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Krauthammer on the Obama gay marriage straddle

Notwithstanding a comically fawning press” writes Charles Krauthammer this morning about the president’s sudden switch on gay marriage, “Obama knows he has boxed himself in.”

In his op-ed, the sage pundit talks about two arguments for gay marriage, Argument A, empathy, and Argument B, rights, and the president’s muddled position as he tries to straddle the two, first the former when he first announced his new position, then “five days later” moving on  “to adopt Argument B, calling gay marriage a great example of  ‘expand[ing] rights‘ and today’s successor to civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights”:

Problem is: It’s a howling contradiction to leave up to the states an issue Obama now says is a right. And beyond being intellectually untenable, Obama’s embrace of the more hard-line “rights” argument compels him logically to see believers in traditional marriage as purveyors of bigotry. Not a good place for a president to be in an evenly divided national debate that requires both sides to offer each other a modicum of respect.

It’s Krauthammer.  Read the whole thing.

NB:  Am working on a post to address the argument that even if Obama is not sincere about his switch on gay marriage, it’s good to have the president speak out on the topic.  In this post, I will note the several arguments, gay marriage advocates make for expanding the definition of this ancient institution and address why Obama’s approach is so unsatisfying.

Although I often agree with Krauthammer and share his views about Obama trying to straddle the issue here, I believe there are more than just two types of arguments for gay marriage.

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17 Comments

  1. All Obama needs (and he knows it) is one more SC justice and he will not need the legislative branch on this or any other issue.

    Comment by Bob K. — May 18, 2012 @ 1:36 pm - May 18, 2012

  2. Did a bit of reflection on this recently, and I came to thinking about how the issue of same-sex marriage recently entered the new in Britain.

    David Cameron, the current Prime Minister (and someone who is getting closer to having my vote next election) recently stated an intention to introduce full same-sex marriage in the UK. Now this wasn’t in the Queen’s speech and many Tory backbenchers seem determined to bury the idea but it did get me thinking how Cameron’s proposal factors into LGBT rights among the party leaders.

    There’s no serious suggestion that any of the major party leaders are against same-sex marriage, so that effectively places them equal unless Cameron can actually convince the rest of his party and get full SSM in the UK. Otherwise it was Labour (back in 2004) that introduced the current ‘everything but marriage’ civil partnerships, so it’s all equal with perhaps a slight lead to Labour unless Cameron can ‘trump’ them.

    How is this relevant? Well I compare it to what’s going on the US. Obama’s approach is indeed ‘unsatisfying’ and certainly lacking compared to what’s happening here, but then the US is effectively a two-party system and you look over to Mitt Romney. Now I’m not blind, both are being effectively forced into their positions by a need to bolster their respective bases, Obama with a weak endorsement, Romney with an unconvincing denouncement.

    But I think what’s more important here is that bit I said about their reasons, the need to appeal to their bases. Both politicians are effectively mirroring their own bases. Obama with a weak endorsement showing the intraparty battle between urbanite modernizers and populist minorities awkwardly coexisting, Romney with a mixed position against SSM and civil unions but in favour of some other rights, showing another intraparty battle between anti-gay ‘legacy’ voters who keep getting stuck on social conservatism and more economically focused ‘new Republicans’ trying to steer the party towards a more socially moderate path (forgive me for the names, I pretty much made them up on the spot).

    Other articles I’ve read suggest the ‘modernizers’ within the Democratic party have pretty much won this cycle, which I agree with. For better or for worse, they’re in control for now. But I think the Republican party is much more in flux, as I think this blog itself shows. The bloggers are, for the most part at least, on the ‘new Republican’ side, but the commenters are a far more mixed bunch, leaning towards the ‘legacy’ side from what I’ve seen. A parallel between the Republican leadership and the grassroots members is pretty easy to make here, and I think it’s accurate.

    My hope really is that we’re going to see an election battle between ‘modernizer’ Democrats and ‘legacy’ Republicans this year. Because with the two sides both motivated, polarized, and with no middle ground to speak of, that’s going to be one hell of an explosive combination. I should stock up on the popcorn.

    Comment by Serenity — May 18, 2012 @ 1:53 pm - May 18, 2012

  3. Also, I’m laughing right now after realizing that I completely lost track of what I was doing with that last post and started writing a completely different one after the fourth paragraph. I actually like it better than what I was going to post, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    Comment by Serenity — May 18, 2012 @ 1:54 pm - May 18, 2012

  4. Hi Dan,
    I agree–Obama has some work to do here to resolve that contradiction. But then, I think there is a contradiction in some arguing for a constitutional amendment to enshrine straight marriage or ban gay marriage whilst at the same time claiming that the issue is a question of state’s rights. My guess is that SCOTUS will have to take the case up and decide the constitutionality of it, as it has done with other social issues…

    Comment by Cas — May 18, 2012 @ 3:16 pm - May 18, 2012

  5. Gay ‘marriage’ not a right, prohibiting gay adoption not ‘discrimination’: European Court of Human Rights (REJECTION OF THE SOCIAL ACTIVISM OF THE APAs/ABA AND THE SWEDISH MODEL IN THE INTEREST OF CHILDREN)

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/gay-marriage-not-a-right-prohibiting-gay-adoption-not-discrimination-europe#

    Russians overwhelmingly endorse ‘gay propaganda’ ban

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/russians-overwhelmingly-endorse-gay-propaganda-ban?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com%20Daily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=448adc7414-LifeSiteNews_com_Canada_Headlines_04_19_2012&utm_medium=email#

    Comment by rjligier — May 18, 2012 @ 5:19 pm - May 18, 2012

  6. Obama is fully capable of making a solid argument for marriage as a right, but he is more of a judicial activist than a libertarian or conservative constructionist.

