USA | Det var vicepresident Joe Biden som tvingade Barack Obama förklara sin syn på samkönade äktenskap.
Biden hade nämligen i en intervju förklarat sig vara för samkönade äktenskap innan presidenten officiellt tagit ställning.
”I think you may have just gotten in front of the president on gay marriage”, som Bidens communications direcctor uttryckte det efter intervjun.
När Obama väl bestämt sig ville Vita huset att presidenten skulle förklara sin syn i en intervju med den kvinnlige journalisten Robin Roberts på ”Good Morning America”. Man gillade nämligen hennes ”conversational style”.
Under intervjun fick Obama möjlighet att förklara att han förmodligen (“probably”) skulle säga ja till samkönade äktenskap innan valet. Biden hade bara ”got out a little bit over his skis”.
Det är berättelse om alla Vita husets strategiska överväganden som Jo Becker skriver om i en artikel i The New York Times Magazine.
Despite the president’s stated opposition, even his top advisers didn’t believe that he truly opposed allowing gay couples to marry. “He has never been comfortable with his position,” David Axelrod, then one of his closest aides, told me.
Indeed, long before Obama publicly stated that he was against same-sex marriage, he was on the record supporting it. As an Illinois State Senate candidate from Chicago’s liberal Hyde Park enclave, Obama signed a questionnaire in 1996 saying, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” But as his ambitions grew, and with them the need to appeal to a more politically diverse electorate, his position shifted.
In the course of an unsuccessful run for a House seat in 2000, he said he was “undecided” on the question. By the time he campaigned for the presidency, he had staked out an even safer political position: Citing his Christian faith, he said he believed marriage to be the sacred union of a man and a woman.
The assumption going into the 2012 campaign was that there was little to be gained politically from the president’s coming down firmly in favor of same-sex marriage. In particular, his political advisers were worried that his endorsement could splinter the coalition needed to win a second term, depressing turnout among socially conservative African-Americans, Latinos and white working-class Catholics in battleground states.
But by November 2011, it was becoming increasingly clear that continuing to sidestep the issue came with its own set of costs. The campaign’s internal polling revealed that the issue was a touchstone for likely Obama voters under 30. The campaign needed those voters to turn out in the record numbers they had four years earlier, and the biggest impediment was Obama’s refusal to say he favored allowing gay couples to wed.
“We understood that this would be galvanizing to some voters and be difficult with other voters,” said Jim Messina, the manager of Obama’s 2012 campaign.
Caught between countervailing political forces, Obama called his top aides together and said that if asked again for his position, he both wanted and needed to drop the pretense and tell people where he really stood.
“The politics of authenticity — not just the politics, but his own sense of authenticity — required that he finally step forward,” Axelrod said. “And the president understood that.”
But if he was really contemplating an endorsement of same-sex marriage, his advisers urged him to do it in a manner that caused minimal political damage. David Plouffe, a mastermind of the 2008 victory and a senior adviser to the president, reached out to Ken Mehlman for advice. The previous year, Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who engineered President George W. Bush’s re-election, came out as gay […] Mehlman had already met with Obama over lunch at the White House and told him that people voted for him in 2008 because they viewed him as an idealist who would put politics aside and do what was right. Endorsing same-sex marriage would remind voters that he was still that man. “The notion that politically this is going to kill you — I don’t buy it,” Mehlman recalled saying.
He told Plouffe that voters were far more likely to be supportive once they understood that gay couples wanted to marry for the same reason straight people did: It was a matter of love and commitment. Polling indicated that voters would best respond if the issue was framed around shared American values: the country’s fundamental promise of equality; voters’ antipathy toward government intrusion into their private lives; and the religious principle of treating others the way one would like to be treated.
Mehlman surveyed 5,000 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and found that a majority supported some form of legal recognition of gay relationships. Generally, marriage was not a top priority for most Republicans, meaning that a presidential endorsement was unlikely to motivate the G.O.P. base or attract the kind of full-throated Republican criticism it might have in years past.
On Nov. 10, 2011, Mehlman sent Plouffe an email suggesting that the president announce his support for same-sex marriage in a TV interview with a female host. He also laid out specific language for Obama to use. Explain that this was a family decision and not a political one, he advised: “Michelle and I have been having a similar conversation in our family that lots of American families have been having on marriage equality.I fully understand that some will agree, while others will disagree, with where our family has come down on this.” Mehlman advised Obama to talk about his daughters — “as Michelle and I have been thinking through what we teach Sasha and Malia about America’s greatness” — and about religious liberty and fairness to all. “When you’re president, you’re president of all Americans. And all includes gays and lesbians — men and women who are serving across this country — firefighters, doctors, teachers, courageous soldiers who serve and protect the rest of us.”
Och så skulle Obama också komma att sälja in idén till den amerikanska allmänheten efter många överväganden.
Tidskriftsomslag: The New York Times Magazine, 20 april 2014.