Let's get the personal creds down at the beginning: I supported Barack Obama for President out the gate. Early on. And all the way through. More than that, I publicly castigated the Clintons for peddling a soft-core racism throughout the campaign. I got down in the trenches. Took lots of heat from my Hillary friends. And I played plenty of hardball with the McCain-Palin ticket, too. Obama took the high road all the way to the White House. And he stayed there. Rode into office in his bright and shining armor without so much as a smudge.
So I've given Obama a couple of free passes in the aftermath of the election. I didn't call him on a few of his alarming picks for his administration and transition team--like Citigroup bag boys Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. And I held my nose when he kept Robert Gates at Defense and picked Jim Jones as his national security adviser. I've accepted his homage to Lincoln by selecting a so-called "team of rivals." And I've yet to blink over the whole Blagojevich fiasco in Chicago, knowing full well that Obama worked his way up the ranks of Second City politics and that he's gotten stained by it more than once.
But his decision of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration is simply an outrage.
Warren, the evangelical founder of Saddleback Church in conservative Orange County, California, was a staunch supporter of Proposition 8, which reversed a celebrated court decision on gay marriage in California. You can watch his duplicitous account for supporting it here.
It's unacceptable. A political blunder. But most importantly and bottom line, it is morally reprehensible. It goes counter to everything that Obama stood for along the road to the White House. I am more than disgusted by it; I am utterly and thoroughly disenchanted.
Moreover, I'm tired of reading that it's the "gay and lesbian communities" who are upset by this selection. I'm straight, I'm white and I have a head of white hair. And trust me, I am bristling with anger over this selection. Bristling. It is the ultimate political betrayal.
It has stripped away all the joy and hope I had in Obama's victory and it has ruined for me what should have been a celebratory and joyous event on January 20. I will not watch. And I will not celebrate.
The passage of California's Proposition 8 was the one damper on the November election. It was a vicious assault on basic civil rights. It left a group of citizens outside the basic human covenant of American politics. There's no wiggle room on this one. None whatsoever.
Warren actually suggested that Obama agreed with him in his support of Prop 8. And Obama never distanced himself from these remarks. Nor did he do much to counter them. He had California in the bag, so we only saw him here briefly during the campaign when he needed to solicit contributions at high-end dinners. There were some phone messages recorded about Prop 8, and that was about it. He didn't throw his body down. He didn't want to lose middle-of-the-road swing voters in the rest of the country, so no he never raised it on the campaign trail. It was a cold and calculated decision.
Obama has responded to the Warren controversy by saying:
"I am a fierce advocate of 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 in my presidency. What I've also said is that it is important for American to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues."
Obama's explanation is prima facie untenable. Would he have invited a pastor to speak at the inauguration who was openly racist? Of course not. What he's saying is that homophobia and denying gays and lesbians basic civil rights is okay. That it's within the parameters of accepted political discourse. It is not.
My 10-year-old son was with me all the way on Obama as only a 10-year-old can be. The night Obama lost to Clinton in Pennsylvania, he cried. But he was also strongly opposed to Prop 8 because he had a child's understanding that it was wrong and unfair. When Prop 8 passed, he made sure we kept our "No on 8" sign up in our yard. It will stay up. But the Obama poster is coming down.
For all his cool and above-the-fray aloofness, let me say that Obama still has a lot to learn, both about politics and about life. And he still needs to develop some steel in his spine. His tendency to embrace oppositional views often crosses over into capitulation. Such is the case with his decision to include Rick Warren in his inauguration.
Lincoln may have brought together a "team of rivals" in his cabinet, but at his First Inaugural, Lincoln was absolutely steadfast and unequivocal about the about the sanctity of the Union. He made a celebrated plea for Americans to find the "better angels of our nature" on the issue. He gave no ground.
And Lincoln also had something very interesting to say at that First Inaugural that sheds light on the issue of gay marriage in America. "If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view, justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one."
Well a vital one it be. By selecting Rick Warren, Barack Obama has sent out the wrong message to the American people. He has embraced bigotry and hatred. And he has turned back the clock on a fundamental civil rights issue. He has betrayed not only gay and lesbian and transgendered Americans, he has betrayed us all. And perhaps most despicably, he has betrayed the fundamental decency of his campaign to become president.
Et tu, Obama?