Obama the Fierce Advocate

gaytm-smallUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you are no doubt aware that President Obama (I do still like the sound of that) is facing the wrath of the LGBT community. The problem is actually quite simple. He proclaimed himself to be a “fierce advocate” for LGBT people and has, to date, done nearly nothing. He also said on several occasions that a president has to be able to multi-task. He did not specify any constraint on the multi part of multi-tasking.

But here’s the rub. Every time a White House official is asked about repealing Dont-Ask-Don’t-Tell (DADT) or the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), or passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that official (not only Press Secretary Gibbs) always dodges the question with classic Washington no-answer answers, which in Washington is an art form. The reason this is angering so many people is because in this situation, as in any other, when faced with a lack of an answer or any facts, people will always assume the worst. That makes this a problem of Obama’s own making.

True, last week Obama signed a memorandum awarding a number of benefits to the partners of LGBT federal employees. It seems he went as far as he could within the confines of existing law. It’s a good start, I suppose, and yet it feels like too little, too late. It also feels like he did it unwillingly after catching a bucket full of bull manure in the aftermath of a legal brief filed in a legal case involving a challenge to DOMA. OK, so maybe the particular case was weak. Likely he didn’t know about the case or the brief. Probably he’s not appointed his own US Attorney for the district where the brief was filed (Santa Ana). But the brief went waaaaaaaay over the top in its rhetoric and it pissed off a lot of people all across the nation. And in the absence of any specificity on issues of concern to LGBTs, people will — and did — assume the worst.

Yesterday there was a conference call between one or more people at the White House and LGBT members of the Democratic National Committee. One attendee told another blogger that the call was a waste of time. The only information out from that call, so far, is that three questions were put to White House staff and two of the questions were inconsequential. that makes it sound like those with access are more interested in preserving the access above all else. Again, for lack of information…

This Thursday is a big-deal LGBT fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Party. It’s one of those that cost a minimum of $1,000 so the A-Listers can hob nob with party elders, elected officials, and listen to Vice President Biden deliver the keynote speech. Well, dozens of high-profile A-Listers are cancelling their plans to attend. A reader of another blog, Pam’s House Blend, came up with the graphic you see with this post to illustrate the attitude of a growing number of people disappointed in what hasn’t been happening lately: the gAyTM is out of order. What it comes down to is a growing dissatisfaction with both Congress and the White House.

True, no promises have been broken. And this is also true: A promise not kept is no better than a promise not made. Some people have decided to turn the usual paradigm on its ear. Up till now, the process is 1-a candidate makes a promise, 2-the candidate then says he or she needs money to get elected in order to keep the promise, 3-the promise gets ignored, forgotten or back-burnered until the next election, and 4-repeat the process starting at step 1, except that this time, the politician really, really means it. As Howard Beale said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Going forward, the process is 1-deliver on your promises if you expect to get any of my money.

The momentum of the gAyTM being out of order is growing exponentially and it’s got the White House’s attention. So yesterday they’ve begun issuing invitations to A-Listers (remember, they’re the ones who are boycotting Thursday’s fundraiser) to bring their spouses, partners and significant others to a reception at the White House on Monday of next week to “celebrate” the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. The event has not been announced publicly, as of yet.

But see, this isn’t where I have the most trouble. This guy ran an amazing campaign. Unquestionably brilliant. And unlike the references to Enron, Obama really IS the smartest guy in the room. He’s very much like a chess player. He’s looking five or six moves down the line when most everyone else sees only what’s on the board and maybe the move they’re about to make. I’ve read his books. Either they gave me a genuine insight into how he thinks or, given how he’s acted since taking office, the books are pure fiction. There was a time about 14 months ago, during the campaign, I was almost as frustrated as I am now. I thought he ought to have been campaigning differently in order to sew up the nomination. Well, since he did win, I had to admit that what he was doing was the right way. I’m hoping that’s true now, also. But this isn’t like the campaign. His staff dodges questions every day and in the absence of substance, people assume the worst. I would say put up or shut up but shut up is all he’s been doing.

Give us something of substance. You want gay money? You already got lots. Now deliver. Only then will you get more.

And the same holds true for members of Congress. You folks aren’t off the hook, either. You can change the laws without waiting for the president. Do you not trust him to sign DADT and DOMA repeal? Do you not trust him to sign ENDA? After all, it was he, himself, that said he would be a fierce advocate. You guys can introduce the appropriate legislation; you don’t need his permission, do you? Your promises not kept are no better than his. The gAyTM is closed for you, too. Seems we’re all in the business of making promises. So my promise is this: You deliver on your promises and we’ll deliver the money. In that order.

  2 comments for “Obama the Fierce Advocate

  1. June 23, 2009 at 10:31 am

    All I’d like to add is that things take time, wich is lame, I know, but nevertheless true. There is so much to address and it seems Obama is being cautious, and I’m not sure he could successfully do it any other way.

    If we put into it the energy of impatience and intolerance, we will be contributing to the very thing Obama is working to overcome in this country.

    Yes, be vigilant, but be careful about the energy we send to this whole process.

  2. Nick
    June 23, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    One correction to this article…the “cocktail party” celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots has been planned for a while. I just got off a one-hour conference call with people who work for HRC in Washington…the President of HRC (Joe Solmonese) and other leaders of HRC were invited to the party long before the DOJ published the DOMA defense.

Comments are closed.