vomit a bit inside my mouth.

    Also, Ben Smith reports that Clinton stayed positive in her West Virginia appearance today. Know hope?

    Hillaryclintonindiana After Barack Obama's impressive victory margin last night in North Carolina and a near-win in Indiana, it seems almost everyone not residing in Hillaryland has concluded the Democratic presidential race is over. I will even admit mild surprise (shame on me) when I read the Clinton campaign claimed today there had been "no discussions" about her dropping out, despite the prohibitive delegate math.

    Late last night I actually thought Hillary might drop out, especially when Tim Russert (who flatly declared the race done in his view) reported that she had canceled morning talk show appearances so she could huddle with advisers. I was surprised by my reaction to that possibility, which was much more relief than glee. My reservoir of goodwill for the Clintons was sapped weeks ago by their duplicitous, scorched-earth campaign to build her up by tearing him down -- especially given her odds of success were already so long.

    But I also know her candidacy has been as important and inspirational for many of her supporters as Obama's has been to his. Whenever this "long slow bataan march," as Jon Stewart called it, finally comes to an end, one side or the other -- ok, we know which side at this point -- is going to be deeply disappointed. Whatever I think about the Clinton campaign, and it isn't much, I respect the impact a loss is going to have.

    The other reaction that surprised me is that, now that the nomination is a lock for Obama, I don't really see the urgency for Clinton to quit the race. Obama will have sown up the pledged delegate majority by May 20, after the Oregon primary, and the superdelegates should follow in short order.

    There is a big "if" to that sentiment, however. If Hillary could manage to stay on a largely positive message like the one she delivered last night in Indiana, she could run out the clock with dignity in much the same way that Mike Huckabee did on the GOP side. She would still preserve the possibility of an Obama meltdown, lobby behind the scenes to seat Florida and Michigan, and make all the fear-based, subtly racist, overtly classist arguments she wants in private to the superdelegates.

    But she would have to step back from the onslaught of negative advertising and speechifying that paints Obama as an elitist Dukakis clone out of touch with average Joe. Otherwise she's establishing once and for all that she places her own ambition and sense of entitlement outweigh the good of her party or the very common folk she talks so often about wanting to help.

    Yeah, I know, there's about as much chance of that happening as Hillary pulling out the nomination.

    (Photo of Hillary Clinton giving Indiana victory speech via New York Times)

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    April 18, 2008

    Trolling for Catholics, dissing gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Popebush385_317573a Pope Benedict's visit to the U.S. this week coincides with the closing days before the crucial Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania, where Catholics are expected to cast about one-third of the votes. Many of those Catholics are the same working class whites that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are competing so vigorously to win over.

    As a result, you would expect both candidates to do a bit of papal pandering, looking for whatever edge they can find going into next Tuesday's ballot. That said, neither candidate even acknowledged Benedict's aggressive political role in challenging any sort of legal recognition of gay relationships, not to mention his vocal opposition to abortion rights and the Vatican's maddeningly unethical challenge to condom distribution in the fight against HIV.

    Both statements are in the jump to this post in full, but these excerpts are representative.

    First, Obama:

    At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, "“Christ Our Hope," offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good.  It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds.

    Now, Clinton:

    We are blessed to receive a visit from His Holiness, Pope Benedict, to the United States this week. Not only is he the spiritual leader of America's great Catholic community, he is a strong and effective voice for the cause of peace, freedom, and justice as well as the fight against poverty and disease. … His apostolic journey is built on the theme of Christian hope, and as he has said, the Gospel message is 'deeply rooted' in our country. We all pray that he will have a safe and successful visit to America, and that everyone will find inspiration in his presence and his words.

    Of the two, Clinton's is particularly appalling, with the astonishing acknowledgment of this pope as "a strong and effective voice for the cause of … freedom and justice," not to mention praising his "fight against … disease."

    Even setting aside the Vatican's shockingly immoral handling of thousands of child sexual abuse claims -- covering up claims, shuffling pedophile priests to new dioceses, then blaming homosexuality when the scandal blew up -- the Catholic leadership, and this pope in particular, is hardly a champion for peace or a warrior against disease.

    Shame on Hillary Clinton for saying so.

    (Photo of Pope Benedict XVI and George Bush via Times Online)

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    Continue reading»

    Maybe ABC did Obama a favor

    Posted by: Andoni

    539wAs I wrote yesterday, I was dismayed with the display of gotcha journalism at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia.

    However, after thinking about this for awhile and listening to the reaction of voters, friends and bloggers, I think it's quite possible that ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson actually did Barack Obama a favor. No, I'm not bullshitting.

    Consider the following:

    • Obama was pummeled by Gibson, Stephanopoulos, Clinton and by proxy the Republican attack machine, and yet he left Constitution Hall alive and standing. This goes a long way toward answering the question of whether he can take it or not.
    • The debate was sort of like a surgical procedure honing in on multiple abscesses. The infections were incised and drained and we ended up with a lot of pus all over the floor. This procedure substantially immunizes him should the same vile bacteria decide to invade again.
    • People say that he is not vetted, but Wednesday night went a long way towards answering that charge.
    • Finally, it exposed Hillary for her true self. The voters have a clear choice: go back to the politics of division, personal attack, and distraction, or choose Obama and try to move to a new level of politics of addressing problems honestly without needless distractions.

    I can’t wait to see what the voters of Pennsylvania decide.

    As I have said before, should there be an upset in Pennsylvania next Tuesday, Hillary's overreach on the “bitter” comment will have been a turning point. Now I think the attack machine on display at Wednesday’s debate may be a tipping point. We'll see.

    Finally, check out this HuffPo post that puts into clearer context all of Clinton's criticism of those remarks by Obama about small town working class whites.

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    April 17, 2008

    Giving ABC News some feedback

    Posted by: Andoni

    I am so angry over how bad last night's debate was that I am writing a letter to the president of ABC News. Here is the address in case others also wish to write:

    David Westin
    President, ABC News
    7 West 66th Street
    New York, NY 10023

    If you wish to call to complain, use the number I suggest below because the normal customer relations line (818-460-7477) is overwhelmed, and you won't be able to get through. What you do is call the ABC News Radio number in the box below and ask for ABC News Television. They patch you right through. And you actually get to talk to a real person!

    (Ask for ABC News Television)

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    Dumbing down politics by sound-bytes (II)

    Posted by: Andoni

    In the spirit of my post about hating 30-second sound-bytes and going around the MSM that feeds them to us to get more information from sources like YouTube, I have been looking for the entire transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s "bitter/clinging" remarks in San Francisco.

    I have found countless transcripts of the sentence in which he uses the words “bitter” and “clinging” and several sources that give the entire paragraph, but I have yet to locate the whole speech he gave at that fundraiser.

    What I did find is a report from someone who was at that fundraiser who describes the setting, the entire speech and the events surrounding Obama’s comments. I think his account of Obama’s speech at that fundraiser is worth reading because it gives a fuller picture of what happened --- in contrast to MSM sound-bytes.

    Just keep in mind that this was an Obama fundraiser and this account is from someone supporting Obama.

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    Help an irmão out…

    Posted by: Chris

    For a political junkie like me, it's a bit painful to miss something as important as tonight's (last?) Democratic primary debate. Since we only get CNN down here in Rio, I was left to follow the live-blogging of others. From what Andrew Sullivan, Marc Ambinder and others have said, I didn't miss much.

    What did you think? Help a brother (irmão) out!

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    April 14, 2008

    Dumbing down politics by sound-bytes

    Posted by: Andoni

    I hate 30-second sound-bytes in politics. I would argue that they don’t serve America well, but I also realize there’s not much I or anyone else can do about it. Unfortunately, these snippets of information and opinion have become a big part of our political discourse and often determine who is elected president. I would blame sound-bytes from giving us George W. Bush, for example, rather than Al Gore.

    The most recent example of how sound-bytes serve the public poorly is from San Francisco, where Barack Obama told supporters that he encountered "bitter" people in small town Ohio and Pennsylvania who were "clinging" to guns and religion because of their difficult economic situation.

    That sound-byte from San Francisco does not reveal the depth with which Obama has thoughtfully considered this issue.  He made the same point in a more detailed way in an interview with Charlie Rose back in 2004, expressing his compassion for how many small town workers have lost their jobs and benefits. It is disingenuous for John McCain or Hillary Clinton to claim that's some form of elitism.

     Obama's comments back in 2004 took several minutes to walk through. He was saying that workers in small towns who have lost their jobs, benefits and insurance are bitter about it and gravitated toward other activities they have long enjoyed and felt a part of, getting support from church or hunting with buddies. It’s the very same position only more artfully said, and said in a way the most people taking the time to listen will learn what is in this man’s heart and what he believes.

    The question is whether YouTube and the Internet have helped us evolve to the point we can get around these sound-bytes to see for ourselves the full statement or what a person’s position really is? Are we seeing the dawn of a new era of politics don't rely on the 30-second bytes the MSM chooses for them?

    For America’s sake, let’s hope so. The results next Tuesday in Pennsylvania will offer some indication.

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    April 13, 2008

    Hillary's 'bitter' faux pas

    Posted by: Andoni

    Barack Obama has gotten a lot of heat for telling a San Francisco audience that when he was in Pennsylvania’s small towns he encountered voters who were bitter. He attributed that to their repeated disappointments from politicians and the government making promises but never following through.

    Sensing a gaffe, Hillary Clinton jumped, accusing Obama of elitism and saying he was belittling and out of touch with the working class. Clinton was playing the same old game of politics that she and Bill perfected.

    As someone from Pennsylvania, I would argue that Clinton’s move was a big faux pas. What she has shown is that she is the one who is out of touch with these people, not Obama. Should she lose Pennsylvania, we will look back upon her move as the turning point for this happening.

    I am from Western Pennsylvania, returning home several times a year, so I know this area well. It is impossible for someone to visit the small towns in Pennsylvania, such as Altoona, Johnstown, Greensburg, and Beaver Falls, and not detect bitterness, anger and disappointment. If you miss these things, you are either deaf and blind --- or simply not listening to the people.

    What’s surprising is that Hillary Clinton is supposed to be the candidate of these blue collar workers, the ones who have seen their jobs and health insurance disappear. If she has been through these small towns and all she sees are strong, hardworking people with a rosy outlook, she isn't attuned to what they are saying.

    How can someone who claims to be for these people visit with them and talk with them and not pick up on their anger, bitterness, and hurt. I think Pennsylvanians will soon wake up to the fact that she hasn’t been listening to them, and when they do that they are going to conclude that she really isn’t fighting for them and that she is phony.

    Obama's response  to her “out of touch” criticism is remarkably good. Score another round for the “new politics” of honest discussion as opposed to the old attack politics of triangulation and obfuscation.

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    April 11, 2008

    Some gay straight talk from Obama

    Posted by: Chris

    Kerry_obama Barack Obama's wide-ranging Advocate interview posted yesterday confirmed again that he "gets it" on LGBT issues while avoiding the temptation to pander.

