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    January 28, 2010

    Up off the mat, gently

    Posted by: Kevin


    With the stakes high for his flagging presidency, President Barack Obama managed not to blow his first State of the Union.  That was a relief, for a failed president with three years left in office is no help to anyone.  In fact, when the 70-minute speech is boiled down to its basic turning points, it was a tale of two speeches, as the Guardian and the Washington Post seem to posit.  Obama was saying he would refocus his agenda, but he would also not be changing course.  Things will change, but I won't.

    And he finally -- FINALLY -- made a concrete promise to the gay and lesbian community that really matters.  He promised "to work with Congress and the military" in 2010 to end the outrageous "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military.  For me, this was a great moment and a long-overdue correction of a nearly 20-year old policy that must be overturned.

    As a very skeptical viewer, I have to say that the rhetoric was too gentle and not inspiring in the least.  The speech was so long and so full of items that I imagine the average angry voter out there was not satiated if he sat through the whole thing.  He was too gentle with his fellow Democrats.  They've done more than just "head for the hills" - they've abandoned all principle and sense of decency largely because they don't believe in anything but re-election.  All this aside, though, Obama's political bullet points on balance were encouraging, even if many of his policy statements were, to me and other center-right-inclined folks, wrong-headed.

    This is where I part company with many of my compatriots on the right, including many gay conservatives.  I don't agree with Obama on most of his policy positions in general.  I don't trust the Democratic Party one bit, and think of its Congressional caucus as a pack of lying slimebags who care only about themselves (with a few notable exceptions too few to influence anything).  I vote accordingly, and as readers of this blog know, I pontificate accordingly.  But I do not want President Obama to fail in delivering on his promises to the gay and lesbian community, nor do I want his presidency to collapse, as it would mean the country will fall deeper into chaos and dissension.

    I want the policies I disagree with to fail, yes.  I don't want the massive government-run health care hurricane massing off shore to become law and plow over the already hopelessly indebted Treasury.  I don't want populism to overwhelm an already tottering financial system, which would not only affect Main Street, U.S.A., but most of the developing world as well.  I think a spending freeze that doesn't include entitlements is a waste of time and will make some very important programs suffer while upper middle class, golf-playing retirees collect Social Security checks that they don't need.   We can win those fights honestly, and frontally, with the power of better ideas and with courage.  (Too bad the Republicans in Congress seem to possess neither.)

    But I don't want a President of the United States to fail entirely.  I think it reeks of selfish provincialism and borders on a lack of patriotism to cheer rapturously as a President of the United States sinks into political oblivion in his first year in office.  The institution of the presidency isn't a football team.  It has an importance far beyond the person in that chair, and it affects nearly everything in the global economic and political fabric.  If he has committed some sort of crime and must be removed, like Richard Nixon, then fine -- we must carry forward with his nominal defeat if he refuses to go.  But weakening the institution (from without or within) for minor playing field gains in the political realm is the stuff of moth-eaten banana republics like Argentina, Ecuador or Bolivia.  Not the United States of America.

    So, I applaud his promise to "work with Congress and the military" in 2010 to overturn one of the most vicious anti-gay policies ever adopted in American history.  It has sapped our nation's security, ruined tens of thousands of lives, fomented a level of hate and anxiety in one of the proudest and most able institutions of our Republic, and worst of all, it never worked as it was intended to.  It is a giant moral stain on our country.

    The real challenge now, as with nearly every other issue Obama outlined last night, will be the Democratic Congress.  And on that, we must be absolutely relentless from this day forward.

    If the gay community, starting with the Human Rights Campaign and the rest of the national political groups, does not mobilize with an intensity not seen in more than a decade, and use every single tool of pressure on the Democrats in Congress to follow through on this promise in 2010, I assure you it will fail.  And its failure will be a political catastrophe, bigger than Proposition 8.  There will be no room left for political courage on gay issues in national government, and we will be cast aside like a piece of trash for another decade.

    If we don't use threats, if we don't hold campaign money over their heads, if we don't get written, signed pledges and public statements, and set deadlines and hold rallies against the waverers -- if we don't send legions of constituents into district and Capitol Hill offices -- if we don't get the national media to report almost a decade of unrivaled peer-reviewed research from the Palm Center that proves how bad the policy is from almost every possible angle -- then even with effort from the White House, the Democratic Congress will not follow through.

    Yes, we must also pressure the Republicans.  Those who have promised to be with us in the past cannot be allowed to change their position, and should face our united wrath if they do.  Those who hurl tired, anti-gay rhetoric and try to whip up hatred within the military ranks should be condemned loudly, and they, too, must be made to suffer whatever consequence we can affect.  But let's also be honest -- we can do a hell of a lot more damage to a Democrat in almost any district or state in the country than we can do to a Republican senator from Oklahoma or Alabama.  The real firefight has to be with the cowards and the waverers, because they will decide our fate.

    I want to thank President Obama for getting up off the mat last night, albeit too gently.  Let's hope from now on we'll see some fierce activism from him, as well as from our own ranks.


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    1. Lucrece on Jan 28, 2010 1:29:09 PM:

      Eh, you gave him more credit for a tepid speech than I as a progressive would.

      DADT is and has been the easiest and most publically repelled anti-gay legislation; it should've been gone in 2009. It's stupidly easy votes, supposedly.

      If you can't get action on DADT, what hope is there for UAFA, DOMA?

      I won't mention ENDA because I think it's an atrocious bill that is a poor substitute for what would be including sexual orientation under employment and housing protections in the civil rights code.

      But no, Dems don't wanna risk Black and Latino wrath for being associated with a bunch of queers.

    1. Kevin on Jan 28, 2010 1:38:48 PM:


      Interesting sentiments, duly noted.

    1. cheap uggs boots on Nov 29, 2010 3:27:27 AM:

      Please, he is done playing moderate Republican now that he lost the elections. He can go back to pandering for the primaries and getting carried in Arizona.

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