Monday, June 01, 2009

So I saw this earlier today:
Cheney Supports Gay Marriage
It's not surprising when Vice President Dick Cheney disagrees with President Obama. But it is surprising when he takes a more progressive position than the president.

Said Cheney: "I think that freedom means freedom for everyone. As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay, and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish. The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that... historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis... But I don't have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that."

Dick Cheney is much, much better on this issue than Barack Obama.

That hurts. If there are two "values" that matter above all others to me, those would be rule of law and equal rights. In our time, the nexus of issues around national security and government power, most prominently torture, are the focus of rule-of-law questions, and full equality for gays is the key rights question. Cheney couldn't be worse on the first, yet he's very good on the second; Obama is good but not great--this is a new, and very serious, concern--on the first, and bad but not awful (certainly disappointing, in that his words have so far outrun his deeds) on the second.

I suppose it's important to remember context: it's dubious that Cheney would have publicly taken his position while in office, when doing so would have alienated a large chunk of his supporters, while Obama's reticence on gay equity is probably driven in considerable part by memories of how related issues bedeviled the first year of Bill Clinton's presidency. But when one considers these as moral rather than political questions, it's disconcerting to realize that Cheney, whom I regard as a monster in most circumstances, has it right while Obama, a public figure whose worldview and moral outlook seemed closer to mine than anyone in my lifetime who ran for the White House, is at best too timid and at worst deplorable.

As I'm heading out of the country for a couple weeks, this probably will be the last post for awhile.


Feral said...

Let’s keep things in perspective: Cheney's support for gay marriage is like Dole's advocacy for the disabled—Republicans act like liberals when the problems affect them. You can add to that John McCain's opposition to torture, Nancy Reagan on stem cell research, and the fact that the only GOP senators to vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act were Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Lisa Murkowski. The obvious conclusion: For the Right, politics is a game to be played, where real life human cost of policy is inconsequential. Once it touches them on a personal level, though, the light bulb finally goes on. It's like the whole party has some kind of empathy deficit.

Give Obama some time. He knows that in order to hit the ground running, he needs to please the most people while upsetting the least. He got elected because people were sick of the perfect storm of Bush/Cheney/War/Economy; not because everybody who voted for him necessarily agrees with everything he said/stands for. In order to change what started as an anti-Bush sentiment to a country wide pro-Obama sentiment, he needs to tread carefully. That way, he can have 8 years to slowly make the changes/improvements we all know he wants to make.

Remember that one of the Left’s chief detriments in the last decade or so was the fact that they didn’t know how to win. Well, new guy got that part done; let’s see how the rest of his game plan plays out.

David said...

Yeah, very good point. Brendan's example is Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM, now retired) on mental illness.

It's almost enough to make one think that if somehow more bad things happened to more Republicans, they'd start showing compassion in a more consistent way...

My preferred narrative about Obama puts him in that Lincoln/FDR tradition of effectuating enormous positive change through small increments. Part of that inevitably entails the leader being slagged as an unprincipled sellout by those to his left (Lincoln on human rights, FDR on economics), and maybe that's what I'm doing here. My concern with Obama and gay rights, though, is that he's not only not ahead of the curve, but considerably behind it. And that there were promises made, which should count for something: he was a lot more forthright on that set of issues than the two earlier presidents.

Feral said...

I don’t think he’s necessarily behind the curve on gay rights, or I should say, that he’s necessarily turning his back on campaign promises. Consider this: The country seems to be on the cusp of a significant gay rights movement, happening organically and somewhat unexpectedly (Iowa?..). But there is still considerable resistance to it, presumably mostly by the same people who’re somewhat ambiguous about Obama. By not acting as he’s here to “push” people towards the right path, he’s allowing them to gradually continue to choose the right path on their own, while avoiding a reactionary movement (Obama’s making me marry gays in the military! I told you this would happen!, etc.). I would venture that once the movement gains some momentum as more and more states improve gay (human) rights, you will start to see a more forceful Obama. I have faith(!) in his intentions, even if his agenda has somewhat deviated from his campaign promises, and would like to think that, rather than a bad lefty President, he’s being a good lefty politician.

The Navigator said...

FWIW, I'll note that my post about this topic on AI&S was entitled Selective Compassion, and can be found pretty easily in the archives, from 4/4/06. Sort of a sloppy and disjointed beginning I had there, but I think the post ultimately did a decent job of making a modest point.

On gay marriage specifically, this point isn't limited to GOP politicians - I just saw a poll showing that people who don't know a gay person** are overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage, whereas those who do know a gay are split evenly.

**To my knowledge, the pollsters neglected to identify these people correctly as "respondents who were unaware that someone they know is gay".

Feral said...

So I was regurgitating the Brenigator, and didn’t even know it…

The fact that anti-gay marriage sentiment isn’t limited to GOPpies jives with my point of ‘everybody who voted for him doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he said/stands for’. All the more reason for B-Rock to step lightly, and carry a big (secret) agenda.

I giggled at the phrase “those who do know a gay are split evenly”… ‘Cause I’m twelve.