Sunday, January 15, 2012

New-Squeak and Dumb


The pending Newsweek is flogging itself with the cover for Andrew Sullivan's article. My corollary is why does President Obama play so dumb so often?

Art note: This is an edited snippet from the cover, for which I claim fair use. The original title was WHY ARE OBAMA'S CRITICS SO DUMB?

That headline made me return to that similar question so central to this POTUS' administration. Who's he kidding and why?

Barack Obama is clearly smart. He's not Thomas Jefferson or Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter smart, not even Bill Clinton smart, but he's intelligent and knowledgeable. Yet he jerks us around often.

Take same-sex marriage as an example that has run through his 2008 campaign and whole Presidency. With the nasty reality of Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in place, this smart President has played the religion and tradition card at every deal.

He and his wife say again and again that their religion stated that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Sometimes he has said that it's been that way from the beginning of civilization.

Consider first that not only is he President but that he also is an attorney. Combined, those mean he certainly must understand the differences in personal religious belief and law. As an attorney, he also must know that his church's religious rituals are only coincidental to marriage. (He's also enough of an historian to know that marriage has been late to the human condition and that it has had many forms over the millennia, with the DOMA version only a very recently common one.)

The only reason a minister or other cleric can sign a marriage license is as an agent of the state, as it is with a justice of the peace, judge or anyone else empowered to solemnize. Legally, marriage is the contract between the couple and the government. If the couple wants to have a nonbinding nicety of a religious ritual on top of the  legal component of the ceremony, fine, but that's something else entirely.

Cynics have stated firmly that he doesn't believe in DOMA and is almost certainly in favor of marriage equality. That would be in line with other civil rights beliefs he has expressed for decades. They would have it that he disingenuously is willing to let homosexual couples continue as second or third class citizens just to gain and then stay in office.

Early in his tenure, I also heard many self-identified progressives and liberals claim that when he got other big things done with the economy, got rid of don't-ask-don't-tell, and blah blah blah, he'd dump DOMA. Then it became as soon as he gets reelected, he'll claim he's seen the light and will demand DOMA's demise.

That's really not relevant anymore. He's shown he doesn't have the guts to buck Congress on big issues. He's also let his solid majorities there wither away. He didn't use the slight majority in the Senate the way George Bush the Lesser did. He surely won't try if the Republicans control both houses.

Here's a POTUS who let potential greatness drown in indecisiveness and playing dumb. When the situation called for decisiveness, he had none. When it called for intelligence, he kept most of his hidden. When it called for moral leadership, he turned reactionary.

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