Honesty Amongst Friends
by Charles Lemos, Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 09:46:53 PM EDT
The President spoke to the the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT organization, at their annual dinner. You can view the speech over at the Huffington Post. In his speech, the President noted that "it's important to be honest amongst friends." Well in that vein, I'll admit that I haven't bothered to watch the speech though I will read the transcript, otherwise I might fall prey to his bedazzling rhetoric. In any regard, I'm sure that I've heard it all before. That's Obama's problem. He's long on promises and short on delivery.
It's not that I have lost faith on LGBT issues in the President, I haven't. I'm sure he will move the ball forward on a number of LGBT issues but none of those are going to happen tomorrow. Here's more honesty for Obama from his friends.
John Aravosis asks Where's the Beef?:
Barack Obama just promised us that if he becomes president, he's going to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and get ENDA passed. It was a bit surreal. I'm sitting at a fundraiser for the No on 1 effort in Maine (that Obama didn't even bother to mention), and we were all just speechless (actually, hardly speechless - and I thought yelling at the TV was long since over). Obama repeated his campaign promises. That was it.
Up in Seattle, The Stranger's Dan Savage is also a tad underwhelmed:
My reaction: a friend has been sending me ecstatic emails about the speech. I just watched it--the speech is every bit as good as the ones candidate Obama gave, as the performance candidate Obama delivered at the HRC/Logo Democratic Primary Debate, as the open letter to the LGBT community that candidate Obama released before last November's election. Imagine all the wonderful things this guy is going to accomplish if he ever actually gets elected president. In other words: sorry, folks, nothing new to see here. Pledges, promises, excuses. Lip service.
I sense a pattern developing.
Andy Towle of Towleroad found that "President Obama delivered a speech strong on rhetoric that did not make any new promises or commitments." I'd suggest reading the comments to get a feel on the reaction in the gay community. Here's a sampling:
Charming and substance-free.
If I'd been there I might have bought it, and come away encouraged.
From a great distance it borders on insulting. He can't even be bothered to mention Question 1 or Referendum 7?
When will Obama start giving US quotes WE can use in these populist battles rather than our enemies?
The failure to reference the campaign in Maine or the gay marriage initiative in DC seems to have hit a nerve:
The word "putz" comes to mind. The man does not even have the balls to address Maine and Washington. What the hell good is he?
When all else fails, gay snark:
Will everyone please shut up? He invited gay families to the Easter Egg Roll, didn't he?
While most ran negative, there were a few positive such as this one:
Sorry, but this was a great speech, and words DO matter. If he were planning to bail on us, he did not have to be there tonight, in DC the night before the march. I believe him, and I think I'll be proven right.
I don't see how anyone gay can honestly say this speech was "substance-free." I guess we are becoming more and more trapped in a gay echo chamber online where we forget how crazy-important it is to have the leader of the free world saying a relationship between people of the same gender should be as admired as one between people of opposite genders.
Even the derided Easter remark overlooks that his inviting gay families to that event really WAS a big deal. It made the righties flip their fuckin' gourds and the remark was not, after all, a cornerstone of this speech or anything.
He strongly reiterated that DADT will go.
For me, the only disappointment (considering I didn't expect him to issue a DADT stop-loss on the spot, though I disagree with him on that approach) was, as Andy pointed out, his failure to speak against Question One in Maine and other specific measures.
Otherwise, this speech excited me. When he follows through on his promises, I'll be relieved. (And please, enough with the jealous or anti-materialist or whatever snarking about tuxedoes and champagne. Most people enjoy the finer things in life from time to time...are we supposed to do everything in jeans? I'm not a huge HRC fan because they endorsed Lieberman, but this class-warfar b.s. is embarrassing.)
I hope the march goes as well as Obama's speech--I think both aspects are important and we're all on the same side.
Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic live blogged it. Count him as part of the underwhelmed crowd.
"I'm here with you in this fight." When are you going to prove it? Answer: by 2017 . . . Now we get the campaign speech on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Does he not realize he is now in office? "I'm working to end this policy. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Solmonese has given us the timeline: 2017. This is bullshit . . . His major achievement - the one thing he has actually done - is invite gay families to the Easter egg-roll . . . More campaign boilerplate. This speech could have been made - and was made - a year ago . . .
The folks over at Think Progress focused the part of the speech where the President addressed the vicious attacks on two of his LGBT nominees - Sean Hannity, for example, is attempting to link Kevin Jennings to NAMBLA.
Obama also addressed right-wing criticisms being hurled at his LGBT nominees and staffers, such as EEOC nominee Chai Feldblum and Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. Both have been the subjects of extremely homophobic slurs. WorldNetDaily editor and CEO Joseph Farrah said that Obama must find "people" like Feldblum on "Perverts.gov," and the Traditional Values Coalition wrote that she wanted "the gay agenda to trump the First Amendment and religious freedom." Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has claimed that Jennings wants to push a "homosexual agenda" in U.S. schools.
Actually Congressman King declared just the other day that he thinks "Kevin Jennings has got to be the poster boy for NAMBLA."
Here's the quote that has Rep. King and Sean Hannity calling for Jennings' head:
One of the people that's always inspired me is Harry Hay, who started the first ongoing gay rights groups in America. In 1948, he tried to get people to join the Mattachine Society. It took him two years to find one other person who would join. Well, in 1993, Harry Hay marched with a million people in Washington, who thought he had a good idea 40 years before.
And they accuse Harry Hay, who died in 2002, of being involved with NAMBLA even though he has never been a member of that organization. At some point someone in the Administration is going to have to step up and defend their nominees by name. Otherwise the right-wing smear campaign takes on a life of its own.