    Asked what gays can "reasonably expect" to enact in an Obama administration, the Illinois senator set the bar higher for himself than Hilllary Clinton has thus far, including

    • repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell"
    • passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
    • extending domestic partner benefits to gay federal employees

    Clinton has committed to those same items, along with ushering through the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Most importantly, Obama also said he was "very interested in making sure that             federal benefits are available to same-sex couples who have a civil union."

    Advocate News Editor Kerry Eleveld took that to mean repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, but it's actually much more sweeping. DOMA only blocks federal recognition of gay marriages, at this point are limited to Massachusetts, but says nothing about civil unions. That leaves the field open for Congress to extend to gay couples in civil unions all the federal rights and benefits of heterosexual marriage.

    Given that two-thirds of the public either supports marriage or civil unions for gay couples, Obama's proposal is a clever way of extending vitally important federal rights while recognizing the states' prerogative to decide what relationships to recognize. The real question is why we are hearing innovative proposals like this from presidential candidates and not from our own movement leadership.

    Along with the savvy legislative agenda, Obama craftily navigated several P.C. minefields. On ENDA, he said he supports trans-inclusive but says enacting it would be tough. "Obviously, my goal would be to get the strongest possible bill," he added. So why isn't that likewise obvious to HRC and the United ENDA crowd?

    On gays in the military, Obama avoids the doodoo Al Gore stepped in back in 2000, when he said opposition to the policy would be a litmus test for any chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obama has the advantage of eight more years of social acceptance within the military, but nonetheless gets it right:

    I would never make this a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, there are so many issues that a member of the Joint Chiefs has to deal with, and my paramount obligation is to get the best possible people to keep America safe. But I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy … That doesn’t make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology

    On marriage, Obama declined to take the bait on advising the movement to press for civil unions rather than full marriage equality:

    I don’t ask them that. Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn."       I’m very mindful of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” where he says to the white clergy, "Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom."   

    So I strongly respect the right of same-sex couples to insist that even if we got complete equality in benefits, it still wouldn’t be equal because there’s a stigma associated with not having the same word, marriage, assigned to it.

    Not only is that respectful, it's the first time I've seen any viable presidential candidate state so succinctly the case for gay marriage over civil unions. Clearly Obama gets it, even if he's "operating in a broader political and historical context," as he puts it.

    Eleveld also manages to elicit more background from Obama about where he personally traces his comfort level on gay issues; mostly from his mother's general tolerance and an openly gay professor.

    Obama's weakest moments were at the beginning and the end of the interview. He defended his inaccessibility to the gay press as a general campaign bias in favor of "general press" or "specialty press." There are a number or problems with this, not the least of which is the frequent criticism of Obama as a feel-good candidate full of generalities.

    Sticking with mainstream media interviews only perpetuates that, since reporters with a general audience rarely plum the details of specific issues like gay rights because they are covering the field. The Advocate interview, as well as several of Clinton's gay press chats, demonstrate how the specialty press will ask important detailed questions that the broader media will miss. Obama should embrace the opportunity to get into specifics, since the reach of the Internet opens even specialty press interviews to a much broader audience.

    I'm also not buying the unsolicited analogy Obama made between ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin and his own pastor Jeremiah Wright. Obama argued that both were examples of the importance of opening the tent wide enough to embrace those who disagree on specific issues. Fair enough, as far as that goes. But Wright was removed from any official role in the Obama campaign, while McClurkin was invited to perform at official campaign events.

    A more consistent approach would have been to either banish both from any official campaign connection, or leave them both be while distancing himself from their more radical views. Only the politics of the moment explains the disparate treatment and Obama would be better served simply acknowledging as much.

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    The Clintons' pants on fire again

    Posted by: Andoni

    I’m so over the Clintons and their followers making politics nothing but a series of purposeful misstatements and lies. That seems to be the only way they know how to do business, and I don’t want to go back to those days with them in the White House.

    Here are some the latest examples of the Clinton modus operandi. Yesterday Bill Clinton was trying to defend by revision his wife’s various statements on her sniper fire visit into Bosnia. In the course of his revisionist statement, he euphemistically makes eight false statements … or in plainer English... he tells eight lies. ABC’s Jake Tapper exposes them here.

    Just a few of the lies: Bill claims Hillary only told the Bosnia story once, that it was at 11 p.m. (she was tired), and she quickly corrected the story -– all whoppers! Then he goes straight to victimhood, claiming that the media is picking on her.

    Increasingly desperate Clinton surrogates are every bit as willing to engage in “bend the truth” politics, repeating something untrue or unproven often enough so that people eventually think it is true. Take the  column by Peter Rosenstein in today's Washington Blade:

    Rosenstein’s topic sentence/thesis is, “It is amazing that Barack Obama supporters continue to excuse his connections to anti-gay figures, yet attack Clinton for hers.” As apparent proof, he cites two previous Blade opeds: "It's still the audacity of hope" by David Pitts, and "An unfair assessment" by your's truly. The trouble is neither of these cited articles says anything attacking Hillary for her anti-gay supporters (his thesis). And Rosenstein says nothing in the rest of his essay to support his opening claim.

    The politics of misstatement and lying certainly  flow downhill in Hillaryland. How do these people think they can get away with this? Don't people remember Bill Clinton wagging his finger saying, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

    Repeating a lie often enough and authoritatively enough, hoping people think it is true, is no way to run a country. After 15 years of this type of dishonest, duplicitous politics, I look forward to a new era of forthright leaders.

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    April 10, 2008

    Obama's gay press snub? (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Politico bit on the "Obama-gay press snub" story, and the story by Carrie Budoff Brown does a nice job of covering the field:

    With a decent story for Obama to tell, gay editors from Dallas to San Francisco to Boston have been left wondering why Obama doesn’t take it directly to their publications, as Clinton has done with increasing frequency since Super Tuesday.

    “It doesn’t seem to match what he says at these other events,” said Cynthia Laird, news editor at the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco. “It is very disappointing to me.”

    The reason for Obama’s distance is unclear. In keeping with his campaign’s managed approach to the media in general, Obama has communicated with the gay press on his own terms, placing ads in local gay newspapers and writing op-eds. And with more interview requests than Obama can fill, aides likely do a cost-benefit analysis of each media outlet and the audience it reaches.

    She notes that some gay press entities are asking to be treated like MSM without observing the same rules of objectivity and neutrality -- the complaint I've registered here.

    Responding to the Politico piece, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder suggests the gay press take a chill pill:

    Arguably, it is more important for Obama to speak about gay issues to general audiences than it is for him to speak about gay issues before gay audiences.

    That's mixing apples and oranges, actually. I would agree that Obama talking about gay issues to mainstream audiences is more important in determining whether he's genuine in his support for gay rights, rather than viewing us as just another special interest. But that's a bit beside the point concerning the gay press snub. These brief encounters with mainstream audiences do not allow for the kind of in-depth questioning that comes from a "specialty press" interview.

    The gay community has been plagued since Bill Clinton by Democrats with campaign bromides who don't deliver in office. The long primary campaign season is an ideal time for those generalities to be fleshed out into policy details. Candidates may have limited time, as Ambinder points out, but over the many months of campaigning there ought to be a spare 20 minutes here and there to get down to specifics.

    That said, even as an alum of the local gay press, I don't buy into the idea that it's a snub of "the LGBT press" if a candidate only talks to the Advocate. The local gay press shot itself in the foot with the Resnick and Segal hijinks of this campaign season, but there are plenty of local LGBT publications -- the Washington Blade, Southern Voice and (most of) the other National Gay Newspaper Guild papers, certainly -- that employ quality journalists who can conduct a proper, probing interview.

    The point is whether the tough questions get asked and answered. In Obama's case -- between the HRC-Logo forum and the two Advocate interviews -- I would say they have been.

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    April 09, 2008

    Clinton's future 3 am phone calls

    Posted by: Andoni

    Apparently the Clinton campaign is having trouble paying its bills. In fact, the University of California-Davis says the campaign still owes $5,496.75 from January. Other California universities report the campaign owes them money, too. UC Davis says that if the bill is not paid by May 10, it will turn the account over to a collection agency.

    Keith Olberman wryly suggested that Hillary's 3 a.m. phone calls might start coming from collection agencies.

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    Obama sits for second Advocate chat

    Posted by: Chris

    Barack Obama has apparently done another interview with the Advocate, which should settle some of the criticism he's received of late for limiting gay press access.

    He did sit down for the Human Rights Campaign-Logo forum and was the first to accept the invitation. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and most of the other Democratic presidential contenders did as well. Obama also talked to the Advocate during the whole Donnie McClurkin flap, though the interview was limited to that subject.

    Since then, Clinton talked to the Advocate, the Washington Blade, did a joint interview with the Dallas Voice and two Ohio gay papers, and last week talked to the Philadelphia Gay News. PGN, in particular, took umbrage that Obama declined to be interviewed, publishing a half-page of blank white space on the front page to reflect where his Q&A would have been.

    PGN Publisher Mark Segal also took Obama to task on the editorial page, never revealing that he was an early Clinton supporter, having donated $1,000 to her campaign in early 2007.

    The Advocate interview should be up on the publication's website by tomorrow, according to a report in the Dallas Voice, and Obama campaign spokesman said it had been arranged before the whole PGN flap.

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    April 06, 2008

    Accessing those 1,200 federal benefits

    Posted by: Andoni

    Last week on Chris Mathews’ Hardball College Tour at West Chester College, Barack Obama was asked by a gay student if he supported civil marriage for same-sex couples. Obama answered that he did not support gay marriage but rather “strong civil unions,” where all 1,200 federal benefits of marriage are bestowed on gay couples in civil unions:

    Similarly, in her interview with the Philadelphia Gay News, Hillary Clinton said she would like to “extend the same access to federal benefits across the board” to couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships. She wasn’t as definitive as Obama and she didn’t reference the 1,200 benefits, but she did lean in the direction of wanting federal benefits for gay couples.

    My first thought as a guy person in a same-sex binational relationship was whether whoever was compiling this list of 1,200 benefits had included immigration rights on it. And then I wondered who is keeping this list anyway?

    A quick email to Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, got me a list of those 1,200 benefits, compiled by the General Accounting Office. To my relief, immigration is listed (Category 6, page 7). It also got me an interpretation of these benefits from the Freedom to Marry website.

    So with two presidential candidates who want to extend federal benefits to legally partnered same-sex couples, the question is how best to do it? Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act? That will only benefit the people in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage is legal, but not those in Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, California, Washington, Oregon or the District of Columbia -- all of which have some form of civil union or domestic partnership.

    Can federal benefits be extended to same sex couples in states that have partnership laws by simply passing a federal law mandating it? What about DOMA?

    As a non-attorney, I would argue that repealing DOMA, passed way back in 1996, is unnecessary. A new federal law recognizing gay partnerships for federal benefits would conflict with DOMA but be more recent -- the more recent federal law would govern. Still, for married gay couples in Massachusetts, DOMA would have to be repealed.

    Whether I'm right or not, it's passing strange that with two presidential candidates publicly advocating federal recognition of gay couples, we have not heard anything from our national organizations about how best to get the ball rolling.

    HRC, NGLTF, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Lambda Legal? I’m calling you out here.

    This is a big thing Obama and Clinton are proposing; a huge deal. I'm dismayed that no groundwork is being laid by our national leadership.

