President Obama told a group of liberal bloggers today that his views on gay marriage are “evolving”:
I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage. But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents. And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today.
I wonder how many people believe Obama’s claim that his “understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage” (the inapt use of the plural here suggests he is blowing smoke) are what have kept him from “signing on to same-sex marriage.” I don’t believe it. I think he hasn’t publicly signed on for purely political reasons.
Obama, clever as always, seems to merge principled opposition with crass political opposition by asserting “traditional understandings” as his principle and then noting the political fact that “attitudes” (i.e., understandings), including his, evolve. Through this sleight of hand, Obama wants us to believe that it’s legitimate for him flip position on this fundamental issue based, in essence, on public opinion. He also wants to dangle before his liberal blogger audience and the gay community the hope that the flip might occur tomorrow at 3:30 in the afternoon.
If Obama’s “understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage” are this ephemeral, they should not cause him to oppose the creation of an important new right for his “host of friends who are in gay partnerships” or for anyone else. But, again, I do not beleive that this is or ever has been the basis for Obama’s opposition. I believe the basis is crass political calculation, an even weaker justification.