Pam Spaulding

Watch one progressive bus run over Rachel Maddow and the LGBT community

Filed By Pam Spaulding | June 10, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Daily Kos, Don't Ask Don't Tell, lesbian, LGBT, politics, power, Rachel Maddow, transgender

I don't know how many of my readers surf around the general progressive blogosphere regularly, but you can get a taste of the blowback the LGBT community is receiving for deigning to ask why the Obama administration has been silent regarding his self-proclaimed "fierce advocate" role.

Check out this diary by Clarknt67 at the big progressive orange, Daily Kos, "Rachel Maddow examines Candidate Obama vs. President Obama on GBLT." Clark features the video from Rachel's show the other day (I blogged it here), where she took on the disingenous behavior by the White House regarding DADT and had on Rep. Rush Holt (D) to discuss how the country is ready for repeal and that there would be little political capital expended to stop the discrimination.

Clark issues this simple statement:

With seventy plus public approval on repealing don't ask, don't tell, I kinda don't get why Obama doesn't just rip that bandage off swiftly and make these complaints go away.

Oh sure, we'd still want ENDA, we'd still want DOMA gone, we'd still want Uniting American Families Act, we'd still want Matthew Shepard Act. But I think the perception that something, anything was moving forward for the GBLT community during this supposed great period change, would be a huge PR win with most people.

Well, you should see the litany of criticism in the comments, many lodged against Rachel Maddow and the LGBT community for calling President Obama on the DADT, and the alternate silence and evasion on the executive order issue.

The panicked "the gays won't shut up" progressive reaction follows a predictable get-to-the-back-of-the-bus pattern:

* He's just been in office four+ months, give him a break.

The usual sit down in the back of the bus and shut up, you're whining argument (haven't we heard that before - "we have to get re-elected" "watch out for the midterms," blah, blah). As if we should sit with our hands folded in our laps and let slide the utterly ridiculous non-answers coming out of the mouth of otherwise-articulate Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (the Blend files are filling up quickly) when he's asked about DADT.

Or ignore the lack of public comment or press release from the White House regarding any of the landmark marriage equality gains occurring around the country. Look at what happened on the day Prop 8 was upheld by CA's Supreme Court -- the White House pumped out a press release announcing President Obama's Proclamation of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, but nothing on Prop 8, and Robert Gibbs could only squeak out during the day's presser that "I have not talked to the President about it." He never did follow up with any news about what the President's reaction was, btw.

Or that the LGBT community should say nothing about the separate-but-equal answer our constitutional scholar, child of an inter-racial marriage President gave to Brian Williams in an interview when he was asked "Do gays and lesbian couples who wish to marry have a friend in the White House?" (check out the telling body language):

"I think gays and lesbians have a friend in the White House because I've consistently committed myself to civil unions, making sure that they have to visit each other in hospitals, that they are able to access benefits, that they have a whole host of legal rights that they currently do not have. I don't think it makes sense for the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is. That isn't traditionally the federal government's role."

* He has to handle the more important (name the progressive issue) first, not spend all his political capital on divisive issues like LGBT rights.

Last time I checked, the LGBT community cares about many of the same things the progressive community cares about -- reforming health care, protecting the environment, restoring the country's reputation abroad, etc. And they are important issues to address after Bush's and the GOP's reign of terror. I don't hear anyone in the comments of this blog arguing that LGBT rights should come first. We're pointing out the fact that this President "fierce advocacy" has morphed into silence and dodges, and with DADT actual support and funding of a discriminatory policy that places our national security at risk. With 70% of public support behind repeal, he has done nothing to 1) push this policy with the jellyfish on the Hill with the bully pulpit or 2) sign an executive order to stop the discharges while Congress sorts out the legislative angle. This administration claims it's helpless to do anything, yet doesn't ask for a review of the legality of President's power to use a stop-loss order for this purpose. Should we not ask these questions? Candidate Obama criticized John McCain for having an inability to multi-task. Apparently it's ok with some progressives that President Obama can't handle discussion of LGBT policy and, oh, say health care. Pointing out the President's inability to lead in any respect on LGBT issues makes is clearly pissing some of our progressive "friends" off. We're making him take the eye off of the ball. Sorry, I didn't know basic civil rights is a back burner issue. I'll come back later. I love this comment by Clark:

Obviously he's booked in 2009. How about 2010? Seems that won't be good, he and promient Dems won't put GBLT issues on the table so close to mid-terms. 2011? The re-election process will begin in full swing by then, can't jam up his electoral college chances in 2012. I'm sure he'll definitely be penciling us in for early-2012, right?

