White House Muddying the Waters on Gay Rights

John Harwood went on CNBC yesterday and, in the context of a discussion of the gay-rights march, said that "the White House views this opposition as really part of the 'internet left fringe.'" We've since heard from a White House spokesman that that's not really the administration's attitude toward gay-rights activists or lefty bloggers, and Harwood has said that the quote is accurate but was a reference to lefty bloggers rather than gay activists.

I'm seeing this as a very deliberate self-contradiction two-step.

I saw the Bush White House do something like this back in 2004. There was a tough presidential race that year, and days before the Republicans were about to hold a convention in which they were going to fire up the base, very much including the religious-right base, Dick Cheney went out and said he personally supported allowing states to legalize gay marriage. That was clearly an attempt to mollify moderates without alienating fundamentalists -- the president still supported banning gay marriage altogether, as did the party platform, but soccer moms heard a different message.

The deliberate muddying of the message was the message.

That's what's going on now. Obama reached out to the gay community -- and yet he wants to be seen as not being tight with gays or the angrier lefties. So a friendly journalist leaked this remark -- this deniable remark -- which has since been, um, denied. And now the message is muddied. The mixed signals are meant, I think, to confuse supporters of gay rights and wavering but potentially Democratic-voting non-liberal voters (including non-white social conservatives) in, oh, say, New Jersey and Virginia.

Did I say "friendly journalist"? Yeah -- John Harwood seems quite close to the Obama White House. He's interviewed Obama a number of times during the campaign and presidency. I don't believe he'd have messed up his extraordinary access to the president by delivering a message the White House didn't want delivered.

But, as I say, it's a message the White House also wanted to deny. So it was made deniable.

I think most White Houses do things like this. That doesn't make them any less ugly.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.