The September Surprise

by Jonah Goldberg

Our old buddy Michael Graham has a good column on Obama as the first post-cynicism president. There’s much that I agree with here, but I don’t buy the factual premise of his case. He writes:

I would love to talk to the one American — if he exists — who was surprised when Obama endorsed same-sex marriage. For his entire presidency, Obama has been the Ricky Martin of the gay marriage issue — the only way he could have surprised anyone would have been by not coming out.

Has he spent the past few years claiming to oppose it? Yes. But that was after Obama spent several years as a candidate in Illinois supporting it.

What’s most important here is that nobody, absolutely nobody, believed Obama’s statements defending traditional marriage.

And he knew we knew he was lying, as evidenced by his willingness to admit on ABC-TV that he had planned to change his position about same-sex marriage closer to the Democratic National Convention.

Question: Who plans to change their position on anything? I used to support the death penalty. Then I was confronted with the libertarian argument against it, that the government shouldn’t have the power of life and death over a citizen.

As I wrote here last week, I don’t believe Obama was going to announce his support for gay marriage right before the Democratic Convention in North Carolina. I think this is an obvious attempt to rebut the notion that Biden forced his hand on an issue his base thinks is a first order matter of conscience.

Maybe — maybe — they were keeping it as an option in case they needed to head off a huge platform fight on the issue. But the idea that they planned on announcing his flip-flop-flip on the issue right before their convention strikes me as preposterous. The result would have been to turn the convention into a sustained infomercial on gay marriage, with every speech, every interview revolving around the subject. The conventions are the single greatest messaging opportunity for the parties prior to the election and the notion that the White House wanted to brand itself as the party of gay marriage right before the elections makes no sense to me.

Obama’s “I was going to do it anyway” claim strikes me as a patently obvious effort to spin his deep cynicism by appealing to a lighter form of cynicism. Indeed, it must grate on him that anyone thinks he wasn’t the moral pioneer he poses as, and that Joe Biden of all people got out in front of him on this.

One response from Obama partisans is that I have no proof he’s lying when he says he planned on announcing his “change” of mind and that it’s wrong for me not to give him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, well, the only problem here is that, as Graham notes, Obama admitted he planned to keep on lying for a while about his position on gay marriage. Obama’s position is that he would have stopped lying right before the Democratic Convention. My view is that he would have stopped lying right after he got reelected. So we all agree that Obama was lying on the issue, the rest is an argument about the timeline.

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