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    April 03, 2008

    Hillary's latest gay press chat

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    P1clintonhillary Hillary Clinton has once again granted an interview with the GLBT press, and the Philadelphia Gay News has done everything it could to reward her for the effort -- from a redesigned website that features the interview before the rest of the site, to a front page print edition that includes a segment of blank white space to reflect Barack Obama's failure to face questioning.

    Unfortunately, like the Blade and Gay People's Chron before it, PGN did not come to the table with completely clean hands. The interview -- and all the website and print trimmings -- were the handiwork of PGN publisher Mark Segal, who has already donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. Has the gay press joined Fox et al in completely abandoning the idea of neutrality? At least the Blade editor's endorsement was public record; Segal doesn't disclose his Clinton ties to readers.

    Pgn_obama The interview itself makes little news, asking two or three different ways whether gay couples should get equal federal legal recognition, something Clinton (and Obama) has been on record supporting for almost a year now. I was pleased to see that one of those repetitive questions was pegged to immigration rights, to which she responded:

    I think that that’s one of the biggest problems that we’ve got to contend with. Even states that have civil unions, domestic partnerships or even marriage laws are running into roadblocks with the federal government when it comes to federal benefits and privileges. Of course, immigration is a federal responsibility and I am going to do everything I can to eliminate any disparities in any benefits or rights under our law at the federal level so that all people will have available to them every right as an American citizen that they should, and that would include immigration law.

    There was no follow-up about why, if she feels that way, that Clinton (like Obama) has failed to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would do just that. Despite all the questions about federal recognition, Segal and his co-questioner also failed to ask why Clinton supports repealing only half of the Defense of Marriage Act, when Obama supports full repeal. Considering it's the only actual policy difference between the two on gay rights, the omission is pretty glaring.

    Several of the questions displayed a poor understanding of the law, like asking if she could simply wave away "Don't Ask Don't Tell" with an executive order or a "signing statement." No, she explained patiently.

    In a humorous aside, Hillary backed away from promising she would march in a Gay Pride parade as president -- do we really still crave affirmation that much? -- blaming it on the Secret Service, as if the Commander in Chief answers to them. The questioner praises her for marching in our parades as First Lady, though she only did so once -- in June 2000 in New York City -- when she was kneedeep in her campaign for the U.S. Senate there.

    The highlight of the interview, and the only real news, was an excellent question about what Clinton would do as president in response to governments -- from allies like Egypt and Iraq to enemies like Iran -- that treat their own gay populations brutally. Her answer was strong:

    I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy. There are a number of gross human-rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behavior so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.

    The State Department already documents human rights abuses against gays around the world and it is the basis for asylum claims under existing law. But a proactive president like Clinton describes could be of incalculable benefit to gays abroad.


    Mark Segal, the PGN publisher, is digging himself deeper into the credibility hole.  Here's an exchange of an interview he gave to the Philly Daily Examiner:

    You guys seem to really be behind Hilary …
    I did not say we are behind Hilary. I’m personally on the fence. The space was left open to show that we are willing to feature him equally.

    You could cut the suspense with the knife, trying to figure out who Segal/PGN will endorse -- there is no separation between editorial and sales since Segal runs roughshod over both. The only real question is whether he'll come clean with readers that all his shenanigans this week were behind a ruse of objectivity, given his previous $1,000 donation.

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    April 01, 2008

    Obama knocks the socks off NYC gays

    Posted by: Andoni

    "I've been to many events over the past 10 years of candidates running for office. This was the most forthright, eloquent, and detailed stuff I've heard from a politician [regarding gay issues]."

    That's according to Corey Johnson, one of the hosts of a Barack Obama fundraiser held the other night at the apartment of GLSEN founder and executive director Kevin Jennings -- right in Hillary Clinton's home turf, New York City.

    According to those present, Obama took on some of the toughest issues on the gay legislative agenda in his remarks without prompting and spoke with detail and candor that those in the audience were not used to hearing.

    On marriage equality, Obama again said he favored civil unions at this time, but left the door open for marriage at a future date. On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he said he supported a transgender-inclusive ENDA but did not think the votes were there in the Senate for that version of the bill.

    What surprised me was that Obama's speech was on gay issues and yet most of the questions following his 30-35 minutes of remarks were on non-gay issues. To me that means that he must have nailed every gay issue that was on peoples' minds or they wouldn't have switched to non gay issues during the Q & A.

    Obama repeated that his top three priorities if elected will be to safely extricate the U.S. from Iraq, pass affordable health care legislation and address greenhouse gases and the environment.

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    March 25, 2008

    Debunking the new Clinton metric

    Posted by: Chris

    Setting aside the obvious desperation of the Clinton campaign's search for some measure of primary support she can use to poach superdelegates (and now even pledged delegates), their latest metric just doesn't add up.

    Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who is backing Hillary Clinton, argued over the weekend that we ought to be looking not at pledged delegates or superdelegates or number of states won or popular vote or electability or even national polls -- since all of those favor Barack Obama -- but at the electoral votes available in the general election from the states she has won.

    The New York Times and other MSM applied the Bayh approach and show Clinton in the lead:

    So far, Mrs. Clinton has won states with a total of 219 Electoral College votes, not counting Florida and Michigan, while Mr. Obama has won states with a total of 202 electoral votes.

    The math problem with that conclusion is that it counts two states -- Nevada and Texas -- where Obama actually won more delegates, even though Clinton won more votes. Accounting for those two states, the electoral total would be:

    • Obama: 241
    • Clinton: 180

    So for Bayh's metric to work for Clinton, the argument would have to go something like this: Democrats ought to nominate the candidate who wins states representing the most electoral votes, with "wins" referring to the popular vote in each state, without regard to whether the state held caucuses (Nevada) or a mixed primary-caucus contest (Texas).

    It does have the elegant logic so common in self-serving Clintonian logic.

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    March 23, 2008

    Where's the 'sharp contrast'?

    Posted by: Chris


    The headline this Easter Sunday in the non-denominational Christian Today reads, "McCain's pastor a sharp contrast to Obama's," but that conclusion doesn't bear up to scrutiny:

    John McCain's Phoenix pastor, Dan Yeary, is a folksy patriotic Southern Baptist who opposes abortion and believes homosexuality to be a biblical sin, but says Christians have an obligation to love such sinners.

    That puts Yeary, who heads the church attended for the past 15 years by the US Republican presidential candidate firmly in the US Southern Baptist mainstream, and in line with the Republican Party.

    He offers a sharp contrast to Democratic contender Barack Obama's former preacher Jeremiah Wright, who has stirred controversy with his fiery comments on race and America.

    The comparison is false on its face. Yeary may well be within the mainstream of Southern Baptists but Wright is similarly within the mainstream of the black church, however incendiary the snippets from his sermons may have been to white Americans.

    I also fail to see any contrast in the suggestion that Wright is divisive but Yeary somehow is not. Yeary opposes abortion rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court for 35 years, and advocates second-class treatment of gays. What's worse, there is every indication that McCain agrees with his pastor on those points, in the religious and political sense, making his pastor's views much more clearly fair game for discussion.

    For example:

    The 69-year-old Yeary adheres to the Southern Baptist belief that gay marriage and homosexual relations go against Biblical scripture, hot-button issues for many in the United States.

    "The Bible is pretty clear about it, in my opinion it specifically calls it a sin. I also am a sinner and you are a sinner. ... Did Jesus Christ love homosexuals? I'm sure he did," Yeary said.

    This sounds remarkably light John McCain's fervent opposition to absolutely any form of legal recognition for gay relationships -- not just marriage or civil unions but even limited domestic partnerships.

    There's no indication, on the other hand, that Obama has taken any political cues from Wright's divisive views. To the contrary, Obama has insisted Wright is purely a spiritual mentor and has rejected, denounced and otherwise distanced himself from the controversial political views Wright has aired from the pulpit.

    If anything, we should be hearing less about Wright and more about McCain's pastor, and his other religious supporters like Pastor John Hagee, who famously claimed that Hurricane Katrina was intended by God to wipe out the gay Southern Decadence party set for that weekend.

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    March 22, 2008

    The gay case for McCain

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccainfalwell Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic is making the case that John McCain wouldn't be "so bad" for gay voters, no matter who the Democrats nominate. I've known and respected Jamie for years and published his columns in the Blade when he was still a student at Yale, but he's trying way too hard here.

    Much of what he argues will sound familiar to those who remember the Log Cabin Republicans' spirited defense of the Arizona senator, especially his "courageous" opposition to a federal marriage amendment, Let's remember that McCain attacked the measure as "un-Republican" because it violated states' rights -- a principle with a dubious civil rights history -- and not because it wrote intolerance into the U.S. Constitution.

    Jamie tries papering over McCain's unprincipled flip-flop on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance" who had no place in the GOP. "Sure, McCain spoke at Falwell's Liberty University in 2006," he writes, "but he didn't pander." Oh really? Well it was certainly no random graduation appearance:

    McCain's appearance came eight months after the founder of the Moral Majority visited him at his Senate office in what both men said was an effort to put their contentious past behind them. This weekend, Falwell rolled out the red carpet for his old adversary, assembling about 150 church leaders from around the country for a Friday night reception and later hosting a small, private dinner for the senator.

    This was purely politics, breaking bread with the conservative leader he once called "evil." Asked on "Meet The Press" last year whether he still believed Falwell was an "agent of intolerance," McCain said: "No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on."

    Jamie imagines that McCain's supposed hostility toward the religious right -- certainly kept well-disguised in recent years -- means he won't "feel the need to appease the anti-gay wing of his party." And yet there he was in 2006, endorsing Arizona's draconian anti-gay ballot measure, which not only banned gay marriage but also civil unions and limited domestic partnerships.

    Kirchick tries to excuse McCain's support for the Arizona measure -- historic for being the only gay marriage initiative rejected by voters -- by reminding us that John Kerry had also backed state amendments banning gay marriage. Then again, Kerry was one of a handful of senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, supported civil unions including federal recognition, not to mention ENDA, hate crimes and repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." And last I checked, Kerry was the Democrats' nominee in 2004, not 2008, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on record opposing even limited state marriage amendments, much less Arizona's bigoted overreach.

    Kirchick cites several examples of McCain's personal comfort around gay people, and no doubt that's correct. But we've been here before, haven't we? Those who knew George W. Bush were universal in praising his comfort with gay people, in and out of politics, and yet look where it got us. Since when is the absence of personal discomfort in the presence of homosexuals somehow a qualification for the presidency?

    Whatever gay Republicans and libertarians may think of McCain's views outside the realm of civil rights, the unmistakable reality is this: McCain's hostility to absolutely any form of legal protection whatsoever for gay relationships is consistent with his opposition to absolutely any form of protection for gays individually. That includes workplace protection, service in the military and even hate crime laws.

    McCain's gay allies may be relieved that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee didn't win the GOP nomination, but McCain's political record remains one of ardent gay rights opposition -- worse even that George W. Bush when he ran in 2000. This is progress?

