I can't believe I'm going to say this but...an interesting interview with Meghan McCain by Rachel Maddow last night. McCain's getting scorched for coming out and saying what many in the Republican establishment are saying behind-the-scenes, namely that Christine O'Donnell is a "nutjob."
But what interests me is that she went on to talk a bit about President Obama and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I give McCain credit for openly—and, clearly, sincerely—disagreeing with and being hurt by her father's homophobic stance on DADT (and all other gay issues). In the past, I've been unimpressed with her for focusing on what Obama hasn't done when her father—and her party—is actively, aggressively working against gay issues. But she doesn't harp on that here, instead saying politicians should be held responsible for their failings but admitting she really has no answers as to how. (She doesn't advocate not voting for them again, protesting or other measures suggested by Maddow.)
Also interesting is that Ms. McCain seems to think that Obama has been given a free pass for his gay-rights disappointments. I'm glad Maddow pointed out to her that many in the gay community have given him no such free pass (choice comment at Joe.My.God. yesterday: "Obama can't tell his black ass from his white elbow," and it goes downhill from there on a daily basis in the comments section), but I think the central question remains: What do we do about it?
I don't think there are easy answers. I know AmericaBlog and others have advocated not to give the Democrats money. Some have argued that they'd never vote for Obama again or that they wouldn't vote for any Democrats, or that they wouldn't vote at all. Dan Choi's sincerely, passionately applied tactic is to embarrass the president by turning up the heat via civil disobedience and high-profile demonstrations; these things have worked in the past in other areas.
I'm not attracted to any of these remedies, but like Meghan McCain—and unlike those who use the word "Obamabots" in every other sentence—I don't have all the answers and don't pretend to.
I definitely gave money to the Democrats this cycle, to the party and to many individual candidates who I found to be particularly attractive or particularly in need and will enthusiastically vote for Democrats in two weeks. I'd vote for President Obama again without reservation (though not without disagreeing with aspects of his performance) and haven't regretted the money and support I've given him, though to be fair I'd be fine with voting for another Democrat who I thought could win as well. I agree with Rolling Stone (key quote: "Its one thing to call the president on his shit. It's quite another to paint his entire presidency as shit.") and, in part, with Andrew Sullivan—I think the president's actual, overall performance has been underrated. (Though he's actually got a better approval rating at this point in his presidency than Clinton or Reagan did, so there is still plenty of space for him to freefall.)
But getting back to the specific issue of gay rights, I also agree with the president's own assessment—that he (foolishly) stopped campaigning and worrying about messaging while he got to work. He forgot to keep gay-rights voters in the loop. And his strategy on DADT has not only failed—which is disappointing enough—it literally has backfired, putting his Administration in the position of defending a law which I believe the president does want to repeal.
Perhaps if he'd issued that stop-loss order, that would have been enough to win over gay-rights voters and it wouldn't have been too much for the pig-headed military to get over. Perhaps if the issue had not become so prominent due to all the protests, helping to give John McCain a reason to take such a high-profile, re-election-year stand on the issue. I don't know. But now that we're here...what is the proper way to register sincere disapproval without handing the country over to teabaggers (who literally want to impeach President Obama) and others who have literally demonized Obama, without cutting off our pro-gay noses to spite our faces?
It's a mystery to me. But the controversy has helped me define myself in that when I read gay-rights voters seething with hatred for President Obama or snarkily demeaning him ("more pretty words!" they sneer...how will they react to the ugly words that will be floating around Congress and the Senate soon enough?) or arguing soberly that they think he's a closet bigot who doesn't really want the policy to end...I know I'm not that. I'm not the gay-rights version of a teabagger. But I'm also not unmoved by the president's mistakes. Maybe I feel more attracted to the arguments by some of the out leaders who are heavily involved in Democratic politics but who warned us that the president was painting himself into this corner long ago, and who complain about his choices but who I doubt would ever vote for a Republican.
And it seems clear the issue isn't going away soon. The lame-duck session coming up in November or December will be an unlikely time for the Senate to vote to repeal DADT. Once the new Senate is sworn in with many more Republicans than it has today, a vote—let alone a successful vote—is far less likely. Today, Judge Virginia Phillips will deny the DOJ's request to allow DADT to stand while it appeals that Log Cabin Republicans case, and it will go up the chain until someone (the Supreme Court?) grants that stay.
So while DADT will be intermittently dunzo, it will be back with a vengeance until it's legally, legislatively repealed. And if it hangs out there for another two years, I don't see how Obama gets any traction on that. If the military's report in December gives him any leeway at all toward ending the policy (which is not likely considering very few soldiers even filled it out), his only realistic choice, presuming he has a hostile Senate, would be a Hail Mary stop-loss order. And anything he does now pro-actively on this or the marriage issue would still not be greeted with relief by his staunchest gay critics, I supposed because he started out as a friend and we hold our friends' feet to the fire more so than our enemies. (If John McCain suddenly tomorrow had an emotional conversion and announced he was now against DADT, he'd be unanimously praised by gay-rights voters, and his many transgressions against them glossed over.)
Ultimately, I'm disappointed with Obama's failure on DADT. I've always been disappointed in his stance on marriage, but I guess at least we knew going in where he stood on that, and anyone with any sense could see a mile away that eliminating DOMA would take more votes than we had. But I'm also disappointed that there seem to be so few options for the president—who must work with both the diametrically opposed members of the military and the gay-rights movement—and so few options for his disappointed supporters to register their complaints in such a way that has an impact on his decision-making without aiding and abetting a pack of lunatics who think being gay is both a choice and a one-way ticket to hell.