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Tuesday, 22 January 2008



Why don't you ask the Obama campaign?

Regarding McClurkin: Obama wants to be president of everyone, not just gays and people who love them. He wants to try and bring Americans together, and believes and acts accordingly. That doesn't mean he agrees with the McClurkins of the world, but he's not going to ignore or polarize the issue further.

Regarding the Clinton record: The Clintons gave us two of the most anti-gay policies ever enacted in modern time: DADT and DOMA. Clinton even bragged about it on Christian radio ads and in 04 urged John Kerry to make more of his anti-gay marriage position in the campaign. When it suits the Clintons' needs they will throw us under the bus. And that is a far more serious issue in my view than McClurkin or the arcane differences of one civil rights act over another.

Obama could dissapoint us. But he hasn't acted in a way that makes me think that is likely. The Clintons, on the other hand, have demonstrated that they will.

That's (one reason) I'm for Barack.


How did he do that with McClurkin, Scott? Obama wasn't even there. Exactly how did he (or anybody else) engage with McClurkin's half-hour rant about sexuality? (Short answer: not at all.)

If Obama gets elected, he'll have to be the president of everybody. I'm just saying that it's a lot less likely he'll ever get elected if he keeps pissing off important Democratic constituencies before we're even out of the primary season.

And I'm sorry, but "the Clintons" didn't give us Don't Ask, Don't Tell and DOMA. Bill Clinton did--and his hand was forced by a Democratic Congress and people like Sam Nunn and Colin Powell. Hillary has to run on her own record--and that means she doesn't have to take crap for anything that Bill did, unless it can be proven she was actively involved. No one has met that standard of proof on either DOMA or DADT. Given that she's said she wants to repeal both of them, she's even with Obama on that front.

I beg to differ with you about Obama's not having disappointed us. The McClurkin mess was a huge fucking disappointment--and one that makes me inherently suspicious of anything Obama says on gay rights, precisely because he's already demonstrated that when the chips are down, he will cheerfully throw us under the bus if it gains him something he needs.


But wait a minute -- Hillary's claim to experience is Bill's presidency -- two for the price of one, remember -- and Bill's recent behavior shows this is not just about her but it's a about them. If Hillary can campaign on Bill's accomplishments then she has to own up to it's shortcomings. Or do you think she can have it both ways?

FACT: She only wants to repeal a part of DOMA. Obama wants full repeal. They are not even.

Look, just this week Obama told a black audience that they have failed to embrace gays. He didn't have to do that. And he said at the time of the McClurkin flap that he didn't believe anything McClurkin said about gays.

I know you're upset with him about inviting that nutjob to sing. For sake of argument I'll give you that point. Let's say it was a mistake. However, I don't think it is as big a mistake as DOMA or DADT. It's not even in the same league.

And as we're seeing now, the Clintons will say anything to anybody to get elected. And when it comes to that, the Clintons are in a class by themselves. To me, when it comes to trusting a candidate, Obama is the much safer choice.


She can claim that experience. But I'm not willing to give it to her (and nobody I know of is, either). But if I'm not going to let her get away with trying to ride on Bill's coattails, then neither am I able to saddle her with Bill's issues. If you want to tag her for DADT and DOMA, you have to allow her those "35 years of experience" she claims for consistency's sake. I'm not willing to go there, so she gets no dings from me for DADT/DOMA.

Yes, she only wants to repeal part of it--but it's the important part: the part that requires Illinois (and Utah, and Texas) to recognize gay marriages that are legally performed according to Massachusetts law. It's an incrementalist approach. If the states are forced to recognize validly performed gay marriages when those couples move to or visit those states that don't allow them, that leaves them open to lawsuits for breach of the Full Faith and Credit clause--which will be a way of shoehorning the marriage question into each of the 50 states. It's not perfect, but it does have the virtue of being likely to work.

Obama's "lecture" to the folks at Ebenezer Baptist was one sentence. That's hardly a lecture or a denunciation, Scott. If you coughed at the wrong moment, you'd have missed it. And that one sentence was pretty doggone pale in comparison to the things Coretta Scott King, God be good to her, was saying about gay rights and the black community when she was still alive. I would have liked to see something like her words coming out of Obama's mouth in that place. That didn't happen.