    (Photo of McCain and Falwell via New York Times)

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    March 21, 2008

    Richardson to endorse Obama

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamarichardsonclinton_2 Barack Obama receives some great news at the end of the most difficult week of his campaign. The AP is reporting that he'll receive an endorsement on Friday from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson:

    Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, is endorsing Obama for president, calling him a "once-in-a- lifetime leader" who can unite the nation and restore America's international leadership. Richardson dropped out of the Democratic race in January, and is to appear with Obama on Friday at a campaign event in Portland, Ore.

    The backing from Richardson, who was heavily wooed by both the Clintons, bucks up Obama's national security credibility, given Richardson's history as Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations and success as a "roving diplomatic troubleshooter," as the AP puts it, negotiating the release of U.S. hostages and handling delicate negotiations with North Korea, Cuba and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Richardson certainly knows what it takes to respond effectively to that mythical 3 a.m. phone call.

    Richardson will also bolster Obama with Latinos, who until now have largely supported Hillary Clinton.

    Perhaps the most encouraging result of this endorsement is the possible selection of Richardson as Obama's running mate. Richardson had his problems on the campaign trail, but he can help Obama in the general election geographically, demographically and on the hot-button issue of national security experience.

    It's also worth noting that Richardson was probably the second best president candidate on gay rights -- gaffes aside -- behind Obama himself. These two candidates at the top of the ticket should generate enthusiasm from LGBT voters of all political stripes.

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    March 20, 2008

    Say anything, do anything (IV)

    Posted by: Chris

    Bayhclinton Just when you think the Clintons will engage in any tactic, no matter how sleazy, or make any argument, no matter how sneaky and specious, they set new lows -- almost by the hour. As the mathematical impossibility of Hillary's nomination effort sink in, the growing desperation is resulting in a whole host of tactics that alternatively make me laugh, shake my head or vomit a little inside my mouth.

    The latest from Hillaryland:

    • Because the Clinton campaign knows that they will lose the pledged delegate count and must convince the superdelegates to overturn that result, they've settled on two arguments both of which are fundamentally race-based. The first is that Obama can't win white working class voters. The analysis suggests Obama trails in this demographic because of some failing of his, and no doubt some white working class males simply don't like him. But there's also no doubt that racism is at play here, and defaulting the Democratic Party nomination, despite the majority of pledged delegates and popular vote, is unconscionable. That the Clinton campaign would explictly use race to argue against Obama's candidacy is abhorrent.
    • The second argument is also explicitly racial, based on Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright. You won't hear Hillary Clinton or anyone on her campaign talk about it openly -- campaign chief Maggie Williams has issued a stern edict against any such utterance. Instead, it's the focus of behind-the-scenes arguments made to superdelegates: "Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said they had spent recent days making the case to wavering superdelegates that Mr. Obama’s association with Mr. Wright would doom their party in the general election. That argument could be Mrs. Clinton’s last hope for winning this contest." (New York Times)
    • Asked today in Indiana if her surrogates were using the Wright controversy to sway superdelegates, Clinton responded coyly: "Well my campaign has been making the case that I am the most electable." A follow-up question about whether the Wright flap was an example of Obama's unelectability, she ignored the question.
    • As part of swaying superdelegates, Clinton must overtake Obama in popular votes because she cannot in pledged delegates. Keep in mind that the "popular vote" measure is itself a misnomer because it only includes primary states, ignoring voters in caucus states entirely. Even still, winning the overall popular vote mathematically requires a re-vote in Michigan and Florida, and that both be won handily by Clinton. As a result, Clinton ratcheted up the (ridiculous) rhetoric.
    • Failure to conduct a re-vote in Michigan would "disenfranchise" voters there and be "un-American,"  Clinton claimed in a quick trip to Detroit that cast the re-vote issue in civil rights terms, citing the barriers to office she faced as a woman. This is the same Hillary Clinton who said last October, "It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything." The difference? Last October she was on a New Hampshire radio call-in show, reassuring voters there that their primary's early influential status wasn't threatened.
    • To make the case yesterday, Clinton claimed in Michigan that "when others made a decision to remove their names from the ballot, I didn't, because I believed your voices and your votes should count." Back on in New Hampshire last October, in addition to saying those votes weren't "going to count for anything," she claimed she left her name on the ballot to protect Democrats in the general election.
    • Chastising Obama for removing his name from the Michigan ballot, the Clinton campaign argued, "There aren’t many second chances in life but Senator Obama has one now and should ask the people of Michigan for their vote." How Orwellian is that? The January primary was invalid under DNC rules, as Clinton herself acknowledged, and it is Clinton -- not Obama -- who is pressing for a re-vote to preserve any semblance of her viability in the race for pledged delegates and popular vote.
    • The Obama campaign has challenged any Michigan re-vote that disqualifies everyone who voted in the GOP primary there in January, given that voters generally knew the Democratic primary was invalid and the only vote they could cast that would matter would be on the GOP side. The Clinton response? Simply to cite the DNC rule against allowing double-voting in both parties' primaries, as if that answer the concern.
    • The Clinton campaign also dismissed out of hand the Obama campaign's argument that a June primary is unfair to college-age voters because school will be out of session and Michigan law does not allow first-time voters to cast absentee ballots.

    Is it a surprise to anyone that Gallup finds this?:


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    Wright defies convention on gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Jeremiahwright Barack Obama and many other parishioners of the Trinity UCC in Chicago have said that Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been unfairly caricatured by the brief excerpts of sermons playing in endless loop on cable TV and YouTube. 

    It does seem that whatever ugly intolerance and divisiveness he spews on those videos, Wright has been more accepting of gay parishioners than many in the black church, especially those who preach "black liberation theology":

    As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.

    At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians—a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.

    None of that excuses Wright's hateful rhetoric in the pulpit, but it gives a fuller version of the man than we've been getting.

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    March 18, 2008

    Obama's Wright Stuff (III)

    Posted by: Chris

    Barack Obama's speech today in Philadelphia on the race-related controversy raised his pastor's remarks was, in the grand scheme of things, both brilliant and uplifting. He spoke about the racial anxieties of not just black Americans but whites and Latinos as well, and he recognized in a very rare way in politics that real grievances run in all directions.

    Here's a video of the speech, in case you missed it:

    In some ways the furor over the incendiary sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright played right to Obama's strengths -- a controversy he could address with a powerful speech, expertly delivered. Certainly anyone with an open mind who heard Obama speak so forcefully about his love for country and faith will accept that no part of Obama agrees with his pastor's outrageous statements.

    For the immediate future, however, Obama did not do all that he could have to relieve legitimate doubts raised by the controversy. He has certainly used all the right words to condemn Reverend Wright's race-baiting and anti-Americanism in a way that will satisfy almost everyone. This primary season is already too consumed with Hillary's game of rejecting vs denouncing, etc., and it's downright ridiculous to see conservative pundits joining in now, since they generally abhor such silly semantics when practiced by the P.C. left.

    Still, Obama would have dealt with his political problems more effectively if he responded to the utterances with specificity. He mentioned several in passing, including Wright's attempt to cast Israel as solely responsible for Middle East violence. But it would be reassuring, for example, to hear Obama directly refute Wright's exploitation of the urban myth that the U.S. government somehow infected African Americans with AIDS. That sort of ludicrous paranoia doesn't just sow distrust toward the government and white people, but is at a more fundamental level an attempt to deny the very existence of black gay and bisexual men. (President Ahmadinejad, anyone?)

    But as a journalist I know that the key to settling a controversy is to give satisfactory answers to the lingering questions, the way Obama tried to with his three hours of meeting with Chicago journalists over the Mike Rezco matter. Yet on Wright, at least today, Obama may have succeeded in raising as many "nagging questions," as he called them, as he did settling others.

    When it comes to specifics, Obama said:

    Did I know [Reverend Wright] to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy?  Of course.  Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church?  Yes.  Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?  Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. 

    It was a mistake to be so stingy with details, when the media will not let up until he is more forthcoming. What type of controversial statements did Obama here? On what topics? How frequently? Did he hear about other controversial statements from other parishioners? On what topics? How frequently? Did he ever raise with Wright directly his objections to any of these remarks? Did he and Michelle Obama consider leaving the congregation? You get the idea.

    At the same time I recognize the political reality that Obama needs to answer these additional questions, I would also like to channel Hillary Clinton just long enough to complain that this whole line of questioning is being unfairly applied in practice.

    As I've noted before, there is a real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just  candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons. And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- were we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?

    The videotapes of Wright's sermons made this an irresistible controversy, but the media should at the very least ask conservatives using Wright to tar Obama whether the sermons by Huckabee and by Romney's pastor are similarly fair game.

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    March 17, 2008

    Barack Obama's Wright stuff (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    There's been no shortage of opportunities to hear Barack Obama condemning the racially incendiary sermons of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and explaining their relationship. A quick list:

    • Blog post by Obama on Huffington Post: Uses strong condemnatory language and clarifying that Obama wasn't in the pews when any of Wright's "greatest hits" were uttered.
    • Interview with Anderson Cooper: By far the best interview in the bunch; Cooper presses Obama on whether he at least heard secondhand about Wright's post-9/11 sermon blaming the attacks on the U.S. and saying rather than "God Bless America," blacks should say "God Damn America."  Obama makes the interesting point that Wright, like Geraldine Ferraro, is the product of a different time, and still harbors anger and frustration from that era. Obama sees himself part of a new generation that while benefiting from the efforts of Wright's, nonetheless moving beyond seeing the world through "a racial lens."  Funny -- I can't imagine Hillary Clinton drawing the same kind of contrast with Ferraro, positioning her presidential candidacy as moving beyond gender victimization.
    • Interview with Major Garrett on Fox News: The first third is a sophomoric set-up by Garrett that Obama handles well. Eventually Garrett moves on to the crux, whether Obama would have quit the church if he had been aware of the sermons.
    • Interview with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC: I've linked to and commented on this one earlier.
    • Obama's remarks yesterday in Plainfield, Ind.: Obama makes a powerful analogy to a speech by Robert F. Kennedy the night Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, and the choice we have to allow hate to divide us even further or to tread a common path that embraces commonalities.
    • Interview with the Chicago Tribune: Second half of the interview focuses on Wright.
    • Obama campaign posts YouTube video on Wright:

    Some will no doubt never be satisfied that Obama has sufficiently denounced Wright's rhetoric, but that part is settled for me. I also accept his unequivocal statement that he was not present when the sermons were given and had not heard about them secondhand.

    If you have been a regular churchgoer or have spent time around regular churchgoers -- I have both -- then you know it's common to hear someone say, "I just love Rev. Smith. He's so kind and his sermons or so powerful -- except when he starts talking about [subject x] and then he just goes off the deep end."

    The lingering trouble I have is based on how fundamentally Wright's rhetoric conflicts with the core message of Obama's campaign. Maybe words really don't matter, as Hillary keeps claiming, if Wright could simultaneously preach such hate while providing someone with Obama's beliefs a happy church home.

    What's more, Obama's appeal for so may is based upon his ability to heal divisions and bring people together. But will Obama really be effective in reaching the rest when he couldn't even reach his own pastor and (from the video it appears) many members of his own church?

    06huckabee450 That said, there is a very real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just  candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons.

    And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- are we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?

    This Wright story still has legs and deservedly so, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic that it will prove a "Sister Souljah moment" that establishes Obama's own principles in contrast to even some of his closest associates.

