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Clinton’s fudge

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Another dram of history: Mr Obama, or perhaps Mrs Obama, or perhaps Valerie Jarrett has smashed yet another glass ceiling kept so spotless you probably didn’t know it existed. We refer of course to the hiring of an openly gay man as Social Secretary at the White House. The purity of this latest First is somewhat at issue though. The office of Social Secretary, while venerable, is not mentioned in the Constitution. Its history is not well recorded. Like so many curious things Presidential, it owes its current sacred status to the gunning down of William McKinley which begat the raising up of Teddy Roosevelt. But until yesterday this swanky, demanding post had never been held by a man. Now, this is not much of a First for fans of Firsts especially as this lucky fellow, Jeremy Bernard, is about as white as they come except that he is no Republican. He is however a prominent homosexual, which counts for Firsts, I guess, except that since the job is approving doilies and judging chintz you might doubt it if they said he WASN’T gay, but just hiring a white guy with good penmanship and a glad hand wouldn’t be much of a breakthrough, at least not on par with the other Firsts we have seen. Probably Bernard’s status as a multi-million dollar campaign contribution bundler was most persuasive, if we are being fair. But paying off a crony is no kind of First and if we are being truthful we would say what everyone paying attention knows; our Second Black President has hired our First (Openly) Gay Male Social Secretary as part of a coordinated and transparent sop to a restive element of his base.

Now, this is not just the literal Gay Vote. That is tiny. But the “Gay-friendly” Vote is significant indeed if by that you include everyone in favor of gay marriage. Officially this does not include the President, however, born-again Christian that he says he is. But nobody believes that, do they? Since the earliest days of the campaign Obama has said that his position on gay marriage is the same as the President’s, meaning W. So either this is the one sensible position Bush ever held OR Obama’s claim to it was mendacious and opportunistic.

Of course it was the latter. Again NO ONE ever believed Obama opposed gay marriage anymore than anyone ever believed Bill Clinton opposed gay marriage. Yet Clinton DID craft a rather obnoxious little turd of a law that goes by Today’s Acronym: DOMA…. The Defense of Marriage Act, to handle tactically what he feared was a phosphorous grenade of an issue for him and his. Now, the Left does not care for DOMA, to say the least, yet this sort of fudging is exactly the type of thing they liked in Clinton generally. His reputation as a wily operator comes from a series of pantsing maneuvers which, with the vigorous aid of his Press Corpse, left his Republican foes bare assed and empty handed, at least in the PR race, time and time again. But DOMA and it’s twisted sister Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) snatched the drawers down on their own side so it is no wonder that it is so ill-regarded.

What does it say? In a nutshell it allows states to decide whether to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions that do. The DOMA drafters point to the final bit of the Full Faith and Credit clause, which allows Congress to legislate on the “Effect” of the clause among the States in order to short circuit what they were certain would be a litigative assault ignited by the first State to recognize gay marriages, probably Hawaii. But whatever. If Clinton (and the Democrats at large, of course) never did oppose gay marriage themselves, why go through all of this?

Ah, a fair reckoning will put this crapulent trick among the most genius of Bill Clinton’s treacheries, which is saying a lot. The calculation was not merely tactical but put tactics far above his doctrinaire “Liberal” sensibilities because he had already gone out on this limb before and had it chopped off. On achieving office a President’s first actions are often considered his most treasured of imperatives for obvious reasons. Nearly first among Bill Clinton’s priorities was an effort to allow homosexuals to serve in all armed forces without restriction. This was an honorable attempt to fulfill a perfectly valid campaign promise. Sadly, this moment passed and was not repeated. The blowback came from his own party, of course, since they were in charge of all things. Sam Nunn, longtime Senator from Georgia was the chief culprit. This guy, a Democrat mind you, was so conservative today he would make Dick Cheney look like Walter Mondale. He took an adversarial stance against Clinton on this matter so unflinching that no Republican, then or since could contemplate. The issue that was a clear winner or at worst neutral in the primaries delivered such a series of high profile rebukes to Clinton that the very relevance of his Presidency was put at immediate question. DADT was the compromise, not with gap-toothed, rustic Republicans but with the grandees of his own party. Despite their own, similar, personal positions, nearly no prominent Democrat came to his defense against the giant Nunn. Bill Clinton was a scalded cat. The scalded cat learns quickly.

