Jon Stewart, in what was perhaps the gayest Daily Show ever, took on the topic of the President's refusal to sign an Executive Order of LGBT non-discrimination for companies collecting taxpayer dollars.
Most particularly Stewart took aim at the cognitive dissonance of the White House launching an entire campaign to run against a do-nothing Congress based on the theme, "We Can't Wait" and delivery of executive orders, and then choosing to punt this issue over to a homophobic, Republican-controlled Congress.
[1:15] Video of President Obama: "Where they won't act, I will. I've told my administration to look every single day for actions we can take without Congress."Looks like this issue continues to draw unflattering attention to the White House. More news of continued movement behind the scenes after the fold.
Stewart: "Oh! I found one! How about you sign the executive order that would protect gay people at the workplace?"
Cut to Carney: [Not gonna happen.]
Stewart: "Oh, all right, I get it, go f*** yourselves."
It's interesting how many straight allies have not given cover to the president on this clearly political calculation. The editorial pages across the country were not kind in response. Washington Post said, "there is no principled reason for refusing to extend such workplace protections to millions of Americans." The New York Times said:
"His hesitation to ban gay bias by government contractors, like his continued failure to actually endorse the freedom to marry, feels like a cynical hedge. It’s hard to see the political sense in it, and it is certainly unhelpful to the cause of full gay equality under the law."In many cases it has been straight allies, like Stewart, who have voiced some of the less forgiving objections to this decision.
Look no further than Tico Almeida's appearance on Eliot Spitzer's Current TV program last Friday. Almeida is Executive Director of Freedom To Work, and LGBT workplace discrimination advocacy group and one of the driving forces behind this call to action.
It's striking how, like Stewart, Spitzer is playing bad cop to Almeida's good cop throughout the interview. Spitzer is at times, lobbying not too terribly flattering rhetorical messages in the direction of the White House while Almeida remains gracious and diplomatic.
First, it's interesting the White House is continuing to meet with advocates on this issue. To what end if it is a done deal? Almeida repeatedly asserts his optimism the White House will reconsider, and "sooner, not later."
He describes a follow-up meeting as "really positive meeting" with White House staff. Spitzer asks Almeida to handicap the likelihood of a 180 turnaround on this decision:
"This meeting went a lot better than the first one, and I maintain a sliver of optimism that this will get done soon. And I think the biggest take away from this meeting is White House staff is: these White House staffers and the President of the United States share with me and the whole gay rights movement and the transgender rights movement the American value that you should be judged at work based on your talent and hard work, and your skills and performance not on who you love, or what your gender identity may be. It's clear to me that these staffers are good folks that share that American value. And we're going to get there, the question is when."Of course, the White House has painted itself into something of a political corner, if it would like to consider a turnaround before the election.
But of course, it's not a political corner they haven't been in before. The admin insisted repeatedly they were compelled to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, until they no longer did so. People forget. Allies forgive, opponents remain exactly as they were before: outraged about something.
Yes, politicians are very sensitive to appearing as though they are indecisive or flip-floppers, but there is a flip side narrative as well.
Almeida, and advocacy groups have repeatedly referred to this decision as a "mistake." Mistakes do get made by human beings. And Obama has repeatedly encouraged supporters to challenge him, if they feel he's erred.
A change of heart or mind can always be framed as being responsive, contemplative, thoughtful. A leader can always say, "Well, I did felt this way, but an excellent case was made to me, and I came to agree with my friends and see things their way."
No one of course can know how high up this decision was really made, it isn't at all clear that the President's top advisors are of one mind on this issue. It's certainly entirely possible the President listened to the wrong counsel on this issue and may reconsider and choose to listen to other voices within his circle.