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    March 16, 2008

    Bill's excellent gay military adventure

    Posted by: Chris

    PowellclintonThere he goes again.

    Two months ago, Bill Clinton tried to rewrite the history on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," making it seem that he and Colin Powell had come up with a policy that "meant literally that -- that people would be free to live their lives as long as they didn't go march in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform -- in uniform -- and talk about it on duty they would be all right."

    As I pointed out at the time, the former president described the policy exactly backward, since it actually OKs going to gay bars and marching in Pride parades -- neither of which necessarily mean you're gay -- but strictly prohibits doing anything in a soldier or sailor's private life (out of uniform) that involves "homosexual acts" (sex, kissing, holding hands) or "homosexual statements (coming out, love letters, etc.)

    The reason for Bill's revisionist history was clear: he was trying to explain away why he signed into law a discriminatory policy that dishonored the military service of thousands of gay men and lesbians, and resulted in dramatic increases in gay-related discharges.

    Back in January, gay groups mostly did nothing in response to Clinton's big gay whopper, probably because most are led by Hillary Clinton supporters. Only Log Cabin called him to the carpet. At my request, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network did issue a written statement from director Aubrey Sarvis, though only to me in an email:

    As you point out, there were, indeed, some factual inaccuracies in President Clinton’s statement about "€œDon'€™t Ask, Don't Tell."€ Indeed, regardless of the intention behind the law, the reality is that it has not served the best interests of service members, our country or our national security.  Since its implementation, nearly 12,000 men and women have been dismissed under the law. …

    President Clinton's comments also miss a key part of serving under "Donâ€'t Ask, Don't Tell."€  Military members cannot be out to anyone, at anytime, while serving under the law.  Statements to friends, family members or anyone else are grounds for dismissal from the armed forces, as they have been since day one.  The law, indeed, practically prevents any gay American, who is out in anyway, from serving in the military.

    Sarvis also indicated in the statement that SLDN has "made sure that Senator Clinton'€™s campaign is aware of our concerns regarding the President's remarks."

    Well, whatever SLDN said it didn't stick. Because there he went again this week, repeating his false facts about "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in an interview with college journalists:

    It would have been a better policy if it had been implemented the way Gen. [Colin] Powell and I agreed to implement it. I think we may have the support now in Congress to get rid of it altogether. That's what we should do. We should do what every other major country has done and allow gays to serve honorably in the military. I'm not defending 'Don't Ask, Don’t Tell' on the merits. Our guys came to us and said, 'Look. If you don't agree to this, they’re going to bury you. You will have nothing.

    It's classic Clinton, claiming he's not defending "DADT" when that's exactly what he's doing by suggesting some unseen Pentagon ne'er do wells enforced the policy in a different way than he and Powell had agreed upon. DADT was adopted in the first year of Clinton's presidency, if there was an enforcement problem then why didn't the Commander in Chief do something about it? Was he not ready to lead on Day 1?

    In fact he wasn't, ironically. In this week's interview, Clinton portrays himself in an impossible political bind. But those of us who were in Washington at the time remember like it was yesterday how the president rolled over with absolutely no fight, agreeing to the "compromise" policy foisted on him by Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.

    Ultimately it's a good thing of course that Bill Clinton supports his wife in repealing the policy, even as he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that it was the policy -- his policy -- that was wrong and discriminatory, and not how it was implemented by the military.

    But Clinton isn't the only one who needs to come clean. Enough of the silence from gay groups on this. It's incumbent on SLDN, the Human Rights Campaign and the Task Force to proactively issue statements that correct the historical record.

    For those who are interested, Clinton also offered some insight into why he promised during his 1992 presidential campaign to repeal the outright ban on military service by gays that existed previously. Follow the jump for that.

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    Obama doing well with gay voters

    Posted by: Chris

    Hilaryb_1 Former Blade editor Lisa Keen has an interesting analysis this week that shows Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are closely splitting the vote in districts with large gay populations:

    Counting almost 34,000 votes in 39 heavily gay precincts across eight cities, Clinton has won 52 percent of the vote, compared to Barack Obama’s 48 percent. The neighborhood precincts surveyed included those in Boston, Dallas, Key West, Los Angeles County, Northampton, Mass., Provincetown, San Francisco and South Beach.

    Vote counts from those precincts in Houston considered to have large LGBT populations were not yet available.

    Obama was the preferred candidate in the heavily gay neighborhoods of Boston, Northampton, San Francisco and Chicago; Clinton won in Dallas, Key West, Los Angeles County, Provincetown, South Beach and New York (the latter based on exit polling).

    The numbers offer a striking contrast to those gay exit polls from California and New York purporting to show Clinton with the overwhelming advantage among lesbian, gay and bisexual voters: 63-29 in California and 59-36 in New York. I've already offered some reasons for why these exit polls provide a distorted view of LGB support, but another is relevant when they are compared to the voting in gay districts.

    Exit polls -- like the Knowledge Networks online survey that surfaced during the transgender debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- are general public surveys that include anyone who self-identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual. These surveys include large numbers of people -- mostly bisexuals -- who don't necessarily self-identify as a part of the "LGBT community" and are not active participants of it.

    Putting aside the more incendiary question of which is the more valuable measure, it's clear given the various disparities that they measure two very different things.

    (Table of gay voting districts via Dallas Voice)

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    March 15, 2008

    Barack Obama's Wright stuff

    Posted by: Chris

    15wright_190 Color me disappointed. The message of unity and "new politics" championed by Barack Obama is one that has resonated deeply for me, after years of watching in frustration while bitter partisanship and Rovian wedge politics undermined the common ground our system depends upon.

    But it's hard to square Obama's message and rhetoric with the incredibly incendiary racism and anti-Americanism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years. You've no doubt seen the videos of Wright exhorting his congregation to replace "God Bless America" with "God Damn America"; or when he rails in support of Obama over Hillary Clinton because he knows black America is held down by "rich white people" and she's never been called the "N-word."

    In one sense, Wright is only the latest in what appears an unending stream of supporters of each of the three remaining presidential candidates with outrageous views that must be denounced, rejected, repudiated, whatever. It's a game Obama tried to avoid last fall but now is fully a part of. But Wright's relationship to the candidate is of a different order than John McCain's John Hagee, Clinton's Geraldine Ferraro or Obama's Louis Farrakhan and Donnie McClurkin.

    The Trinity UCC pastor has played a much more central and formative role in Obama's personal development, even providing the inspiration for the candidate's signature "audacity of hope." Only it's hate, not hope, that Wright is preaching in the videos making the rounds in the media, the internet and (of course) the right-wing talk shows.

    I've waited to hear how Obama would respond to the specific sermons that have come to light, and late yesterday he took some important steps in a blog post on HuffPo and an interview with Keith Olbermann to put Wright's outrageousness in context.

    First and foremost, Obama forcefully and unconditionally condemned Wright's rhetoric, which couldn't have been easy on a personal level:

    I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

    He also confirmed that he hadn't been at the church when those sermons were delivered and insisted they weren't characteristic of the pulpit message he absorbed for 20 years:

    The sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn. The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation.

    That's the crux of the matter for me. If in 30 years of preaching Rev. Wright got (very) carried away a few times that have been cherry-picked by the media or oppo research, that's one thing. But if Obama sat through versions of that hateful message on more than very rare occasions over two decades, then it risks undermining the credibility that lies at the heart of his unique appeal.

    Late yesterday, Wright dropped off the Obama campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committe, certainly the right decision for all concerned. But it will take more reporting about their relationship and more openness from Obama to sort through the contours of this story. Whatever effect it might have on his candidacy, short or long term, this isn't a two-day story to be swept under the rug. And better to air it now than in October.

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    March 13, 2008

    Geraldine Ferraro as David Duke?

    Posted by: Chris

    MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on the Geraldine Ferraro-flap, comparing the former V.P. nominee to Klansman turned Republican David Duke, among other things:

    As with most Olbermann rants, there are some solid points buried amidst the overwrought prose, but can he spare us all the drama? Does he really take himself so seriously?

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    March 12, 2008

    Obama on Ferraro and race

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamamike Barack Obama's remarks today in response to Geraldine Ferraro "threaded a careful needle," as Ben Smith put it, and got it exactly right as far as I'm concerned.

    First, he rejected in strong terms her claim that Obama is "lucky" that he's black because he wouldn't have been successful as a presidential candidate otherwise:

    I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party. I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Sen. Clinton’s.

    Ferraro's upside-down logic is as ridiculous as Gloria Steinem's similar delusion, when the feminist icon claimed Hillary Clinton's gender was a greater obstacle to her candidacy than Barack Obama's race was to his. Keep in mind that there've been only five black U.S. senators or governors since Reconstruction. By contrast, there have been 35 female U.S. senators and 29 female governors.

    And even though Ferraro has complained repeatedly, including tonight on the "NBC Nightly News" that  the Obama campaign has called her a racist, Obama expressly refused to go there at a press conference:

    He said Ferraro's remarks had been "ridiculous" and "divisive," but he also described his own wariness about allegations. … "I don't like to throw out words like 'racist,'" Obama said. "I would defy anybody to look though the rhetoric for the last year-and-a-half or the last year and a couple months to find one instance in which I have said some criticism of me was racially based."

    Of course Ferraro is not a racist, but she is playing that favorite game of identity politics -- my demographic burden is heavier than yours -- and her claim happens to be patently ridiculous when applied to a black man named Barack Obama running for president.

    The only explanation of Ferraro's comments that I've heard that rings truer for me came from Chris Matthews, who argued on MSNBC's "Hardball" that she really meant that the central thread of Obama's appeal is that he can, as a black politician, transcend racial politics in a way that a white politician could not.

    Also on that program, Pat Buchanan (of all people) noted that a lot of white voters feel a greater excitement voting for Obama because they feel like they're doing some constructive to put the nation's bitter racial history behind us.

    Those are both valid observations about how Obama's race has played an important role in his overall appeal to "a new politics" of unity rather than division. They're also very different than what Ferraro said, even before she started playing racial victim herself as she dug her hole deeper and deeper.

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    Should delegates be proportional?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Because the Republicans have winner-take-all primaries and caucuses and the Democrats don't, the GOP already has a nominee and the Democrats don't, right? Not really.

    A number of my Clinton-supportive friends are bemoaning how Jesse Jackson talked Michael Dukakis back in 1988 into changing the party rules and assigning delegates by proportional vote. If only we had winner take all, they claim, Hillary would be the nominee because she won all those big states. Not true.

    Using the Obama campaign's delegate chart posted today by Marc Ambinder, I went back and assigned delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Texas presented a problem because they have two separate elections, a primary and a caucus on the same day. Since Clinton won the primary, I gave her all the delegates from the primary, and since Obama won the caucus, I assigned him all the delegates from the caucus.

    The total pledged delegate count under the current rules assigned proportionally are:

    • Obama    1,411
    • Clinton    1,250

    If it had been winner take all, Clinton would have a very slight lead, but certainly not the nomination:

    • Clinton     1,363
    • Obama     1,324

    Under winner-take-all rules, they would be separated by only 39 pledged delegates. Going forward, Obama is likely to close even this hypothetical gap. Most importantly, it would be impossible for either to get to the magic number of 2,025 to get the nomination -- without superdelegates, anyway.

