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What You’ve Been Waiting For: Obama’s Gay Rights Revolution

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The Administration Discusses Its “Plan.” Hint: There Is None

“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” might accurately describe the turn of events for the gay community and their supporters since late Thursday, thanks to the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice, which filed a brief in Smelt v. United States, a federal gay marriage case. (If you’re not up-to-speed, read, “DEVELOPING: Obama Defends Defense Of Marriage Act?“)

Akin to any Republican who criticizes Rush Limbaugh, the Obama Administration once again had to go back to the gay community to smooth things over. You remember, even before the election, there was Obama’s silence on Prop 8. We knew it was a hot-button issue and we wanted him elected, so we ignored it. Then, even before Obama took office, there was the Pastor Rick Warren debacle. We got angry, but sloughed it off. And then there was the conspicuous silence after every gay marriage win. We said, he doesn’t want to get involved in the smaller issues, he’ll make it a big issue. Besides, there was that whole the-country’s-about-to-go-down-the-tubes thing called The Recession. We accepted nothing because we figured that’s all it was. back in March there was the total ignoring of gay issues during Obama’s “Online Town Hall.” And then there was the very quiet in-the-dark-of-night removal of Obama’s promises to repeal DOMA and DADT that somehow disappeared from WhiteHouse.gov. Some thought maybe it was an over-zealous intern. But the White House came back with the spin, “we want WhiteHouse.gov to list successes, not plans” BS. And we thought, OK… Hmmm… But we let that go by as well.

(In case you feel like you’re reading that old poem, “First they came…,” well, feel free.)

After Thursday’s DOJ filing, the punditocracy was ablaze in speculation as to what the brief meant. Was it a mistake? Was Obama legally required to defend DOMA? Was the brief a left-over from Bush? But sure enough, the truth has seeped out, thanks in large part to the Obama Administration itself. Obama unleashed his highest-ranking openly gay official, John Berry, to chat with The Advocate over the weekend, another sign he gets that his gay-community blind-spot hindered an intelligent approach to the Smelt/DOMA brief.

Before I get any further, I have to ask, why is the director of the Office of Personnel Management the highest openly-gay member of the Obama administration? I get that it’s a huge position, but it’s not that high up the food chain. And why is he qualified to be Obama’s defacto representative to the gay community? It’s because he’s gay. That’s fine, but this issue is a legislative issue, and a DOJ issue, not a personnel management issue. So, while I respect Berry’s statements as representing the Administration, I reject the idea that he should be their voice to us on gay issues. We deserve a representative that can actually do something for us once they return to the White House. (I can imagine the conversation in the West Wing: “Oh crap, the gay issue just blew up. Who can we put on this? Oh yeah, Berry, he’s gay.” Sorry, not good enough.)

So, here’s what we’ve learned from John Berry’s talk with The Advocate:

• There is no “secret deal” with any or all of the gay rights groups. No secret HRC deal, Joe Solmonese did not offer to delay DADT to next year in favor of getting Hate Crimes passed this year. (Honestly, I’d be happier if there were a plan, call it what you want.) I find it interesting that the White House wanted “to be clear about” this at all.

• Berry said their first goal is, “we will get our federal house in order.” That’s great. Definitely want to set the example. “[T]he president is going to be announcing something in the very near future that is going to be a very significant announcement…” making “sure that we get the benefits for the LGBT community that are equal to all other benefits provided to other federal employees.” OK.

• In no specific order, Berry says: Hate Crimes, ENDA, DADT, DOMA. Well there you have it. The same ones I’ve been talking about for months. Good to know we’re on the same page. Berry says Hate Crimes should be this week. (Word just came that Hate Crimes is attached to a tourism bill. Not sure who to blame for that irony.)

• Before we start jumping up and down, here’s the sound of the other shoe dropping: “The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration…” Before the sun sets? To me, that sounds like “by the end of our second term.” So, “four more years” takes on a whole new meaning, now, doesn’t it? Did the president say, “You Don’t Poll Whether People Get Treated Equally Or Not, you do it because it’s the right thing to do” in your second term? You can say, all you want, “give the guy a break.” Problem is, we have given him a break. And every time we do, we get not only ignored, but the White House sets us back a few years. To be fair, Berry says,

“It’s clear that we want to accomplish these things on this administration’s watch. We hope we get eight years, but if we’re limited to four, we’re still going to try to pursue this agenda. I was there for the entire meeting, start to finish. Nobody said second term, nobody is crazy enough to presume that we get a second term – the American people decide whether we get a second term.”

But to be fair, that’s political posturing. Of course they hope for and are thinking about a second term. (I certainly hope they are. Too many reasons for us to not want them to. Do not even begin to think the Republicans will ever be on our side on this.) • On the Smelt/DOMA fiasco that was unleashed Thursday, Berry claims that the president had no choice, “This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces.” Well, that sounds reasonable. But wait, did the President have to invoke references to incest and marrying children to uphold the Constitution? I think not.

