This hasn’t been a great week for Barack Obama, and it’s only Wednesday. Tire gauge-wielding Republicans and the continuing lack of substantive press coverage have allowed McCain to score a few points and I haven’t been that impressed by the comeback from the Obama team in general.
So, I was excited yesterday to see Obama come out loud and proud on the issue of GLBTQ adoption. A press release from theFamily Equality Council, a non-profit dedicated to equality issues for GLBTQ parents, featured Obama’s response to a letter the agency had earlier sent to both candidates asking them their position on the needs ofdiverse families.
While we live in a nation that is enriched by a vast array of diverse traditions, cultures and histories, it is our commonality that most defines us. The desire to build a life with a loved one, to provide for a family and to have children who will grow and thrive — these are desires that all people share, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. My own experience has taught me this lesson well. I was born to a single mother, my devoted grandparents helped raise me, and then I married the woman of my dreams and had two beautiful daughters. The love that has blessed each of those households has been strong and sure, and I know that millions of families across this nation share the same blessings.
Obama continues, “We know that the cost of the American dream must never come at the expense of the American family.” He points a finger at politicians that talk about family values but don’t make policies that value families, especially working families. There’s some boilerplate about after-school programs, beefing up the Family Medical Leave Act and strengthening laws prohibiting caregiver discrimination. I say “boilerplate” but that’s a good thing, illustrative of the main point here: a family is a family. There are more issues that GLBTQ parents and straight parents have in common than there are that separate these two types of American families.
But we also have to do more to support and strengthen LGBT families. Because equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle; it’s about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom. That’s why we have to repeal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s why we have to eliminate discrimination against LGBT families. And that’s why we have to extend equal treatment in our family and adoption laws.
I’ll be a president that stands up for American families – all of them.
I don’t know how this is going to play in the mainstream media, or even the progressive blogosphere, but I hope it gains some legs, because I think it’s a win for Obama. And as for McCain… mmmmmm, I smell waffles. Mealy-mouthed, parsimonious waffles like the ones served up by the McCain camp in the last couple of weeks. Let’s revisit this recent history:
First questioned on gay adoption, July 13 in theNY Times (emphasis and wtf?s are mine), McCain:
Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?
Mr. McCain:I think thatwe’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.
Okay, wtf? One, who was this “we?” and two, what about the “both parents” crap? Most gay families adopting kids have two parents. Are kids supposed to languish in foster care until some upright married heterosexuals step up to the plate? And what about single parent families? Divorced parents? Did Grandpa Simpson not believe in them either? Questions like this started to fly around the left side of the blogosphere and in the MSM.
But remember, McCain doesn’t necessarily speak for the McCain campaign. Aides quickly stepped up to “clarify.” In a letter toAndrew Sullivan, McCain aide Jill Hazelbaker said brings in the ol’ states rights chestnut to top off that stack of waffle. “McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue.”
McCain’s expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible. However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, andhe recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative.
Uh oh. With that, McCain started to get shit from the right. Mind you, this was all of his own doing — Obama hadn’t lifted a finger and McCainwas on the ropes. Christian Broadcasting Network’s Dave Brody’s response to the “clarification” sent to the Sullivan blog:
Huh? That sound you just heard was a can of worms opening up… I mean if you’re going to say that you’re against gay adoption then why not just stick with that view rather than trying to massage it? The qualifier after the interview does some damage. Why? Because McCain had an opportunity to add the gay adoption issue to his Evangelical checklist and now it’s muddy. […]
Massaging? Worms? Mud? Ewww, I like my waffles plain…
Two weeks later, July 27 in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, McCain de-clarified his position, using the exact same language as he had with the NYT:
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the New York Times you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn’t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position?
MCCAIN: My position is, it’s not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States.(WTF?)
And I think thattwo parent families are best for America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?
MCCAIN: I am for the values thattwo parent families, the traditional family represents.
Even with his latest reversal, or more correctly, because of it, I think McCain has more to lose on this issue than Obama. By coming out strong, with a pro-family, pro-child, pro-diversity statement like yesterday’s, Obama doesn’t come into conflict with either his own background or his core constituencies. McCain on the other hand has been exposed as a waffler trying to please everyone on what should be a core values question.
Also note: the pundits can call McCain’s language inartful or unclear but that last bit is obviously intended not just about GLBTQ adoption but to reinforce the distinction between traditional American families and those “other” types of families, like Barack Obama’s. Not only does he come off sounding like a narrow-minded flip-flopper who’s against gays and single-parent households, he’s still taking the low road.
Oh, and by the way, that letter that the Family Equality Council sent to both candidates? McCain hasn’t responded yet.