    So even under a winner-take-all system, the nominee would be decided by superdelegates. After the nomination is finally decided and you hear calls for Democrats to change to winner-take–all system like the Republicans to avoid a repeat of this year, remember that it would not have made a difference.

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    'Gerard' Ferraro v. 'Barackla' Obama

    Posted by: Chris

    Ferraroclinton Aside from the obvious race-baiting in Geraldine Ferraro's pronouncements about the reason for the success of Barack Obama, she's also just plain wrong. Originally, Ferraro said that the reason for Obama's success is that he's black. She's quick to add, as in this Fox News clip, that she has long said that the reason for her nomination as vice president in 1984 was that she is a woman.

    "In 1984, if my name were Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro," she said, "I would never have been the nominee for vice president."

    Maybe so, considering she got the nomination based on one vote (Walter Mondale's), but what does that have to do with Obama? If all it took was being black, then Jesse Jackson would have been the Democratic Party nominee in 1984, not Mondale (and again in 1988 rather than Michael Dukakis).

    Then there's this absolute gem from Politico's Ben Smith: Who said this in April 1988: "If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race." That's right; Geraldine Ferraro. So being black was the primary reason Jackson was able to run and yet somehow for Obama it explains not only why he's running but beating a candidate with enormous built-in establishment advantages? The identity politics explanation for everything.

    The real reason that Obama has succeeded is that his candidacy is about much more than his race or, as the Clintons like to claim, a speech he gave in 2002. It's about a "new politics" that eschews the fear-mongering and sleaze of the past by appealing to the best in people rather than their worst. It's also about a candidate whose positions on the issues jive with voters and who has run a far more effective campaign than the ultimate pros, the Clintons.

    The second reason Ferraro is wrong is about Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Because Hillary Clinton's gender has far more to do with her candidacy than Obama's race has to do with his. I don't say that because I think Hillary's success is because women and male feminists are enamored of the idea of a woman president -- which would be the sexist equivalent of Ferraro's jaw-dropper. I say it for the simple reason that being the wife of the president eclipses by a mile all other reasons for her political starpower, subsequent Senate career and White House run.

    Ferraro's has things bassackwards, just as Gloria Steinem did before her.

    (May 2005 photo of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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    Obamomentum returns

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATES: At the end of the post.

    Just one week after Hillary Clinton claimed to have recaptured the Democratic primary momentum with big wins in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, the reality of Barack Obama's steady grind to the nomination is again sinking in:

    • The final tallies from Texas still aren't in, but CNN has not predicted that Obama actually won five more pledged delegates there than Clinton based on the caucuses and the weighted primary system. Remember the warnings from Bill Clinton and James Carville that Hillary had to win both Ohio and Texas to stay viable? Well, she didn't.
    • Obama's lopsided, 24-point victory in Mississippi primary yesterday, following the Wyoming caucuses on Sunday, means he has won 15 out of 17 contests since Super Duper Tuesday. Clinton can only claim Ohio and tiny Rhode Island.
    • The 61-39% margin in Mississippi means Obama likely netted 7 delegates and 2 more in Wyoming, matching the 9 delegates from Clinton's "huge" Ohio win.
    • While Geraldine Ferraro continues digging an early grave by claiming she's a victim (?!) of racism, the reality is that Clinton has benefited in both Ohio and Mississippi from working class whites who won't back a black man for president, along with Republicans voting for her in open primaries (like Ohio and MIssissippi) because (as Rush has urged) she is the easier opponent for McCain.

    Andrew Sullivan amplifies on my last point above with this shocker: If Republicans hadn't voted in the Democratic primary (now that theirs is decided), Obama would have won by 40 points -- 68 to 28 -- instead of 24 -- 61 to 37. Almost no one thinks these are independent-leaning Republicans who actually prefer Clinton over Obama. They are Limbaugh Ditto Heads pushing the easier general election foe -- or, more charitably to Clinton, just prolonging the bitter Democratic primary -- along with some white conservatives who no doubt can't fathom a black man in the White House.

    Check out this graphic from the Jed Report:


    A few more nuggets from the Jed Report:

    • 24% of Clinton's voters were Republican
    • 24% of Clinton's voters had strongly favorable opinions about John McCain
    • 31% of Clinton's voters thought she was NOT honest and trustworthy

    These are not independent-leaning Republicans who prefer Clinton over Obama. These are conservatives out to "game" the Democratic Primary.

    I would also add this: Assuming the one-quarter of Clinton's voters who were Republican were also white -- a very safe assumption -- then the "racial divide" was not nearly so dramatic in Mississippi among those actually voting for the candidate of their choice, rather than "gaming" the primary.

    Now math isn't necessarily my strong point, but if you take away those 24% of Clinton votes in Mississippi away from her, the racial divide shrinks considerably. Instead of winning the white vote by a whopping 70-26, Hillary wins it by 63-37. That 37% of the white vote for Obama is better than he performed in South Carolina (24%), Alabama (25%), Tennessee (26%) and Louisiana (30%), though less than in Georgia (43%).

    Some of those white Republicans who voted for Clinton in Mississippi may well have been legitimate supporters, but still the overall point holds that the racial divide was greatly exacerbated by the white GOP Ditto Heads "gaming" the vote.

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    March 11, 2008

    Calling the Clintons out on their 'ole okey doke'

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamaveep First Hillary Clinton and then Bill floated the trial balloon that if nominated she might select Barack Obama as her running mate. The cynical ploy was intended to seduce those who like Obama into thinking they could vote for Hillary and get "two for one," much like she and Bill both have argued about how their marriage offers voters a nudge-nudge, wink-wink "two for one" co-presidency.

    Well yesterday, Barack Obama has laid waste to the claim, calling it "the old 'okey doke'" and an attempt to "bamboozle" voters. Good for him, and in the process he showed some of the "toughness" that pundits like Maureen Dowd (N.Y. Times registration required) are forever demanding of him:

    “Now first of all with all due respect, with all due respect," he said here during a town hall meeting. "I won twice as many states as Sen. Clinton. I won more of the popular vote than Sen. Clinton. I have more delegates than Sen. Clinton. So I don’t’ know how someone in second place can offer the vice presidency to someone in first place. If I was in second place I could understand but I am in first place right now.

    He referenced comments from Bill Clinton in 1992 that his “most important criteria” for vice president was that person must be ready to be commander in chief.

    “They have been spending the last two or three weeks” arguing that he is not ready to be commander in chief, Obama said.

    “I don’t understand. If I am not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?” Obama asked the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation during his defense. “I don’t understand.”

    “You can’t say he is not ready on day one, then you want him to be your vice president,” Obama continued. “I just want everybody to absolutely clear: I am not running for vice president. I am running to be president of the United States of America.”

    I happened to catch Obama make these remarks live on CNN and some yelps of "yes" could be heard throughout Shaw, the D.C. neighborhood where I'm staying for my month long visit back in the States. But to be honest, the first argument (I'm the frontrunner here) came off a bit cocky, which is a danger for Obama at times. The second (either I'm ready on Day One or not) is a home run, as far as I'm concerned.

    Here it is on video if you prefer to watch:

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    March 09, 2008

    Obama, Islam and the bigots

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamawajirap_450x499_2 There's plenty I agree with in Nicholas Kristof's column in today's New York Times about the use of Muslim rumors as a "slur" against Barack Obama.

    Kristof is surely right, for example, that "the most monstrous bigotry in this election isn’t about either race or sex. It’s about religion. The whispering campaigns allege that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim planning to impose Islamic law on the country." Apparently there are even rumors that the Illinois senator is the Antichrist. How repugnant.

    But Kristof commits the usual "multiculturist" error when he conflates intolerance toward intolerance as simply another form of bigotry; in this case, arguing that only a prejudiced voter would reject a candidate because he or she is Muslim:

    Even if a prejudice is directed to a matter of choice, like religion or long hair, it’s still prejudice. It’s possible to believe that Catholics have every right to be president while opposing a particular Catholic candidate who would ban contraception; likewise, it’s possible to believe that Muslims have every right to hold office without necessarily embracing the candidacy of particular Muslims who advocate enveloping all women in burkas.

    That's simplistic, at least as applied to Islam, when you remember that advocating burkhas is hardly the only example of Muslim bigotry. What if Islam were universally prejudiced toward particular groups? Is a voter bigoted or prejudiced for refusing to a vote for a candidate who is bigoted, simply because that prejudice is rooted in religion?

    Prejudice is prejudice, even if it is dressed up as religion. In fact, when it comes to racism and sexism -- not to mention prejudice toward other religions and toward the non-religious -- bigotry is almost always dressed up as religion. And that's certainly the case with anti-gay bigotry.

    After 9/11, I assigned reporters at the Washington Blade the task of finding out whether there existed a "moderate" branch of Islam that accepts gay people, gay relationships, and embraces individual sexual freedom. After research into Islam as practiced in the West and elsewhere, they located a very, very small number of individual Muslim thinkers willing to speak publicly in favor of fair and equal treatment of gays and respect sexual freedom. But there was nothing approaching a "reformed" or "moderate" or "progressive" branch of Islam that does so.

    While there are Muslim politicians who believe in "the separation of mosque and state," I'm not aware of any whose secular views are separated far enough from their anti-gay faith that they support the fair and equal treatment of gay people and same-sex relationships.

    If that analysis isn't accurate, or such a school of Muslim thought has since found favor with significant numbers, then I'd be pleased for someone direct me to it. Otherwise, it is fair to say that a Muslim candidate for public office has a much greater burden of proving that (a) he or she isn't prejudiced toward gays, and that (b) his or her (universally anti-gay) faith won't influence decisions of public policy.

    If the test for Muslim bigotry were limited to support for burkhas, a belief by no means widespread among the world's Muslims, then Kristoff would be right that generalizations about faith would be grossly unfair and in and of themselves prejudiced. But he's wrong to insist that gays and those committed to fight against anti-gay prejudice are somehow bigots ourselves if we take note of the long and widespread history of anti-gay intolerance among Muslims -- not to mention the unwillingness of Muslim politicians to speak out against anti-gay bias, the way Obama has repeatedly done so among Christians. (Actually, how very un-Muslim of him!)

    Western Europe is already paying the price for following a path of multiculturalism that goes so far as to tolerate everything, including intolerance, and for calling any sort of intolerance bigotry, even if it's intolerance of bigotry itself. Let's not repeat their error here.

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    You read it here first

    Posted by: Chris

    Taegan Goddard's respected Political Insider offers a Democratic primary end-game scenario that will sound familiar to those who read Andoni's post earlier this week:

    It's clear that for either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic presidential nomination, they'll have to win the majority of superdelegates at the convention. But what if the superdelegates split right down the middle like Democrats across the nation? …

    The answer might be for someone else entirely to step into the race at the convention. The most likely candidate would be Al Gore. Most Democrats think he was robbed of the presidency in 2000 by the Supreme Court and could be the only one to unite the party.