    Comment by Geena — May 18, 2012 @ 6:01 pm - May 18, 2012

  7. Gay ‘marriage’ not a right, prohibiting gay adoption not ‘discrimination’: European Court of Human Rights

    This is just an appeal to authority. In other words, it is fallacious. That isn’t to say I either agree or disagree with it, though.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — May 18, 2012 @ 7:53 pm - May 18, 2012

  8. this is floating around Facebook. . .

    http://i1124.photobucket.com/albums/l569/rusty98119/adafd2fc.jpg

    So if one is appealing to the authority of the almighty, are those appeals just as fallacious?

    J/k. Kinda

    Comment by rusty — May 18, 2012 @ 8:59 pm - May 18, 2012

  9. “It’s a howling contradiction to leave up to the states an issue Obama now says is a right.”

    Indeed, this is exactly what Stephen Douglas argued for against Lincoln in the 1858 debates: Let each state decide whether to allow slavery.

    Comment by RHirsch — May 18, 2012 @ 9:47 pm - May 18, 2012

  10. It is possible that the statement of his belief is sincere (whatever that means in the world of a malignant narcissist like Obame), but the “shift” in that position is not. It is possible his personal support for gay marriage has been consistent, but that his public stance on the subject has shifted according to political expediency.

    Comment by V the K — May 18, 2012 @ 10:07 pm - May 18, 2012

  11. Argument A, empathy, and Argument B, rights, and the president’s muddled position as he tries to straddle the two

    The muddle is a feature, not a problem. To the Left, I mean. Their long-term strategy is to destroy rights – real rights, I mean: your moral right to your life, your liberty, your property, free of the wrongful interference of others – precisely by muddling the concept, turning everything into a “right” until people don’t even know what the word is supposed to mean anymore.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — May 19, 2012 @ 2:13 am - May 19, 2012

  12. Wasn’t “states’ rights” the rallying cry of 1960s segregationists?

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — May 19, 2012 @ 7:28 pm - May 19, 2012

  13. Isn’t “Unity and Progress” the rallying cry of Fascists everywhere?

    Comment by V the K — May 21, 2012 @ 6:07 am - May 21, 2012

  14. Just to clarify: Obama was for “gay marriage” in 1996.

    In 2008, he was against “gay marriage”.

    In 2012, he was for “gay marriage” again.

    Is he for or against polygamy too? Or are his views “evolving”?

    Granted, if one can redefine marriage, one can rewrite history.
    It’s just hard to keep up with his Newspeak.

    Comment by Ben — May 21, 2012 @ 7:13 am - May 21, 2012

  15. How is gay marriage a right? It is not. It is not based on an individual right as what we have as the Bill of Rights. Gay marriage is about an institution of 2 people. Governments don’t have to recognize the personal relationships between 2 people and that includes family relationships. In fact, government constantly strives to divide parents from their children in our public schools. This will be a nasty fight. Obama is all sentiment and his reelection campaign.

    Comment by anon23532 — May 21, 2012 @ 6:55 pm - May 21, 2012

  16. But then, I think there is a contradiction in some arguing for a constitutional amendment to enshrine straight marriage or ban gay marriage whilst at the same time claiming that the issue is a question of state’s rights.

    It would be a contradiction for the latter, but not the former.

    A soft amendment, which merely explicitly authorizes states to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and for Congress to do the same concerning D.C. and the territories, would leave undisturbed the marriage laws of New York, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Iowa. The hard amendment, which bans same-sex marriage nationwide, would overturn such laws.

    calling gay marriage a great example of ’expand[ing] rights‘

    It would be an expansion of rights, since under current Supreme Court precedent, it is not a right. See Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810, 93 S. Ct. 37, 34 L.E.2d 65 (1972) (Mem)

    Comment by Michael Ejercito — May 21, 2012 @ 9:54 pm - May 21, 2012

  17. A soft amendment, which merely explicitly authorizes states to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and for Congress to do the same concerning D.C. and the territories, would leave undisturbed the marriage laws of New York, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Iowa.

    Personally my only issue with such an amendment is it goes back to the argument of reservation of powers. Under the 9th and 10th amendments such things shouldn’t be needed. So by putting them in place, do we weaken the 10th amendment?

    Comment by The_Livewire — May 22, 2012 @ 1:19 pm - May 22, 2012

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