Friday, August 10, 2007

LOGO Forum: Dearth of Leaders

This follows my initial take on the LOGO/HRC candidates' forum. What their remarks suggest is that the four front-runners lack:
  • Courage of conviction
  • Sufficient vision and direction to lead the nation
  • Understanding of equality and democratic principles
You can view a few clips for the six candidates on the LOGO site. While this was on the gay-oriented cable channel, the questions and answers range beyond GLBT issues. My very opinionated judgments and a few outtakes on each follow.

Barack Obama

Bizarrely enough, expected listeners to believe that chiding a group of anti-gay Black ministers is all the equality cred he needs.
I specifically talked about the degree to which the nation of gay marriage in Black churches has been used to divide, has been used to distract. I specifically pointed out that if there's any pastor who can point to a marriage that has been broken up as a consequence of seeing two men or two women holding hands then you should tell me, because, I haven't seen any evidence of it.
That glib speech-let brought much applause. Unfortunately, Obama followed that with appeaser lingo. For equality, "people respond as long as you don't come at people in a heavy handed way."

He's against marriage equality, while going for the separate and inherently unequal civil unions. He said, "In the Black community, there are people who recognize if we're going to talk about justice and civil rights and fairness that should apply to all people not just some."

Then he applies it to some. Huh?

This is one of the majority of candidates who does not live his stated convictions.

John Edwards

Chief among those who do not and apparently cannot get it is John Edwards. He is part of the way there, but regressive enough not to scare moderates of either major party.

While decrying double-speak, he uses it freely.

On the plus side, he stated the strongest position among the front runners on federal policy. He would get rid of all of that awful DOMA, adding that it has been wrong from the moment it was proposed. This contrasts to Hillary's revisionist lie that it fended off a federal marriage amendment. He also wants to dump the military's don't-ask/don't-tell practice.

The thumb in the eye of progressivism is, "My position on same-sex marriage has not changed...I do not support same-sex marriage." He'll join Hillary in saying "I do believe strongly in civil unions and the substantive rights that go with that." He also said, "We're past the time of double speak on this." Unfortunately, equal marriage would come with the equal rights he says he favors, in his double speaking way.

...nicest smile of the bunch though.

Dennis Kucinich

He evoked images of equality signs and hearts and equality signs in hearts and such. He muddled equality as purely an issue of all-powerful human love. Aww.

As he put it:
When you understand what real equality is, you understand that people who love each other must have the opportunity to be able to express that in a way that is meaningful. And the state should not be intervening against people. The state should be there on behalf of people.
He refused to say that comments by Obama and Edwards showed they were pandering to mainstream voters on equality.

He did say that he would issues executive orders as President to further equality. For example, he would unilaterally proclaim ENDA (employment non-discrimination acts). There was still very little indication that he could or would get Congress to do the right things.

Mike Gravel

He responded to a question about whether a plebiscite of the nation on SSM would approve it. He said, "I think so." There's little reason to suppose he's right and this is an area that requires political leadership to make happen. I would much rather have heard our Gov. Deval Patrick's position that it is wrong to vote any minority's rights or even Hillary's states-rights view.

He was not afraid to criticize the opportunistic responses of others. He said, "It's sort of ironic that we see the gay community supporting people like Hillary or Obama or Edwards, who for some reason can't get their arms around marriage."

He nailed truth after truth, such as marriage being co-opted by anti-gay folk as a religious institution. "Marriage is a commitment between two human beings in love, and if there's anything we need in this world, it's more love," he stated.

He had no equivocation on civil unions either, as in, "When people are telling you that you can't get married, what they're telling you is that there's something wrong with you. You're second-class citizens." His refreshing honesty also included, "As soon as our nation matures...in many areas of our society, we are adolescents."

Unlike the elect-me-and-I'll-do-some-good-things candidates, he also stated more vision. For example, "Leadership is the task of bringing us forward to civil maturity. And we don't have enough of this leadership at a Presidential level and we haven't has much of it for the last 50 years."

I can see a President using such terms with a sluggish Congress. It reminds me of Lyndon Johnson. He would cajole and even threaten to get good legislation. Right was right and he never downplayed duty to the nation and our citizens.

Bill Richardson

As Edwards loves to cover his duplicity on SSM by citing his journey, Richardson thinks pragmatism trumps morality and honesty. He returns non-stop to what is achievable. Apparently that means he'll support the status quo enough to win and then do little afterward.

He wants "civil unions with full rights...domestic partnership...I believe that's achievable." He even bobbled a softball about whether he'd sign a SSM bill if the New Mexico legislature gave him one. Not only is there no danger of his seeing such a document, he had the chance to have it all ways by saying that sure he would, he's all for equal rights.

As President, he would repeal DOMA and stop don't-ask/don't-tell. He'd go for stronger hate crime laws. Yet, even here, he kept saying, "We have to bring the country to a position where there is public support." If voters believe this mush mouth could sway the American public on any issue, they don't have the sense God gave lettuce.

Hillary Clinton

She danced with every question and likely changed no one's opinion. She was the other Edwards-style double speaker. Consider, "We have made it very clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having. "

Except she is not participating in a debate on this for marriage equality. Her "personal position" is that "civil unions with full equality," which of course don't exist, is fine. Same-sex marriage is not.

She returned to the always vote getting states-rights position that the feds should not start for the first time to regulate marriage. She also waved the transparent flag of her hubby's DOMA preventing a federal marriage law, which no one thought had a chance of passing.

She said as President, she'd tinker with DOMA enough to allow married or civilly joined SS couples to get benefits. Yawn.

Less than Perfect

I suppose none of us really expected big announcements or surprises. Edwards might have listened to his wife and come out for SSM, but he didn't. No one shocked anyone.

The two least likelihood of winning the primary are the only ones with progressive and honest positions. The front runners continue to sound like Republican opportunists (is that redundant?). The White woman and the Black man are squatting in the middle of the road, seemingly not to compound their perceived political drawbacks. The Hispanic, as they are wont to say in New Mexico, is not at all credible and seeming without wit or wisdom. Edwards is slick and pleasant, but still shows no leadership.

Certainly of Kucinich and Gravel, the two with the best politics and clarity of purpose, Gravel sounds like he could arrive on a January day in 2009 ready to make us a better nation. My surprise after the various debates and fora is that I can't vote for any of the pandering herd. Butt to butt on the same bench, those four hold little promise of any substantial improvement on the domestic front. I would expect and demand any of them to lead us out of Iraq, but back home, they offer scant improvement over George the Lesser.

If we consider other periods when we needed domestic leadership, we must realize that it never came from those who simply wanted to get elected or stay in office or aim for the self-limiting achievable. Think of the wavering John Kennedy, who feared pushing for civil rights. Fortunately, the old legislative knee buster Lyndon Johnson kept him focused and had the courage, vision, leadership and willingness to affect substantial change. I don't see any of those qualities in the four on the bench.

If Gravel is on my primary ballot, he has my vote.

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