Friday, December 19, 2008


Poor Barack Obama, say the critics. He was sailing along so well. Proposing bailouts. Proposing stimulus packages. Proposing Clintons. What’s not to love? Commentators were talking about four million people coming to his inauguration. Maybe five. Dyed in the wool Republicans were singing his praises. And Democrats were treating him like manna from heaven. Who could blame him for being a tad complacent – for not recognizing his vulnerability to a powerful left hook?

But a left hook it was. Power-packed from one of the most progressive interest groups of them all – the homosexuals. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. Truth be told, you don’t have to be homosexual to oppose what Rick Warren stands for. You don’t even have to be a homosexual to oppose his stance on gay marriage. Really, all you have to be is (a) willing to question the literal truth of Scripture, (b) pro marriage, and (c) anti hypocrisy. I realize that excludes a massive number of heterosexuals, but still … the gays are not alone on this. The legalization of gay marriage is inevitable in this country; the only question is when?

Anyway, let’s step back for a moment and look at the fateful statements by the man Barack chose to do the invocation at his inauguration.

"This [the right of gay people to get married] is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about."

“The issue to me is … I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
[Asked: Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?]

“Oh I do.”

And those are not Warren’s only colorful comparisons. Consider the following:

“But to me it is kind of a charade in that people say ‘We believe abortions should be safe and rare … Don’t tell me it should be rare. That’s like saying on the Holocaust, ‘Well, maybe we could save 20 percent of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out and we should be satisfied with that. I’m not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended.”

Warren has also been filmed agreeing with Sean Hannity’s comment that we should “take out” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To quote Warren, “the Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.”

There you have it folks – the clergyman Barack has chosen to usher in his new Administration. Progressives all over the nation are wondering just what Barack was thinking. Is he trying to piss off his base before his term has even started?

All I can say is … relax, everybody. Barack hasn’t done anything wrong here. He’s not endorsing Warren’s troglodyte views. He’s not holding Warren up as the wisest clergyman in America. He has merely decided to make a symbolic statement at an event that is all about symbolism. And the statement is crystal clear: America cannot solve its biggest problems unless it is more unified. By elevating Warren, Barack is telling the world that he plans on bringing all ideologies into the marketplace of dialogue. And he’s planning on treating all people of good will with respect. Nobody disputes that Warren is a man of good will – he may dwell in a cave, but at least he does so with love. That’s more than I can say for many of my fellow progressives.

Speaking of love, Warren’s support of Prop 8 is, for me, a pathetic way of spitting in the face of love. I strongly suspect that if Warren’s beloved Jesus were alive today, he’d support gay marriage as fervently as anyone. So, as a supporter of gay marriage rights, should I lament the choice of Warren? Hardly. If I’m right, there’s a subtext to this drama that might ultimately resound to the benefit of legalizing these marriages.

Consider what Barack publicly stated when justifying his choice of invocation speakers:

"It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.”

Well …actually, Barack, you’ve consistently opposed equality for gay and lesbian Americans, at least on the topic that is generating the most attention with respect to their community: marriage. No, you haven’t compared such unions to incestuous or polygamous marriages, but you’ve spoken against them. So what kind of equality are you talking about? The kind of “separate but equal” equality they had in the South prior to Brown v. Board of Education?

Not at all. Barack is a brilliant, progressive black intellectual. He knows damn well that “separate but equal” is an oxymoron. Here’s what I think is going on: Of course Barack supports gay marriage – Barack the Man, that is. If you took a look at Ivy League educated Democrats and polled them on the topic, you’d fight such support overwhelming. But Barack has also recognized that a politician cannot afford to speak out in favor of gay marriage and get elected … not yet at least. So he’s wisely paid lip service to this “civil union” B.S., all the while purporting to care about homosexuals’ rights.

I predict that Barack’s charade will continue for another four years – through his next (and final) election. Then, in his second term, when there’s no need for him to pander on this topic, he’ll finally take a shot on truly being a “fierce advocate” for the rights of gay people. The first stop on that road was his announcement of Warren to do the invocation.

If I’m correct, Barack welcomes the gay backlash against his choice of speakers. Barack welcomes a progressive interest group questioning this Presidency from the left. Barack welcomes the opportunity to position himself as a moderate at a time when only a broad coalition of liberals and conservatives can support the fundamental changes we need. But Barack also welcomes pressure to increase his public support of the so-called “gay agenda.” I’m confident that he believes in that “agenda.” Virtually all intellectual progressives do. He’s simply waiting for the point where he can announce his support without too much political fallout. In the meantime, as I’m sure he rationalizes to himself, gay people can go to New England and get married there.

Stated simply, this Warren controversy should be a win-win for American progressives. It should further boost Barack’s standing as a “moderate.” And it should shine a light on the discrimination endured by gay people. Expect progress on ending that discrimination before the end of the Obama Administration. I suspect that won’t happen until after 2012 … but thanks to shrewd decisions like the choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation, the chance that the Administration will be around post-2012 seems to increase with every week.

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