* Rachel Maddow is pushing "her issues" too hard and is being too hard on the President. Jesus Christ, this one makes me sick, and again, I knew this was coming as well. Rachel has been consistently hailed by progressives day in and day out to date. Now all of a sudden she is on the sh*t list of these Kossacks who seem to have forgotten all of the smart progressive reporting and commentary on a full range of issues, not just LGBT ones. The snark they came to know and love is now bitching and moaning to them because she dared to point out the Obama administration is continuing to support DADT.

As you all may recall, I took quite a bit of flack by the same progressives (and some LGBTs) for disagreeing with Rachel about her approach during an interview with Mike Huckabee last year (because she didn't ask him about his litany of outlandish homophobic statements). At the time I was inanely charged with saying Rachel should cover LGBT issues more, which was not the case at all; I just thought this particular pol, who benefits from a golly-gee persona that allows him to get away with a lot in interviews, needed to be nailed for comparing homosexuality to bestiality and incest, among other things. The criticism I took was amusing on some level -- accusations that I was jealous and wanted my own TV show (ha!), that I didn't like or respect Rachel (!?), that she, as an out lesbian, shouldn't cover LGBT issues or it will jeopardize her presence on national TV (she said she had editorial control of her program, so that theory was quickly squashed) -- all giant leaps with no basis in fact. They were made in passionate defense of Rachel -- that I understand on some level -- precisely because she is that good and talented. But when I saw President Obama start his dodge and parry on LGBT issues, I knew Rachel was going to be thrown under the bus pronto by the same progressives for simply applying the same standard of treatment she gives to all issues to LGBT issues. But now the progressives are in the business of defending Barack Obama from teh angry ingrate gayz.

What's wrong with this picture? The problem with some in the progressive community (and obviously some in the LGBT community as well) is that they conflate Rachel's sexual orientation and her political viewpoint when it doesn't suit them. It seems to escape people that it is possible that she is discussing these issues as a progressive who happens to be gay, not as a person who is simply advocating a pro-gay POV because she is gay. That people go there so quickly is pretty troubling. If Rachel (or I) were straight and discussing these issues in the exact same manner, would we be seen as pushing a "personal agenda"? I seriously doubt it.

Look at these comments from the DKos post.

Obama has been in Office 4 months - Rachel has been bashing him for 4 months. Fox news attacks from the right and Rachel attacks from the left. I know that many here love the battles but I'm one of the great silent majority who doesn't. I don't even watch Olberman anymore. I don't care for his constant attacks on the right.

STOP behaving as if the world has ended, obama took office 5 MONTHS AGO, i am tired of the nagging DAMN IT. The republicans in new york carried out a sucessful coup yesterday, thanks to gay marriage debate. Please let Obama fix the economy before your nagging gets another republican in office. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Rachel's become another talking head, looking to inflame rather than enlighten.

Quoting Bob Cesca: Rachel Maddow reported tonight that the DADT case the Supreme Court rejected today was totally irrelevant to overturning the military law, and that the rejected case absolutely was not the one LGBT activists wanted to see brought up before the Supremes. Yet she's continuing to indict the president on the issue despite the above considerations and without really addressing the political timing.

[T]here is a difference between constructive criticism and the constant bitching Maddow does. And it's important to recognize the positive things Obama has accomplished. In the time I watched Rachel, she did not to tell 1 100% story about Obama.

[Two commenters called BS on the above]

I think you are using a bit of hyperbole...I think you may only see the negative discussed here, but if you watched the show you would see positive Obama stories as well.

As have I...
recently, her coverage of Obama's speech in Egypt was very positive, characterizing it has being nearly universally well received. She's acknowledged the smart political choice of Sotomayor, even as she has lamented that Sonia is not a progressive. She frequently turns her snark and sarcasm on critics of Obama who seek to make hay over stupid issues like the dinner and theater date.]