Let me take a moment here to say a few things. First, as I have been reminded, the Department of Justice is supposed to be free of presidential interference. It should act impartially, uphold the law, not act on the president’s personal law-enforcement agenda. I get that. But I find it terribly hard to believe that Eric Holder had no clue what was in the DOMA brief, that there was no conversation between Justice and the White House. And if there wasn’t, why wasn’t there? This is a terribly pragmatic administration. Surely, given the amount of coverage gay rights and gay marriage have, surely someone must have thought that this was a very sensitive issue that could blow up in their faces? Well, it did.

While we’re here, let me remind you of Andrew Sullivan’s take on all this:

“I suspect that this was a function not of malevolence but of negligence. The truth is: this administration is not hostile to gay equality; it just doesn’t give a damn about it.”

OK, back to Berry, who next says,

“We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda.”

Now, just a moment. The gay community has done nothing but support this president. We’re a big group, we carry a lot of weight, and a lot of votes. Granted, the vast majority of them would have gone to any Democrat, but it’s still a lot of votes. And a lot of money. A lot of money. Money that some think we shouldn’t be so generous with.

It’s time someone asked, Why isn’t there a specific gay agenda advocate in the White House? So, here’s the kicker. Berry ends with,

“We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?”

WHY THE HELL NOT? This is a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress. I get Obama’s busy. But there’s a difference. A big difference between letting things slide, which, I think many in the gay community would accept, to viciously supporting DOMA and comparing gay marriage to incest and invoking marrying children. Say what you want about who might have written the brief; it doesn’t matter. Lighting the fire and ignoring the person while they strike the match have the same effect here. And it’s going to take a lot more effort now to put the blaze of homophobia that is Smelt back in the bottle.

I’ll throw one on the side of Bill Maher at this point:

“I’m glad that Obama is president, but the “Audacity of Hope” part is over. Right now, I’m hoping for a little more audacity.”

Me too.

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News

‘Supposed to Be Hard’: Political Experts Explain Their Thinking on Biden and the Election

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Two weeks after the political class’s response to President Joe Biden’s poor debate performance threw the 2024 election into chaos, four political experts share their thinking about where the race actually stands and what Biden’s supporters should do.

“He can’t win right!? They point to the polling right?” wrote political strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, a frequent NBC News/MSNBC political analyst, linking to a report about the latest polls which show President Biden ahead of Donald Trump. “Well this is the 2nd poll (credible poll) in 2 days showing the Pres race in statistical deadlock two weeks after debate! Using polls to push Biden out feels like red wave 2020 bs all over again.”

Belcher was commenting on the latest Marist College poll produced for NPR/PBS NewsHour. It found Biden beating Trump 50-48 in a one-to-one matchup. When factoring in the four third-party/independent candidates including RFK Jr., Trump came out ahead of Biden, 43-42.

FiveThirtyEight’s regularly updated polling aggregator currently shows Trump up over Biden by 1.9 points, a drop from Thursday where he was more than two points over Biden. FiveThirtyEight also currently shows; “Biden wins 50 times out of 100 in our simulations of the 2024 presidential election. Trump wins 49 times out of 100.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Former Republican and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, a resident scholar at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, says the Democratic “freak out needs to stop.”

“Enough.”

Pointing to that same Marist poll, she focuses on a different question.

“This poll also shows character matters more than age. That’s to Biden’s advantage.”

NPR’s headline on its article detailing the poll reads: “After Biden’s debate performance, the presidential race is unchanged.”

“Biden actually gained a point since last month’s survey, which was taken before the debate,” NPR reports, adding: “the survey also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 32%, people said it’s more concerning to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than one who might be too old to serve.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

To Setmayer’s point, NPR also says, “A majority said Biden has the character to be president (52%), while a majority also said Trump does not (56%).”

Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, offered advice to Biden supporters on how to think about Democrats and pundits pushing for the President to drop out of the race, and how to deal with the day-to-day emotional toll.

“Getting lots of questions on how to lower the anxiety level people are feeling. Best thing you can do is unfollow the people attacking Biden gratuitously. Don’t engage them. Unfollow them. It’s not an honest discussion. It’s a frenzy that’s doing real damage.”

“You will not get an explanation from the political arsonists fueling this panic,” he added. “Stop looking for one. Unfollow them. Drop your subscription. Quit listening. That’s the best thing you can do in the pro-democracy fight right now. Their gaslighting is now a suppression tactic.”

To someone who said they are “scared,” and the situation is “confusing, maddening and sad,” Madrid advised: “Nothing has changed. Stop watching TV and get off Twitter. Take the weekend off. Please.”

The Lincoln Project’s Stuart Stevens, a political strategist for decades and author of “The Conspiracy To End America,” writes: “I worked in campaigns for 30 years. I am hardwired to respond one way when your guy is in trouble: fight harder. Don’t start looking for exit ramps or magic bullets. Play the next play. Do your job. Ignore the scoreboard. It’s supposed to be hard.”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

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News

RFK Jr. Apology Over Sexual Assault Allegation ‘Disingenuous’ – Unsure if More to Come

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate running for president, has apologized to the woman who accused him of sexual assault, and separately told reporters he does not know if there are more potential accusers.

