An absolutely inevitable headline, although its somewhat awkward timing is sure to raise a few eyebrows. President Obama was expected to come around on this issue after the 2012 election, but this week's firestorm finally pushed the White House's lame and cynical "he's evolving" formulation to the brink. Caught in an untenable position, Obama at last decided to share his true thoughts on same-sex marriage with the American people, via a hastily-arranged interview with ABC News (video HERE):
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”
The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept. “It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. “You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
Thus completes a 16-year metamorphasis on the question, the various twists and turns of which -- oddly enough -- have coincided with Barack Obama's political interests. Buzz Feed has assembled a useful timeline charting Obama's myriad contortions:
1996 (running as a Hyde Park liberal): "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."
2004 (Running for US Senate in a year that a slew of anti-gay marriage amendments passed from coast to coast): "What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman."
2008 (running for president as a post-partisan healer, needing significant Catholic, Hispanic, and black turnout and support to win): "I believe marriage is the union between a man and a woman. As a Christian, it's also a sacred union."
2010 (after the midterm elections, and under pressure from gay groups and major donors): "My feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this."
And the circle completed itself moments ago. My guess is that Team Obama finally realized that it could not maintain this transparent charade any longer, especially if they plan to paint Mitt Romney as indecisive on issues like immigration. (Although Obama's quadruple flip-flop on marriage could undermine similar attacks on Romney down the road). Obama's, ahem, new view may alienate some of his core supporters -- after all, a large bloc of North Carolina Democrats voted for the state's marriage amendment yesterday -- but the Obama campaign is probably counting on this kerfuffle dying down well before most voters start seriously thinking about the fall election. Biden's comment, the press corps' mini-feeding frenzy, and irritable money men forced the president's hand. Voila -- he's "evolved" back to his 1996 position, roughly seven months before he probably planned to do so. Parting thought: Is the "evolution" now over (right back where it began), or could our Philosopher King "evolve" some more, and eventually re-embrace the opinion he publicly espoused from circa 2004 through this morning? (Nah). Hey look over there...it's the dreadful Obama economy, which will still be the decisive factor in November!
UPDATE - I find it fascinating that ABC Network cut into live programming to announce that the president's "personal" stance on one issue has "evolved" back to its 1996 starting point.
UPDATE II - Full video added:
UPDATE III - It's all about "the brand."