    My own view is that Hillary's momentum from Ohio and Texas this week will be very short-lived, considering the final Texas numbers will soon show that Obama actually won more delegates in the state. Yesterday's decisive Wyoming result and Obama's expected lopsided victory in Mississippi on Tuesday should finish off the Clinton boomlet.

    Following that, the mathematics will become even clearer, especially if Pennsylvania appears a toss-up, and more superdelegates will move to Obama's camp to put an end to things.

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    March 08, 2008

    Say anything, do anything (III)

    Posted by: Chris

    Following up on my post yesterday about Hillary Clinton's cynical ploy for Obama sympathizers by floating a "dream ticket" with the Illinois senator as her vice president, it now appears that Bill Clinton is officially in on the act. Campaigning in Mississippi, a state Obama is expected to dominate, Bill pulled the same schtick as Hillary had in the state the day before, tantalizing voters who like Obama with the idea they could vote for Hillary and still see Obama on the ticket:

    She said yesterday and she said the day after the big wins in Texas and Ohio and Rhode Island that she was very open to that and I think she answered the explicitly yes yesterday. I know that she has always been open to it, because she believes that if you can unite the energy and the new people that he's brought in and the people in these vast swats of small town and rural America that she's carried overwhelmingly, if you had those two things together she thinks it'd be hard to beat. … If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force.

    The Clintons know full well, of course, that their hints carry absolutely no obligation, and we know full well that the suggestion runs contrary to the weeks' long barrage of attacks on Obama unprepared, untested and unready to be in the White House.

    Credit Obama for having no part in this "dream ticket" parlor game:

    You won't see me as a vice presidential candidate -- you know, I'm running for president. We have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and have a higher popular vote, and I think we can maintain our delegate count -- but you know, what I'm really focused on right now, because all that stuff is premature, is winning this nomination and changing the country.

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    March 07, 2008

    Say anything, do anything (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Clintonrendell For awhile Hillary Clinton let surrogates float the idea that she might tap Barack Obama as her running mate if she wins the Democratic nomination -- creating the type of "dream ticket" that many (extremely unrealistic) voters apparently want. Yesterday it was Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; today it was Hillary herself:

    Speaking to voters in Mississippi, where Sen. Barack Obama is expected to do well in next week's primary, Clinton said, "I've had people say, 'Well I wish I could vote for both of you. Well, that might be possible some day. But first I need your vote on Tuesday." It is the second time this week that she has hinted at a joint ticket with the Illinois senator; he has not ruled it out but says it is premature to be having those discussions.

    This really is the height of cynicism. She goes into a state that Obama is expected to win handily and makes a play for his supporters by suggesting -- with absolutely no obligation -- that they can vote for her guilt-free and she might bring him on board as veep.

    It's not the first time she's used the wink and nod to suggest to primary voters that supporting her is a two-for-one deal. The active role of her husband, the ex-president, in her campaign has sent the not so subtle message that electing her would create a co-presidency in a very real sense.

    It's symptomatic, of course, of her willingness to say anything and do anything to win, even when she knows that it's mathematically next to impossible.

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    March 06, 2008

    Draft Gore … or salute President McCain

    Posted by: Andoni

    Algore The Democratic Party appears to be in an out-of-control death spiral. As Kevin pointed out yesterday, it is impossible for Hillary Clinton to surpass Barack Obama's pledged delegate count in the remaining primaries and caucuses, yet she continues in the race. As I’ve said before, I see a coming trainwreck.

    The problem is that neither Obama nor Clinton can reach an outright majority of delegates based solely on pledged delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses. Either will need superdelegates to be over the top.

    Hillary Clinton's problem is that even if she wins big in all the remaining primaries, she will still trail Barack in pledged delegates. To win the nomination, she would have to convince superdelegates to overturn the will of voters, just as the U.S. Supreme Court did in appointing George W. Bush president in 2000.

    That result would poison the Democratic Party. Young people and African Americans would be angry, and the party would split in an ugly convention scene that would likely propel John McCain to victory. There is not enough time in the eight weeks between the convention and the November election to heal wounds and win. The irony is this is supposed to be a Democratic year -- and yet the Democrats are on a certain path to blow it.

    Barack Obama’s problem is that even though he will have the most pledged delegates at the convention, he is having a hard time tapping into the traditional Democratic base to close the deal. Additionally, Americans are showing once again that they can be stampeded by fear.

    Senator Clinton’s closing "3 a.m" ad was very effective, and Senator McCain is guaranteed to use the same tactic, probably just as effectively. And while Obama and Clinton battle each other for six months, McCain will define Obama however he wants to, so if the superdelegates nominate Obama, he will be so beaten up by Clinton and McCain, I think he will fail in the fall.

    Additional bad news is that exit polls show that Clinton and Obama divide the Democratic Party along lines of age, gender, race, education, and class.

    As an Obama supporter, of course I want my man to win. But if Senator Clinton continues to pursue the nomination when she has no way to win -- except by overturning the will of the voters -- Obama and the party will be the casualties. Although I want Obama to win, I want more for the Democrats to win in November.

    The only solution I see is for a group of wise superdelegates to begin a "draft Gore" movement, placing his name in nomination at the convention, and try to organize a large enough bloc of delegates to deny a majority to either Clinton or Obama ballot after ballot. After it becomes apparent that neither will get the nomination, I would hope Obama would throw his delegates to Al Gore, giving him the nomination.

    Gore is someone that the followers of both Obama and Clinton could get behind. Each faction would rather have Gore as the nominee than feel they had lost to their primary opponent. Feelings are that hard between these two camps. Gore just may be able to bridge these feelings as well as the fault lines in the party created by the two candidates.

    As a reward for throwing his delegates behind Gore, I hope Gore chooses Obama as his VP.

    Al Gore won the popular vote for president in 2000 and was denied the presidency by the Supreme Court. Americans would be ready to restore him to the office to which he was justly elected by voters, but denied by what some consider a coup by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

    Hillary Clinton often says it takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush. But when you think of it, wouldn’t it be poetic justice for the person who cleans up after George Bush to be Al Gore -- the person who should have been in the Oval Office in the first place?

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    March 04, 2008

    Obama's gay press snub?

    Posted by: Chris

    Ericresnick2007thumb125x177_2 Reporter Eric Resnick of the Gay People's Chronicle has posted an angry column complaining that he was mistreated by Barack Obama's campaign when he sought an interview with the Ohio gay newspaper. Resnick complained that the candidate was not made available for a one-on-one interview and he was treated roughly by Robert Gibbs, Obama's national communications director:

    I wasn't biting on the crap he tried to feed me, and he got offended. When I stood there not writing any of it down, Gibbs said to me, "Let me tell you how this works. I talk and you write down what I say."

    "I'll write down what you say when you answer the question," I responded, adding that "I'm no campaign's stenographer." Gibbs actually took the pen and pad out of my hands and wrote his own answer!

    As someone who edited six gay publications over a ten-year period, I would agree with Resnick that it's important such publications have access to newsmakers, including national political candidates. 

    Unfortunately, Resnick is a walking talking argument for why those publications often don't get the access they rightly deserve. Resnick acknowledges in his column that he was a vocal supporter of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign and was even elected as a Kucinich delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

    He may ask rhetorically whether reporters from the New York Times and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer would have been treated as he was by the Obama campaign. But of course neither of those publications would ever think of assigning as a reporter someone who had been elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for another candidate. 

    If the free gay press wants to be taken as seriously as "the big boys," then it ought to play by the same rules. Assign reporters without any connection to any candidate who can ask objective questions. The result will be reporters who are much more respectful than standing in front of the press spokesman for a presidential candidate not writing down what he says. Or saying later in print that they weren't "biting the crap he was trying to feed me."

    Taking accurate quotes from sources is not "campaign stenography," as Resnick alleges; it's reporting.  Reporters almost never like the answers they get from politicians and (especially) their flaks, but it is disrespectful and unprofessional to simply ignore them until you get the answer you want. 

    Hilary_1 Given Resnick's plain bias and his conduct more befitting an activist than a journalist, it's hardly surprising that he didn't get his interview with Obama. Why put the candidate in front of such a loose cannon who shows so little regard for the rules of journalism? I have a lot of respect for the Gay People's Chronicle, but the paper was was very poorly served by Resnick as a reporter.

    Just compare on the one hand Resnick's report in the Gay People's Chron, which fixates on the New Jersey civil unions report and the issue of gay marriage -- even though Clinton and Obama agree on that point -- while making no mention of the fact that Clinton's position in favor of half-repeal of DOMA (which Resnick misstates) is different from Obama's support for full repeal.

    Then, on the other hand, you have Editor Tammye Nash's more extensive and even-handed report in the Dallas Voice, which was based on exactly the same 15-minute phone call with Clinton.

    Clinton should be credited for giving the interview, her second to the "free gay press," though I would note that her other "free gay press" interview was with Kevin Naff, the editor of the Washington Blade, who weeks earlier had endorsed Clinton for president in an editorial.  I have enormous respect for the Blade and for Kevin, but he was the wrong person to do that interview as well.

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    February 29, 2008

    Obama's Christian case for gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamacross A must-read from Andrew Sullivan today on why gay voters need to coalesce around Barack Obama, highlighting the Illinois senator's reference to his faith in Beaumont, Texas, yesterday to explain his support for gay rights.

    Money quote, as Andrew would say:

    The current Washington set-up is broken. If you haven't seen that these past few years, you have blinders on. It doesn't deliver - and won't, without a president who actually believes that gay people deserve full equality. Yes, it's partly generational - Obama sees gay people in a way Clinton never will, as a function of her age and background.

    But it's also, it seems to me, an indication that he really is a Christian. One day, it will seem as obvious that Christians should support gay equality as it is now obvious that they should have opposed segregation. What Obama does for gay people in a religious context is just as important as what he does for us in a political one. Both are vital - because it is the abuse of religion that is at the core of the hostility to gay dignity.

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    February 28, 2008

    The politics of rejection

    Posted by: Chris

    Farrakhan Mcclurkin In the Cleveland debate earlier this week, Tim Russert pressed Barack Obama on whether he would reject the endorsement he recently received from Louis Farrakhan, who is of course famous for his anti-Semitic fulminations.

    Obama tried simply denouncing the Nation of Islam founder for his anti-Semitism, but that didn't satisfy either Russert or Hillary Clinton. For her part, Clinton related how she actively "rejected" support from a New York political party controlled by anti-Semites and demanded Obama do the same. Obama ultimately caved to the impossible politics of the moment:

    I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.

    "Good. Good. Excellent," nodded Clinton.

    Of course there is a difference between denouncing a view espoused by a supporter and rejecting all support from that source. Remember this is the same Barack Obama who refused to reject the support of Donnie McClurkin, a black gospel singer who claims to have been "cured" of his homosexuality? Back then, Obama saw the practical impossibility of combing the views of his supporters for those he finds objectionable:

    One of the things that always comes up in presidential campaigns is, if you’ve got multiple supporters all over the place, should the candidate then be held responsible for the every single view of every one of his supporters? And obviously that’s not possible. And if I start playing that game, then it will be very difficult for me to do what I think I can do best, which is bring the country together.