And that's pretty much par for the course with him. He wants to take credit for being in favor of gay rights (and he should get credit for what he actually does, I don't dispute that). But what I have a problem with is the way he and his supporters want to make him look like he's the greatest thing since sliced bread when in fact he's just as middle-of-the-road as the rest of the field, and scores exactly the same as they do. He's not head and shoulders above the crowd, he's just one of the faceless mass. And the McClurkin thing is an excellent indicator of how he is likely to behave when the chips are down and intestinal fortitude is required--he will, like virtually every other politician in the world--do what is expedient for him, and throw the gays under the bus again.


i'm coming a little late to this, but i'm not really getting your point, michael.

in your original post it seemed like the question was "[is] Obama's record on gay rights is little better (or worse) than either Clinton's or Edwards's"? it wasn't "has obama done everything he could to support gay rights?" the question instead is whether his record is better or worse than clinton's or edwards'.

and you haven't made that case at all. i mean, i could accept everything you write about the tangled history of the illinois human rights act amendment and still think that obama is better than clinton or edwards. just because obama didn't sponsor the version that ultimately became law doesn't take away from the fact that he was willing to sponsor another version.

clinton has never sponsored any equivalent legislation which would extend protection against discrimination to gays and lesbians, although she supports ENDA, the federal equivalent to the IL human rights amendments (obama also supports it but has not signed on as a sponsor). edwards, on the other hand, co-sponsored an earlier version of ENDA back when he was in the senate.

by my tally that makes all three fairly good, with clinton's record behind obama and edwards simply because she did not sponsor anything like ENDA or the human rights act.

on other issues, it's pretty similar. obama co-sponsored a bill extending the federal hate crime legislation to include crimes committed against gays. both clinton and edwards support the legislation, but didn't sponsor it.

so it looks to me like obama's record is stronger than both clinton and edwards, although this distinction is rather slight, depending entirely on sponsorship vs. mere support.



No, you got the point exactly. Obama's record is really little better than either Clinton's or Edwards's. Both Obama and many of his supporters, however, have been trying--largely by pointing to his legislative record in Illinois--to make it look like he's head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

I think that's stretching the evidence well past its breaking point, and when you actually dig into his legislative record in Illinois, it doesn't look like his support amounted to all that much. He never introduced any of the three bills that he co-sponsored, and to the best of my recollection he was never an original co-sponsor on any of them--he always waited and signed on later. Once he was on board, that seems to have been where his support ended, given that all three of the bills he supported died in committee.

And that's what ultimately makes the whole question of the ILHRA amendment so confusing to me. Given that the three versions Obama did cosponsor seem to have been virtually identical to the one that he didn't (and which eventually passed), why was he unwilling to cosponsor that bill? Even more puzzling in that regard is the fact that the bill he didn't cosponsor was introduced in the Senate just two days after the third and last bill he did cosponsor--but Obama didn't sign on to that bill as a co-sponsor until a month after it had been introduced--and so a month, more or less, after the bill that was passed was also introduced. As I said here, the most plausible hypothesis to explain that apparently very contradictory fact is that there were some personal differences or political issues involved, but of course I can't prove that just from the legislative record.

As for Obama's willingness to step forward as a sponsor of the earlier legislation, I'll give him a little credit there. But not as much as I'd have given him if he'd introduced the legislation, been on board with it from the very beginning as an original co-sponsor, or done anything to push to get it out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate for consideration. The fact that he does not appear to have done any of those things, however, considerably mitigates the amount of credit he gets for backing the legislation, because his backing doesn't appear to have entailed him taking much of a stand. The fact that he represented a completely safe Democratic district (the Chicago Gold Coast) also detracts from giving him too many props for being a supporter: it would have cost him more not to support the legislation in his district, whereas some of those who also supported it represented far less reliably Democratic and considerably less urban constituencies, where they might really have gotten heat in an election contest because of their support for the bill.

It's the same with Obama's work since going to Washington. I'll give him props for signing on to a bill expanding federal hate-crimes protections to LGBT folk, but there, too, his support doesn't seem to extend much farther than lending his name to the legislation. Obama's campaigning on his willingness to reach across the aisle to the Republicans to get things done. I just wish he'd demonstrated some of that willingness to get things done when it came to the gay-rights legislation he has supported, both in Illinois and at the federal level.

