July 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm EDT | by Kevin Naff
Our culture of victimhood
President Barack Obama

President Obama received high marks in an unscientific straw poll of LGBT voters the Blade conducted during Capital Pride. (Photo by Pete Souza, courtesy of White House)

To hear the president’s progressive critics describe Obama’s first term, you’d think it was George W. Bush all over again.

From former Army Lt. Dan Choi to the folks at Equality Matters to a horde of disgruntled liberal bloggers, Obama can’t catch a break. He’s anti-equality because he won’t publicly endorse marriage. He didn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fast enough. His Justice Department can’t be trusted.

Rather than praise Obama and others responsible for scheduling this week’s first-ever Senate hearings on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, Choi slammed the process, complaining that the scheduled witnesses for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing are “exclusively white and privileged.”

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said Obama should “stop trying to have it both ways” by remaining in opposition to same-sex marriage while saying his position could evolve as he demonstrates support for married same-sex couples in other ways.

“When he says his position is ‘evolving,’ he’s not for same-sex marriage or against it,” Socarides said. “If the president wants to be on the right side of history, he needs to start leading on this issue now, or he’s going to be left in the dust by other progressive leaders who are already on board.”

Socarides, of course, served as principal adviser on gay issues to President Bill Clinton from 1993-1999, when Clinton signed both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. Clinton didn’t just sign DOMA, he bragged about it in 1996 campaign ads broadcast on Christian radio stations. And while Bill Clinton belatedly and reluctantly announced support for same-sex marriage, his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, still describes marriage as between “a man and a woman.” Her opinion is factually wrong, given that same-sex marriage is the law in a handful of states, D.C. and a growing list of foreign countries.

The idea that Clinton acolytes, including former adviser Paul Begala, are joining the chorus of Obama critics is laughable. Sure, Obama ought to endorse marriage equality and he will sometime in the next two years. But he long ago left the Clintons in the dust when it comes to advocating for LGBT equality.

Maybe it’s because I was in D.C. covering the entire George W. Bush era and remember all too well the dearth of positive gay news during that time — save for a couple of momentous court rulings — but the Obama criticism rings hollow. His list of pro-LGBT accomplishments is long and unrivaled for an American president.

Is the culture of victimhood so entrenched in the LGBT community that we can no longer recognize a true ally when he invites us into the White House? Obama has told us repeatedly that we should continue to push and criticize and many of us have and will. But the mindless harping — “evolve already!” — will have one lasting result: to depress LGBT voter turnout and donor enthusiasm in 2012.

The Human Rights Campaign was assailed for its early endorsement of Obama’s re-election, an absurd criticism given the sorry lot of homophobes running for the Republican nomination. After three years of progress and polls shifting in favor of LGBT equality, Michele Bachmann and her allegedly heterosexual husband Marcus have brought the discredited practice of “ex-gay” therapy back to the headlines. One of the top GOP contenders thinks homosexuality is a choice and that we can be “cured.”

Kudos to Truth Wins Out for going undercover to expose what we all suspected was happening at the Bachmanns’ counseling center: the discredited practice of reparative therapy.

It would be entertaining if not for the incalculable damage “ex-gay” therapy causes to young people confused about their sexual orientation.

The revelation begs the question: Is Michele Bachmann’s husband also a client? Has Marcus Bachmann undergone therapy to “change” from gay to straight?

The Bachmanns have lied about the clinic’s work for years and denied accusations of trying to “cure” gay people. The video from TWO proves it. In it, a counselor tells the TWO investigator that it’s possible to be “totally free” of same-sex attraction.

This would all amount to yet another GOP sideshow if not for new polls showing Michele Bachmann taking the lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa.

The state of the Republican Party should be cause for great alarm, not just among LGBT people, but sensible Americans of all stripes. The Tea Party faction of the GOP is willing to force the United States into default, unleashing untold financial disaster, all in the name of destroying President Obama and reclaiming the White House. The job of president won’t be worth spit if the country defaults on its debts and we’re sent into another Great Depression, something the last Republican president nearly wrought.

Mainstream Republicans, including those at Log Cabin, must denounce Bachmann and the media should continue to hound her at every stop until she directly answers questions about the dangerous practices underway at her family’s counseling center. In addition, if federal money went to support this clinic’s work, the government must investigate and demand a refund.

There is too much momentum in the LGBT movement now to risk a Romney-Bachmann ticket prevailing next year. Obama’s critics are right to demand more, but there comes a time in politics to sober up and deal with the reality of what’s attainable and which battles require more time to win.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • Kevin, you wrote”…Maybe it’s because I was in D.C. covering the entire George W. Bush era and remember all too well the dearth of positive gay news during that time…” How convenient of you to forget that W’s PEPFAR program was unquestionably the most progressive and charitable gift this country has ever given to fight AIDS worldwide.

  • kevin, this is an over all good editorial, one that i hope gets the attention of the clintonistas. it’s pathetic the way richard socarides bashes all that obama has done and is trying to do regarding ending the crappy DOMA and DADT problems created by his old boss. duncan osborne at gay city news wrote about how socarides said and did nothing publicly to oppose those hateful policies, and indeed, created talking points to deflect criticism away from bill clinton. you can read duncan’s findings here:

  • oops, forgot to include the link to the debate prep points socarides wrote for bill clinton, before a debate, to help him slickly wiggle out of being held to account for signing DOMA:

  • Thank you, Kevin. I couldn’t have said it better myself. If we in the gay community have any sense, we’ll be supporting President Obama in droves in 2012. Is he perfect? Nope, but he is, hands down, waaay better than anyone the Republicans are going to run.

    • I can’t imagine being naive enough to support a candidate based on one issue – LGBT matters. It’s the economy, international relations, etc., stupid, and Obama is a dreadful failure.

  • Kevin, as always well stated. While many will agree that BO isn’t perfect, he has advanced our rights more than all presidents combined. For me, there are two other major reasons to reelect BO. First is the Supreme Court. With the current 5/4 split, it is imperative that BO select the next justice. Second is the full implementation of healthcare reform (by 2014/15). The GOP isn’t even a consideration in this vital matters.

  • The “Evolve Already” campaign in no way pushes a anti-Obama campaign, but challenges him to go futher, this is what Obama in the beginning of his presidency stated he would like to see his American’s do, dare to demand more from our leaders and more importantly for the LGBTQ community to stop selling your own freedoms short. Sitting back and giving money to a organization who’s CEO makes a quarter of a million dollars annually isn’t how you do it. It takes getting out there and pushing aggressively. You might snubb your noes at grassroots orgs which you call extremist but in reality hold the biggest direct voice in a social and political influence in our country these people that you say are trying to attack Obama arn’t from the money bags lobbiest groups, these are minories, these are your blue collar, these are your rural families that can’t afford to lose there lives or freedom for our communities apathy.

  • BTW victimhood would mean we sit on our butts and whine, we don’t we get loud, we get agressive, and were int he streets and we are risking our lives for the freedoms of others. A victim to me is more of a dear staring at headlights…are you going to do something or are you just going to stand there and get hit?

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