Meanwhile, back in the courts, a similar issue was moving forward at the State level. Hawaii’s Supreme Court had ruled that the State had to show “a compelling interest” before refusing gay marriages. This is a tricky business and not easily done. The ACLU and other actors were certain to try to duplicate this result in courts across the land. Where they did not succeed they would attack Constitutionally, invoking Full Faith and Credit recognition of other States’ gay marriages. Clinton regarded this proposition with stark horror. If even the Democrats in his own Congress were divided and craven on this issue, what would it do nationally to the party, to himself, to see it bitterly dragged across every State in the Union in a macabre lock-step? It would either alienate the liberal base that was so enamored of “gay rights” or it would inflame the opposition into powerful cohesion that could break the social liberals from the social conservatives of his own party. And it could well do both. A fact rarely addressed, either then or now is that the “minority” vote, basically blacks and hispanics, generally a sound Democratic bulwark, are strongly opposed to gay marriage and other elements of that agenda. Depress the black vote? Disgard the hispanic vote? Alienate the gays? Drive off the social conservatives like Catholics and hardhats? This lumbering monster could be the end of all things, or at least all things Democratic.

Clinton was able to short-circuit this doomsday scenario with the timely aid from one of the most loathesome critters in our politics; at that time a firebrand House Republican (from Georgia as well), a loquacious Drug Warrior and the self-styled soul of conservatism of the day. Of course this is Bob Barr, a phony champion of liberty then, a phony Libertarian now, Bob Barr crafted and drafted DOMA using his genuine skill as a Constitutional lawyer to whittle a compromise designed to extricate Clinton while it elevated Barr. Fortunately only one element of this plot came to fruition. But it was a bi-partisan triumph! Much of the vapid enthusiasm for “bi-partisanship” is owing to this event. It pulled the sputtering fuse from the State court cases and that was sufficient.

But today it seems this obscure though vital element of the Clinton Legacy is imperiled if not already dead. The current President has not changed his public position on gay marriage and we can be equally certain he has not changed his ACTUAL position either, but he has busted a curious move. In deference to one District Court decision of last July his creature Eric Holder declares that Justice will not defend DOMA from litigation, and litigation is continual. Now, before anyone gets dizzy with excitement it should be stressed that it is ONE element, regarding the Federal gub’s recognition of Federal workers’ gay marriages that was struck down and it is only this that Holder holds unworthy. At the same time the President himself declares that while his mouthpieces will not defend DOMA in court, they will still enforce it as they are required to do. This is no more illogical than DOMA’s history so let us leave the President to his duties as he understands them. However, give the devil his due. None of the circumstances that caused Bill Clinton to join hands with the Georgian Barrbarian have changed a whit. Still, the Rainbow Coalition is not down with this particular struggle. Still, it is the Democrats’ solidarity that is most threatened by contentious “social issues”. Still, keeping a lid on is really the only tactical option with any hope.

Still, Obama rubbishes it all. No doubt he thinks the threat to the ethnic vote is not so great, with the Second Black President in the place of the First Black President, so he can make this appeal to the part of his base epitomized by Mr Bernard. And maybe that is so although the electoral evidence speaks against it. But Bill Clinton did not want to take that bet on his own merits. He did all he could to prevent a contest that would put himself and his Democrats on one side of the ledger and the traditional definition of marriage on the other. Obama may well prove to have a deeper well of mojo than Bill Clinton but is today the time to find out?

I say, yes. Wholeheartedly.

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