The 70-year old anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist who has said a worm ate a portion of his brain, has not denied allegations of sexual misconduct. A recent Vanity Fair profile reports that in 1998, Eliza Cooney, 23-years old at the time and working as a part-time baby sitter for RFK Jr. and his wife’s children, felt his “hand moving up and down her leg under the table” during “a meeting in the family kitchen.”

There are other allegations in the Vanity Fair profile that include Kennedy being shirtless in Cooney’s bedroom and asking her to rub lotion on his back, which she said was “totally inappropriate.”

And this: “A few months later, Cooney says, she was rifling through the kitchen pantry for lunch after a yoga class, still in her sports bra and leggings, when Kennedy came up behind her, blocked her inside the room, and began groping her, putting his hands on her hips and sliding them up along her rib cage and breasts. ‘My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,’ she says, describing the alleged sexual assault. ‘I was frozen. Shocked.’ ”

RELATED: ‘What in the F’: RFK Jr. in Photo With Alleged ‘Barbecued’ Dog Carcass Disgusts Critics

The Washington Post Friday morning reported RFK Jr. “privately apologized to a woman who accused him of sexual assault, saying he does not remember the alleged incident and that any harm he caused was ‘inadvertent.’ ”

“’I have no memory of this incident but I apologize sincerely for anything I ever did that made you feel uncomfortable or anything I did or said that offended you or hurt your feelings,’ Kennedy wrote in a text message to Cooney sent at 12:33 a.m. on July 4, two days after her accusations became public. ‘I never intended you any harm. If I hurt you, it was inadvertent. I feel badly for doing so.’ ”

Cooney told The Post that Kennedy’s texted message was “disingenuous and arrogant.”

“I’m not sure how somebody has a true apology for something that they don’t admit to recalling. I did not get a sense of remorse.”

READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

Also on Friday, hidden in the middle of a Boston Globe soft profile of the presidential candidate whose support has reportedly now hit ten percent – possibly enough to change the outcome of the election – is Kennedy’s apparent acknowledgment there could be more allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Asked if other women might come forward with similar allegations he said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

The Globe notes Kennedy “is currently on the ballot in nine states, and submitted enough signatures to eventually get on the ballot in 15 states. There are five other states where the campaign claims to have enough signatures but hasn’t turned in them in yet, in some cases because the window to do so hasn’t opened.”

FiveThirtyEight reports there is a 58% chance the election “is decided by a smaller margin than the vote share for third-party candidates,” meaning Kennedy, who has the largest portion of third party votes, may have the potential to change the election outcome.

In a parenthetical addition, Vanity Fair updated its report, writing: “After this story was published, Kennedy told the Breaking Points podcast, in response to Cooney’s allegations, that he is ‘not a church boy… I have so many skeletons in my closet.’ When pressed to respond directly to her claims, he told the anchor, ‘I’m not going to comment on it.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

 

 

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Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?

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Following President Joe Biden’s 58-minute long unscripted, solo press conference without a teleprompter, fielding questions from reporters and responding with nuance and depth on a range of issues including foreign and domestic policy, some critics are calling on his opponent, ex-president Donald Trump, to do the same.

It’s been a long time since Trump has held an actual unscripted, lengthy, solo press conference, with questions from reporters, and well-over a year since he did one that wasn’t centered on his legal crises.

“When is last time Trump did an hour long press conference? Anyone know?” asked Bloomberg News’ Steven Dennis Thursday night after the President’s press conference.

“So now the media will demand that Trump hold an hour-long press conference on complex foreign policy issues — right?” snarked attorney and legal commentator Tristan Snell, who headed the successful New York State civil prosecution of Trump University.

READ MORE: ‘Dead Heat’: Biden Ahead or Tied With Trump in Two New Post-Debate Polls

“Trump is getting a free pass just like he did in 2016. No way he could do a press conference for 40 minutes after 3 long days with world leaders. He is incoherent most of time when he’s not spewing bile,” declared CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney Friday morning.

“It’s now time for the corporate media to dissect every word Trump says for the next two weeks, have debates on his mental state, amplify the small number of Republicans who want Trump to drop out and demand he hold a press conference where we can dissect him even more,” remarked attorney and SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah Friday morning.

“Per CSPAN last time Trump held a press conference that approached an hour in length at which he took questions from reporters, he was still president,” observed Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) Friday morning.

READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders

He adds, “Per the CSPAN archive, the last time Donald Trump took questions from reporters in a press conference was on February 8th. National and campaign reporters made an issue of the lack of press conferences with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. To date, they have not done so with Trump.”

On November 8, 2022, from Mar-a-Lago, after polls closed, Donald Trump delivered remarks discussing the midterm elections. He spoke for about four minutes to supporters and took no questions from reporters, whom he mocked. (Full C-SPAN video.)

Semafor’s David Weigel argues, “A lot of the ‘whatabout Trump’ stuff is cope, but he really is getting an easy ride with interviewers compared to 2016 or 2020.”

“Most of his interviews are softball-fests. When he did All-In the campaign had to clean up his green card/diploma answer.”

READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report Finds

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