The headline is tongue-in-cheek. Last night, that’s what I predicted the New York Post’s headline would be. I had to put myself in the mindset of an alliterative Murdoch-paid wingnut headline author. Instead, the Post went with a Travolta massage story.
Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place here. If he follows his head and comes out in support of same-sex marriage, he risks alienating a huge swath of the electorate – especially those in swing states. This is all about independent and undecided voters, and a vicious campaign based on a selective, phony reliance on obscure Biblical passages ensures that the homophobic drive to oppose same-sex marriage will continue to be strong, and risk Obama’s re-election.
Unfortunately, this is the perfect opportunity for Obama to led on this particular issue. It’s a great chance for him to give one of those barn-burner, epic, historical speeches he’s known for where he appeals to people’s decency and common sense to try and change minds.
Later that same day, President Obama said that he had come around to the opinion that, in his opinion, gay couples should be able to get married. This was a shift from his previous opinion – that civil unions would do the trick. As we learned during the debate in New York over same sex marriage, civil unions don’t do the trick very much at all.
I’ve seen lots of reaction over Obama’s change of opinion. Some Republicans accuse him of flip-flopping. But that only works when the politician has changed his view to something safe. I don’t think this is safe at all – I think it’s risky. This is not a poll-driven thing – this came up unexpectedly thanks to Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet the Press last weekend. The White House took only a few days to get its act together on it. Mitt Romney reaffirmed his position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, thus further alienating a particular population – something the Republican field (including Swiss-American Michele Bachmann) had been doing throughout this campaign.
But it’s clear that Romney is a bit irked by the attention Obama’s getting.
Some Republicans quip that Obama has become – at long last – a clone of Dick Cheney. For Republicans, that would be valid were it true that Cheney’s view was the mainstream Republican position, but it isn’t. But even though Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage didn’t come right out and advocate for any change in legislation – state or federal – it’s a pretty big deal. And it’s quite risky.
But one thing it might do for Obama is reignite youthful enthusiasm for his re-election. The acceptance of same sex marriage isn’t just geographical or philosophical – it’s generational.
I don’t know whether Taibbi’s right about this race being a yawn-fest. At the very least, it’ll be fun to watch the Republicans begrudgingly fall behind one-size-fits-all Romney, and I’m sure the attacks on Obama will be as ridiculous as they will be ubiquitous. But Obama has many vulnerabilities, and it will be a test of Romney’s … “managerial” bona fides to see how he exploits that.