Since it hasn't, I can't see how that makes him any better than either Clinton or Edwards on gay rights. They don't have any real accomplishments to point to--but then, neither are they claiming to be any better than they are. Obama (and certainly at least some of his supporters, particularly in Left Blogistan), on the other hand, is trying to make that claim. I'm just calling bullshit on it.


i still disagree with you when you say: "I can't see how that makes him any better than either Clinton or Edwards on gay rights"

but i do think he's only slightly better than edwards, and edwards is only slightly better than clinton. sponsoring bills, even if the bills never go anywhere, does mean something to me. but the three of them are all pretty close to one another on this particular issue. i think you're right that the evidence is rather thin that obama is head and shoulders above the others.

hey, but i'm still basically for obama. it's just more about other issues than this one.


In trying to get some perspective on this discussion I think it all comes down to two factors: Who do your trust and who has the best chance of building a coalition that will achieve meaningful advances for gay rights?

No politician is perfect on trust. Put the Clinton's record against Obama's and judge for yourself.

Sidenote: I know Michael you are going to respond "McClurkin!" on the trust issue, just as I would respond DADT and DOMA! I would still argue my objection is more substantive and McClurkin is ultimately meaningless and an example of PC identity politics that Obama wants to move America away from. However if McClurkin is the tipping point for you on Obama that will blind you to all else he has said and done, so be it.

On the candidate who can build a meaningful coalition, I would again say Obama is in a better position. The Clintons have been and are a polarizing force in American politics for more than a decade and even now are practicing politics that is building divisiveness and resentment in the Democratic party. And those practices are rooted in a driving need to be all about them...which is why I ultimately don't trust them to risk anything in the service of others.

Regarding some specific points you made about Obama's remarks, which you dismissed as "one sentence." It was actually part of a larger message scolding a black audience for not always embracing Dr. King's vision. He could have pandered to them, but did not. This was not the first time he has done this -- he also did it at a meeting of Black ministers in Tennessee last year.

Thank you for a good discussion. Even though we disagree, I appreciate how thoroughly and thoughtfully you have made your points and appreciate you letting me dissent at length on your space.


My major point, Scott, would be that Hillary Clinton's record and Barack Obama's record on being trustworthy in regard to gay rights are both effectively blank slates. Neither one of them has much of a record to point to, in terms of accomplishments. I reject the idea that Hillary is somehow responsible for what Bill did as president, so she doesn't get saddled with DOMA and DADT. She doesn't have an LGBT issues page on her campaign site (at least not that I could find). Obama does, but you have to know where to look for it. Clinton has LGBT people working on her campaign--and always has. To the best of my knowledge, Obama does not.

And no, McClurkin isn't the only thing I'd bring up in discussing Obama's trustworthiness. My skepticism about Obama began when he broke his promise to those of us who'd sent him to the Senate in the first place that he would serve out his full term before running for any other office. He made that promise at least twice during the campaign, so it wasn't just a throwaway. And if a politician breaks one promise, a smart voter is always going to wonder how likely it is he'll keep any others he makes afterwards.


i'll take a wild and unsubstantiated guess on why he sponsored the first 3[?] bills, but not the final one. perhaps he had an agreement along the lines of 'i'll sponsor your gay rights bills in exchange for your support of my __________ bill[s]' with ronen, but no such agreement with deleo.


An interesting theory, hipparchia. But it doesn't fit the facts. Sen. Ronen didn't introduce the first of the three bills Obama co-sponsored. It originated in the House.


the theory, slightly modified, might still hold if some particular political alliance rested on obama's not supporting something introduced/endorsed/supported by whoever introduced/endorsed/supported that last bill.

i'll admit that the only portion of his illinois legislature days that i've looked at has been a few hours spent on the internet tracing the history of the health care justice act, so what do i know?

Roy Rogers Oldenkamp

I cannot understand why so many LGBTQ people in West Hollywood and So Cal have such a Hillary woody, considering the dismal Clinton record on gay rights. They have done decades of damage. If Hillary is claiming 35 years of experience, then she takes the heat as well. Or gets out of the kitchen.


By the same token, Roy, I can't understand why so many LGBTQ people have an Obama woody. His record on gay rights isn't substantially different from (or better than) hers--so why does he get a pass (especially after McClurkin) when everybody piles on her?

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