President Obama previously had the dubious distinction among politicians of being for marriage equality before he was against it. But now he's not alone: his own vice president shares the honor!
Of course, in the case of Obama, he was for it for perhaps 8 years, depending on when he started saying he was against it (after having said he was for it in a questionaire in 1996, which his aides have spun themselves into a frenzy trying to explain). For Joe Biden it was just about 8 minutes.
Seriously, before Obama could even spend a few days basking in the glory of the Romney campaign's hideous gay meltdown last week, another idiotic gay panic has gripped his own campaign. And it really makes you wonder, what are these guys thinking?
Campaign advisor David Axelrod had two full days to figure out the proper response (or choose none at all) to Joe Biden's "Meet the Press" interview, which was taped on Friday and which aired on Sunday. Still, he impulsively overreacted to Biden's honest comment that he is "absolutely comfortable" with gays marrying, walking back the comments in a tweet shortly after "Meet the Press" aired, as if the comments were the most horrible thing imaginable, and blowing the story up bigger. It only created more tension with a constituency already disappointed over Obama's refusal to sign the anti-discrimination executive order as well as his refusal to come out of the closet on marriage equality.
Biden's comments were heartfelt and terrific, whether they were planned or were just another Biden slip-up, and should have been left at that. Not all blurt-outs are created equal; sometimes you just go with it and make it work for you.
It would have been a plus for the campaign, energizing marriage equality supporters in the base while the president himself still remained in evolution. (After all, the difference on the issue between Obama and Biden wouldn't be nearly as disparate as that between Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, who proposed a federal marriage amendment. Why let Republicans appear as if they respect differences of opinion within their administrations on this issue more than Democrats do?) Press statements began coming from gay groups, thanking Biden for coming out for marriage equality. Advocates were tweeting away with glee.
Like the Grinch who stole equality, Axelrod deflated all that with his tweet claiming that Biden's position, as articulated in his comments, is no different from Obama's: "What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS's position." That was followed up by a statement from Biden's office appearing to reverse the vice president, saying that, like the president, Biden "was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue."
Who exactly was supposed to be appeased by Axelrod's tweet? The Christian right, which isn't voting for Obama and believes he is for gay marriage no matter how many tweets Axelrod sends? Or is it independents, who really couldn't care less about this issue but see another episode in which an indecisive, fearful leader doesn't take a stand, the opposite of the kind of leader independents like to vote for? Is there really a group of voters out there that would switch votes from Obama to Romney because the vice president -- who is unlikely to ever become president -- vaguely supports marriage equality?
The answer is no on all counts. And that's how you know it's a gay panic -- an irrational fear of all things gay that has politicians acting on impulse rather than reason.
The walk-back was offensive because it was another slap in the face, a reminder that this "fierce advocate" not only doesn't support full equality but can't tolerate it even from his number two. However vague Biden may have been, there's no question he articulated a different position from the president. He prefaced his comments by saying, "I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy." That was a clear admission that he had a different opinion than Obama. And Biden's office stressed that the comments were Biden's own comments, not the administration's. Why would that matter if Biden's own opinion was the same as Obama's?
But if Axelrod truly believes that Biden and Obama have the same position, then he must be saying that Obama, too, is "absolutely comfortable" with men marrying men and women marrying women. That's the next question a reporter needs to ask the president.