Thankfully, the DKos thread is also populated with reality-based people who saw exactly what was going on in the comments. I give you homogenius


Don't you know that over in Fantasyland Obama is doing everything perfectly and all us silly homos should just shut up?

For the most part, I think Obama's doing a terrific job. But the reality is that he has not given LGBT people cause to trust him. From McClurkin to Warren to his seeming disinterest in taking any action or exerting any leadership in the White House for advancing our civil rights, he has given us little reason to trust him.

Here it is in plain language for all his apologists here who are telling us to be patient in the face of seeming inaction:

LGBT people have NOT ONE federal law that protects ANY of our civil rights.

It's time for us to wake up. If we don't get a single bill passed and signed in this congress, it'll be time to rethink our approach. The Dallas Principles are all fine and dandy, but there's no stick. What LGBT people should do is add a deadline and an "or else". If we don't have full equality by a specified year, we start shutting down major American cities through civil disobedience.

The majority never gives rights to a minority just for the asking. Like everyone else, we have to fight for them. I've never been arrested at a protest (or otherwise). But that day could be coming. We may yet see the day when LGBT people and our supporters cry "To the barricades"!

Thank you. People should see this as a wake up call that there are a lot of fair-weather friends out there when you're fighting the right wing and out of power together. Once in power, it's quite predictable that a good number reflexively slip into their heterosexual, full civil rights privilege and feel the need to tell us to pipe down when they don't have to worry about those of us who are second class citizens under the law. And that's why we have to stay vocal and stay visible -- no matter who is driving the bus.

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Rick Sours | June 10, 2009 4:23 PM

My Partner calls Barick Obama a black Bill Clinton,
we were there for him when he needed votes.
When running for election he made promises to the LGBT community if elected. He did not say if
he was re-elected he would help us. We are still
second class citizens but different from other
groups in the past we are expected to achieve our
full equal rights on our own.

Every president needs criticism or he or she will grow too powerful. This is just ridiculous. He IS abandoning the GLBT community. We need to call him out on it or nothing will ever get done.

What I don't get is how he can sit there and claim federal government should have no role in determining what marriage is in light of DOMA, not to mention his alleged constitutional scholarship. The man has already lost my vote next time around, because I do not trust him.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | June 10, 2009 8:37 PM

i am mystified at the lack of sophistication coming from teh WH press office but also from the oval office
this is no black Clinton - not because of Obama, but because this country has changed SO much since the early 90's

one look at the polling says DADT is not a big deal to most people and neither is ENDA

i am mystified at the lack of sophistication coming from teh WH press office but also from the oval office

Amen, Cathy.

meh, I'm disillusioned.

Yes its only been 4 months. He's gotten a god, seen Paris and has accomplished a lot. Just not any of the 8 things he promised. Yes I realize that many of those things will take Congress to fix or address. But, he hasn't done anything concrete to address any of them. He's simply letting us do all the grunt work and is willing to take the credit.

Next time I'm throwing my vote away on Mikey Mouse.

beachcomberT | June 11, 2009 8:12 AM

And, btw, in the 4 months Obama has been so preoccupied with "other stuff," what has he accomplished, from a progressive standpoint? The eco recovery plan is still mostly a banking bailout, with the same Wall St. greedheads running the show. The health care reform is in danger of being watered down to fail (substituting weak, local insurance purchasing co-ops for a robust national gov't insurer won't reform anything), the GM pension plan is being weakened, overseas wars are being expanded, and his "preventive detention" concept is an outrage to the Constitution. His rhetoric is great, his wife is charming -- but he spends so much time kowtowing to the right wing that his "audacity of hope" is turning into a sick joke.

forbesfart | June 11, 2009 8:39 AM

Pam Spalding continues towards positive change for LGBT activism.I think the title should change of this particular article.I too favor accountability regarding LGBT equality . We gave lgbt dollars to Obama's campaign, we worked to get our progressive candidate agenda elected, " Why We Can't Wait", by Martin Luther King,Jr. is a testament of the road in front of LGBT people. The LGBT struggle for equality must include education & information for LGBT people,their friends and family.We have to have straight allies. We cannot afford to offend however anything less than full equality under the law is unacceptable.We cannot pretend a politician is our friend.We elected Barrak Obama. It is our turn," Why We can't Wait" is as compelling and true today for " All disadvantaged people'.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 11, 2009 10:06 AM

“Progressive” means about as much as “liberal”, which is to say that it has no real meaning. 100 years ago it described left centrist Plains state radicals afraid of being branded as socialists. Then the CP-USA began calling themselves ‘progressives’ as they went on their long trek from Moscow line hand puppets to burying themselves in the Democratic (sic) party. It means nothing as an alternative to the right centrist politics of Republicans and Democrats.