    That struck me as exactly right. Once a candidate starts "playing that game," then there's a slippery slope about which views among which supporters are so beyond the pale that denouncing the views isn't enough, and the supporter has to be "rejected."

    But now Barack Obama is "playing that game," goaded or not, and the slippery slope between Farrakhan and McClurkin begs for some sort of explanation.

    The same questions could be asked of Hillary Clinton, of course, who pushed Obama into not just "denouncing" but "rejecting" Farrakhan. Why, then, did Clinton accept the endorsements of African-American ministers like Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Ralph Mayberry, who like McClurkin preach that homosexuality can be "cured"? And yet unlike Obama, Hillary has never "denounced" their anti-gay rhetoric or "rejected" their support.

    Just last week, Hillary gave an interview to CBN News, the "news department" of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, even though Robertson has a long history of being virulently anti-gay, even blaming gay Americans for hurricanes in central Florida and the 9/11 attack. Does anyone doubt how the Clinton camp would have reacted if Obama had sat down for a chat with Farrakhan's Final Call newspaper?

    Then today, when Clinton learned that prominent Dallas Hispanic supporter Adelfa Callejo had said some very intemperate things about why Hispanics won't support black politicians like Obama, Clinton's initial response sounded very much like Obama talking about McClurkin:

    You know this is a free country. People get to express their opinions. … You can’t take any of that as anything other than an individual opinion.

    Later, after confirming Callejo's remarks, the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, "After confirming that they were accurately portrayed, Senator Clinton, of course, denounces and rejects them." Notice that, like Obama on Farrakhan before Hillary pushed him, Clinton has denounced and rejected the views she finds repugnant, not the endorsement or support from Callejo.

    John McCain has his own denouncing and rejecting to do, according to Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. The presumptive GOP nominee appeared on stage yesterday with Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee, who Kleefeld said "considers the Catholic Church to be the Anti-Christ, and has said that Jews brought their own persecution upon themselves."

    And last year, McCain famously gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the same Falwell who joined Robertson in blaming 9/11 on gays. Liberty also treats students in gay relationships the way Bob Jones University treats interracial couples, expelling all involved. And unlike Obama (with McClurkin and Farrakhan) or Clinton (with Callejo), McCain hasn't done anything to distance himself from Hagee, Falwell or Liberty.

    My point here is that this particular "political game" will ultimately sting anyone running a nationwide campaign, and Obama was right the first time that politics really ought to be about addition, not subtraction. It's ultimately pointless to pressure presidential candidates into "rejecting the support" of even their most extremist supporters. So long as the candidate denounces the offensive views, in clear and uncertain terms, then ultimately it's up to the supporter to decide whether to stick with the candidate.

    Personally, I am tickled pink that unreconstructed types like Donnie McClurkin or Eddie Long are supporting presidential candidates like Obama and Clinton who are committed to a wide array of gay civil rights protections. I hope they do all they can to get them elected!

    So long as the candidate doesn't waver from denouncing their bigotry, that ought to be enough.

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    Obama and the LGBT Hispanic vote

    Posted by: Chris

    Conventional wisdom has it that Hillary Clinton enjoys more support among Latinos and LGBT voters, but a small group of influential activists is working to turn the intersection of those two groups -- LGBT Latinos -- into Barack Obama's camp. Super-blogger and journalist Andres Duque tipped me off to an open letter signed by some leading gay Hispanic figures that backs Barack for president:

    As LGBT Latinos and Latinas who happen to be immigrants or descendants from immigrant families we are sick and tired of seeing our lives and values be misrepresented by those who seek to drive wedges in our communities as a means to split our vote and gain power through division.

    We saw it when the right wing used same-sex marriage to rile up the conservative vote for President George W. Bush and we are seeing it again with immigration being blamed as the source for all the nation’s ills.

    We know that these are the politics of fear and that those same politics only served to elect one of the worst presidents in US history.

    This is why we believe that, in this presidential election, there is one clear choice.


    On gay issues, the letter credits Obama's support for full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act; Clinton backs only half-repeal, leaving in place the provision that says each state can refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

    On immigration, the letter praises Obama for standing up against the scapegoating of immigrants and criticizes the Clinton campaign for exacerbating tension between Latinos and African Americans.

    The full letter and its list of signatories, which includes out actor Wilson Cruz, is available here.

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    The experience argument

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm not sure it would have made the difference, but Tom Bevan at Time's Real Clear Politics has offered a much more effective way that Hillary Clinton could have framed the experience argument against Barack Obama than her "Ready on Day One" sloganeering:

    Clinton should have been reminding voters over and over that just four short years ago Barack Obama was in the Illinois state legislature (voting present, no less) and now he's running to be the leader of the free world. Put in that context, the magnitude of the jump Obama is seeking to make suddenly gains perspective, and Clinton has voters pondering exactly the question she wants: wow, is he really ready for this?

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    Obama goes after Hillary's gay vote

    Posted by: Chris

    Obama_lgbt_ad As the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries loom next Tuesday, Barack Obama has been making aggressive plays for the groups that have gone for Hillary Clinton in previous contests, including the working class, women, Hispanics and -- now it appears -- gay and lesbian voters.

    The Obama campaign has purchased ads in gay publications in Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas and Houston. The advertisements go with more of an inspirational message:

    While we have come a long way since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.

    (Click on the ad to see it full size.)

    The campaign also released an open letter today that delves into much greater specifics, outlining Obama's support for a wide array of federal gay and transgender rights legislation, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, the Uniting American Families Act, federal employee domestic partner benefits, as well as full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    The Obama letter emphasizes his support for full repeal of DOMA -- Hillary backs only half-repeal -- saying, "While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does."

    On UAFA, Obama adds, "I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system." It's an intriguing claim, since Obama (like Clinton) has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor of UAFA, although both checked off as supporting it on the Human Rights Campaign's candidate questionnaire.

    Perhaps the folks at Immigration Equality can shed some light on the work Obama has done to improve UAFA's chances of passage.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 For related stories and breaking news, click or bookmark:

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    February 27, 2008

    The sliming of Obama

    Posted by: Andoni

    As a 61 year old, I vividly remember the last time I got this excited about a presidential candidate. It was 1960 and the young charismatic, intelligent, candidate was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He spoke with ease in a manner that conveyed ideas clearly and inspired me.

    One distinct thought I remember from that election was that all the presidents before JFK had been born in the prior century, the 1800s or before. I had nothing in common with these people. Kennedy would be the first president born in the 20th century, my century, the one I could relate to.

    If the election comes down to John McCain and Barack Obama I believe there will be a similar symbolic divide in the minds of voters born after mid-20th century. They will find it harder to relate to John McCain, born in 1936, than Barack Obama born in 1961.

    The other vivid memory I have from 1960 is just how far the people who resisted change (whether to a president from a new generation or because he was Catholic) would go to disparage Kennedy. My next door neighbor was Protestant. She hated Catholics and said so daily. She loved to show me photos of the pope where she had added artwork to include devil’s horns. She showed me pictures of the pope with Kennedy where she added cartoon dialog bubbles with dirty thoughts. She never missed a moment to scare me with thoughts of the Pope ruling America if Kennedy got elected. Where these outlandish thoughts came from -- other than pure hate and fear -- I do not know.

    Today, Barack Obama is a similar barrier-smashing, change candidate who is threatening the status quo in America’s political arena. And today Barack is being hit with smears just like Kennedy.

    In January I received chain emails (even from smart people whom I would not think of as bigoted) claiming Obama was a Muslim who attended a madrassa in Indonesia and then refused to use a Bible when sworn in as a senator, using a Koran instead. When put to any independent fact check test, all those claims turned out to be utterly false.

    Now even someone from our community has gotten into the slime-Obama act. For the past several months, Larry Sinclair has been peddling a story that he picked up Obama in a bar, had sex and did drugs in the back of a limo:

    To stretch credibility even further, Sinclair claimed that Barack liked him so much that he returned for more a few days later. News surfaced yesterday that, not surprisingly, Sinclair failed a polygraph test but we'll have to wait and see if that finally put this particular whisper campaign to bed.

    Now I’m hearing claims that Obama is some sort of cult figure, even putting himself out there as a Messiah. One example is in the first comment under a previous post of mine, "Dr. Barack Obama."

    The cult charge is really off the mark. There is one easy, significant and important difference between a cult or messianic movement and the Obama campaign. The former put all their faith in the leader (Jesus, Jim Jones, etc.), but the Obama campaign spreads the power and responsibility around. “Yes we can.” Notice the “we.” It’s not “Yes, I can” or “Believe in me, I can do it for you.”

    When Obama exites people by saying “Yes we can,” he follows the example of none other than the United States Constitution and “We the people…” In founding our Republic, “We the people” gave the power to our elected officials. Now that it's apparent that elected officials have really botched things, Obama is returning to the original motivation to rouse people into action, to rebuild the country.

    So just like John F. Kennedy, Obama is going to have everything thrown at him from anyone who fears the seismic change that Obama represents. Let’s hope that a majority of Americans are able to objectively analyze each onslaught and see through the bigotry and the lies conjured by those who feel most threatened.

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    February 22, 2008

    Is McCain pulling a 'Clinton'?

    Posted by: Andoni

    We all remember Bill Clinton's famous,  "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

    Could John McCain be playing the same kind of semantics game? The New York Times and the Washington Post are great newspapers whose editors and reporters know the importance of getting a story correct. They know their obligation to the public and to their readers; and they both have set up strict rules of scrutiny so the public can have faith that what they publish is basically true.

    Is it possible that both these great newspapers are totally incorrect in their reports on McCain's improprieties or appearances of improprieties during his 2000 campaign? The chances are slim that not one sliver of what the Times or Post reported is true. And yet McCain's denials at his press conference yesterday were unequivocal. So what else could be going on here?

    In their reporting, the Times said that its sources were "associates" of McCain and the Post claimed its information was from McCain "advisers." However, during Senator McCain's press conference yesterday, the terms used for the denials that anyone ever attempted an intervention in his relationship with Vicki Iseman were "aides" and "staff," not "associates" and "advisers" as described in the two papers.

    Marc Ambinder conjectures that these "associates" and "advisers" acting to separate McCain from Iseman might have been friends or even other lobbyists, and not "aides" and "staff." If this is so, then McCain is playing word games just as Clinton did, and the electorate will not appreciate it. It will be interesting to see how the same Republicans who took Clinton to task for playing with the truty will react if this turns out to be the case with McCain as well.

    Who do I believe here? The Times, for two reasons. First ,it has a track record of good journalism. Second, there is enough history of McCain being in bed (figuratively) with lobbyists even as he has tried to build a reputation opposite of that.

    Today's Washington Post exposes McCain's hypocrisy with respect to lobbyists by pointing out:

    [W]hen McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried.

    This cartoon by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mike Luckovich captures problems McCain is going to have when his real record with lobbyists becomes better known. McCain's reputation as squeaky clean is all P.R. and will go the same route that Hillary's all-P.R. "inevitability."

    This McCain story is still unresolved, and I really hope more comes out from either the Times or Post to prove or disprove things. McCain's denials were so unequivocal that it will take only one small piece of the Times story to be proven true to derail his campaign. If he's caught in a lie -- even a Clinton lie -- he's done.

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