This is not what Barack Obama expected for a coming-out party. The “historic” revelation that he is now fully evolved, as from tadpole to frog, and now grooves on same-sex marriage, was meant to be marked with quiet ceremony. No music, no flowers, no kiss, no dancing, not even a cupcake.
Rage and outrage over same-sex marriage would take everybody’s mind off the dreary economy, which whimpers on. Everybody was then supposed to shut up and get back to work (for those with work).
Instead, the president gets his photograph (with a rainbow halo) on the cover of Newsweek magazine as “the first gay president,” all the Sunday-morning political talk shows were devoted to endless gasbaggery about gays and marriage, and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the heartthrob of the Upper East Side, complained that the president’s coming-out might have set back the campaign for “full equality” for gay caballeros.
Several Democratic senators who comprise an endangered species in November - senators from Montana, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida - quickly began trying to put distance between themselves and the president’s evolutionary moment. Opposition to same-sex marriage is strongest in black precincts, and losing only a percentage point or two in turnout could be fatal to Democratic candidates, including the president.
If that were not bad news enough, Rep. Barney Frank, the most celebrated gay dog in Congress, says he won’t invite Mr. Obama to his long-awaited nuptials, scheduled for July. He doesn’t want the vast presidential security apparatus tracking through the house, with Secret Service agents stepping on the tulle and peau de soie and banging into the wedding presents spread out everywhere.
The president called some of the five pastors he consults regularly for religious guidance, needing five (instead of the one pastor the rest of us usually rely on) to repair the collateral damage, which the White House fears might be considerable. The New York Times calls this “a quiet campaign to contain the possible damage among religious leaders and voters.”
Mr. Obama is not the first president to require a full squadron of clergymen to repair damage to his inner man. Bill Clinton appointed several high-profile pastors to rehabilitate his inner man in the wake of “that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” though it was Bubba’s outer man who caused all the trouble. Bubba promised a public accounting of the reclamation project, but the job has apparently taken longer than anticipated and he has not yet delivered the results.
One preacher Mr. Obama consulted said the pastors “were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position.” But it’s the president’s political position, not his “theological position,” that he is most worried about. Indeed, theology bores him; he slept through hundreds of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, and he says he never heard any of the pastor’s bombastic rants against honkies, Jews and assorted other evil white folks.
The Republican leadership, grateful for the president’s unexpected evolutionary gift, is so far playing the game just about right. Rep. John Boehner, the speaker of the House, dismissed the president’s endorsement of same-sex nuptials as an attempt to divert attention from the economy, and was quickly seconded by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. They’re aware of the “ick factor,” and don’t want to talk about gays, sex and marriage.
Mitt Romney went to Liberty University, a powerful redoubt of Christian evangelism founded by the late Jerry Falwell, to deliver the commencement address, and made only one reference to same-sex marriage. When he did, the stadium erupted in the longest, most sustained standing ovation of the day.
Privately, some Republicans say they think the president’s endorsement of the homosexual agenda could tip voters their way in several states where the vote looks close, particularly in states where voters have restricted marriage to the traditional definition of “one man, one woman.”
“Icky” or not, same-sex marriage is almost certain to simmer on a front-burner, and is likely to be decisive in some states; the Electoral College is, after all, what a presidential election is all about. Democrats chide Mr. Romney for his turnabout on same-sex marriage, reminding everyone that he was for it before he was against it. So, too, was Barack Obama, indicating not only that political evolution can run in two directions, but that principles and convictions in politicians have a sell-by date. Buyer, beware.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.