The problem is not progressives but Democrats. Their party is less a big tent than a big sewer. It’s controlled by religious hustlers like Obama and opportunists like Barney Frank. Their political problems stem from their self-defined role as defenders of the looter rich. They see themselves as guardians of a late stage degenerating capitalist state and look to empire building to save it. (What worked for Caesar won’t work now. US ‘leaders’ won a few victories (Panama, Grenada, NAFTA) etc. but most of the time they tried to conquer and colonize they’ve had their ass handed to them on a silver platter – Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and soon in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

As a consequence the Democrats are a right wing party moving further right. They have no non-cosmetic differences with the Republicans in terms of bailing out the looter rich while refusing to bailout homeowners, the unemployed, and social service programs under attack in every state and municipality in the country. The kept the essence of Bush’s rapid attacks on the Constitution while making moves like closing Gitmo to acquire “deniability”. They have no significant differences with the Republicans on empire building. They regularly gang up with Republicans to defeat the LGBT equality agenda.

The real problem is that the Democrats aren’t socialists or part of the left and never will be. People who voted for them wasted their votes. People who advocated voting for them misled.

To protect ourselves and to position ourselves for the growing social radicalization we need to build a militant, action oriented, nationwide, democratically organized inclusive LGBT left. Nothing else is half as important as that.

Hello people,
Obama did have Bush's economic mess to clean up, and getting universal health care is far more important right now than marriage rights that are only going to benefit a few people.

Much of the problem I have with many of the GLBT Obama critics is that many of you were Hillary supporters, and I distinctly remember a few months ago when some people on this blog were calling him the worst president ever on GLBT issues BEFORE he was inaugurated.

Anonymousgay | June 11, 2009 12:57 PM

Thanks for bringing this to light, it's both interesting and frustrating.

I particularly liked this comment, it made me think about myself (as a gay man who definitely falls into this trap at times :-/) as well:
"What's wrong with this picture? The problem with some in the progressive community (and obviously some in the LGBT community as well) is that they conflate Rachel's sexual orientation and her political viewpoint when it doesn't suit them. It seems to escape people that it is possible that she is discussing these issues as a progressive who happens to be gay, not as a person who is simply advocating a pro-gay POV because she is gay. That people go there so quickly is pretty troubling. If Rachel (or I) were straight and discussing these issues in the exact same manner, would we be seen as pushing a "personal agenda"? I seriously doubt it."

Just excellently phrased.

If I may offer one possible interpretation (and maybe someone will respond): I think that frequently, straight people have trouble seeing the value of LGBT issues or, more accurately, seeing the harm caused by lack of progress on LGBT goals. This is most obvious on DADT, where most Americans don't have a good sense of the extremely restrictive nature of DADT, mostly because (I think) they have less incentive to care. (Nathaniel Frank's book is a great resource...even that NYTimes oped could be a great entree).

Yes!"This is most obvious on DADT, where most Americans don't have a good sense of the extremely restrictive nature of DADT,"

....and those who are supportive in the military are prevented from being and saying so or outing about a Catch 22.

Our gay soldiers, prior, present and future need all our support.
And we need DADT repealed.

forbesfart | June 11, 2009 1:40 PM

Many of us signed onto 'progressive agenda' with THE junior Sen. from Ill. were NEVER Hillary supporters. One of the things I tire of is somehow because one may have been a supportor Hillary not allowed to question current leadership over lgbt concerns.That is not democratic ideal! Monica sounds more like Karl Rove than Karl Rove.

forbesfart | June 12, 2009 12:16 PM

Sorry Monica, you are nothing like Karl Rove. I was over the top and out of line.