Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Axelrod book: Obama misled public about gay marriage stance in 2008

It seems the president didn't evolve on gay marriage so much as the truth about his beliefs did. From Time :

"Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.

"'I'm just not very good at bull-----ing,' Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book.

"Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. 'Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a "sacred union," ' Axelrod writes."

I'm confused: If Obama isn't "very good at bull-----ing," why does he "believe (his) own bull----" ? And does this mean Obama wasn't right when he said  kids are good at being able to tell who's a bull-----er ?

Aside from wondering who could be surprised at this point to learn Obama would have told such a lie, and pondering the paradox of such untruths being unveiled in a book titled "Believer," one considers how much the course of debate over this issue changed because of this lie.

Observers have marveled at the speed with which gay marriage has gained social acceptance in a country where, just a decade ago, majorities of voters in numerous states approved bans of same-sex marriages. Indeed, much of the momentum can be attributed to the moment in 2012 when Obama came out as a supporter of gay marriages instead of just civil unions. For a time afterward, it seemed as if a Democrat per day -- and the occasional Republican -- suddenly experienced a similar "evolution" as the president had. It became not only an unquestioned staple of Democratic politics to support gay marriage, but it quickly also became an article of left-wing faith that only "hate" and "bigotry" could explain those who continued to believe the same thing Obama believed a matter of months earlier.

Or, as we now know, falsely claimed to have believed.

What might have happened had Obama told the truth in 2008? Perhaps the same sort of cascade would have taken place earlier, and gay marriage would have become ascendant sooner or more firmly. Or perhaps it would have cost him some of his support among the key Democratic constituency Axelrod mentioned, the black church, and either Hillary Clinton or John McCain would have been president. (The former seems more likely than the latter.) That might have set back the cause -- or maybe it would have sparked a different kind of debate, for better or worse. I tend to think it would have been a better one, without judging what the results might have been, because honesty and transparency in these matters makes for more genuine discussion and more broadly accepted outcomes.

One thing, though, seems very clear: Obama's conscious decision to mislead Americans was far from an inconsequential moment in either his campaign or the nation's history.

As a side note, it's also stunning how many members of Obama's team continue to be willing to reveal a sitting president's faults in order to cash in on their connections to him. These kinds of things usually come to light eventually, but normally not until after the president in question has left office. I'm not sure what that necessarily means -- a particular lack of loyalty toward this president, a cynical judgment the public simply doesn't care, a simple reflection of the greater speed and immediacy of everything in modern life -- but I don't think it is good for a leader who must still try to work with and persuade allies and opponents, domestic and foreign, for two more years.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.