Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign. He was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration
The debate over same-sex "marriage" has engaged the heartfelt feelings and convictions of millions of Americans. Then there is Barack Obama.
In his ABC interview, the president pretended that his much touted "evolution" had now led him, ineluctably, to speak out now, today; he simply could longer stay silent. ABC let him off the hook, but this is not a credible account. In March, the Washington Post was reporting the debate among his advisers on whether the issue would help or hurt the reelection campaign and what, therefore, Obama should say: "Obama's top political advisers have held serious discussions with leading Democrats about the upsides and downsides of coming out for gay marriage before the fall election."
The same advisers told the Post that Obama would make the decision based on his gut, but that is an insulting way to refer to the vice president. There is no evidence that Obama planned to speak until Joe Biden said last weekend that he was for gay "marriage" and forced the issue.
In fact, Obama has not "evolved" — he has changed his position whenever his political fortunes required him to do so. Running for the Illinois state senate from a trendy area of Chicago in 1996, he was for same-sex marriage. "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages," he wrote in answer to a questionnaire back then. In 2004, he was running for the U.S. Senate and needed to appeal to voters statewide. So he evolved, and favored civil unions but opposed homosexual "marriage." In 2008, running for president, he said, "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage." Now in 2012, facing a tough reelection campaign where he needs energized supporters of same-sex "marriage" and has disappointed them with his refusal to give them his support, he is for it. To paraphrase John Kerry, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again.
Mr. Obama's statement today is a marvel:
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
The president, when he says, "at a certain point I've just concluded," appears to refer to the point where Joe Biden smoked him out, unintentionally no doubt (as are most of Biden's actions). And it is important "for me personally" to speak, the president says; this isn't politics, you see, but some kind of testimony, a baring of the soul.
But Mr. Obama actually did bare his soul unintentionally today (perhaps the Biden disease is catching) with his astonishing characterization of American fighting men and women, whom he referred to as "those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf." Really?
Most Americans thought they were fighting for the country, not on Barack Obama's behalf. Slip of the tongue, to be sure, but can one think of another president who'd have made it? They are fighting under his command, under his orders, to be sure, but this particular locution is offensive and solipsistic. Mr. Obama has switched his position on the sanctity of marriage back and forth and has a new one, again, today, revealed when politics made that advisable to him and to his campaign. Whether this is the end or he will "evolve" some more is anyone's guess.
But let's leave our soldiers out of this. They aren't fighting for Mr. Obama and his campaign, and no one sent them out to risk their lives to win same sex "marriage."