It didn't have to be like this.
The White House could have done the right thing and issued the LGBT non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors. But, somehow, the geniuses that run the place decided against it. Not sure why, but no doubt, it was another inane political calculation on their part. Now, it's a big story.
Today, an editorial in the NYT takes the President to task:
Many federal contractors already have antidiscrimination policies. With Congress gridlocked over the issue, Mr. Obama had the chance to immediately extend protections against anti-gay employment bias to the rest of the employees of federal contractors without imposing a significant new burden on business. Yet the White House said no such executive order “will be issued at this time.”I think this White House makes political calculations based on what their opponents will do (see, for example, this NYT article on how FOX News sets the agenda for the FDA.) The President's political strategists don't factor in what their allies will do in response to negative news. That's because most progressives just sit back and take it. We don't. You'd think they'd know that by now.
It is unclear why Mr. Obama declined to do the right thing here. He has taken actions against discrimination, like repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against openly gay service members. And he has voiced opposition to proposed state constitutional amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota to bar same-sex marriage. His hesitation to ban gay bias by government contractors, like his continued failure to actually endorse the freedom to marry, feels like a cynical hedge. It’s hard to see the political sense in it, and it is certainly unhelpful to the cause of full gay equality under the law.
John linked to Peter Wallsten's article in today's Washington Post. The first two paragraphs are an indicator of what's to come:
Gay rights activists vowed Thursday to step up political pressure on the White House over President Obama’s refusal to sign a nondiscrimination executive order, with some decrying the decision as an attempt to avoid controversy before the November election.It shouldn't have to be like this. But, it is.
One prominent liberal donor said he would spend $100,000 to fund a “We Can’t Wait” campaign targeting Obama, a takeoff on the president’s own slogan for his efforts to use administrative actions as end runs around what he has termed an obstructionist Congress. The donor’s money will be used to fly victims of discrimination at federal contractors to Washington to confront Obama and his aides and gin up public attention.
Also, today, at the Washington Post, a column by Joe Davidson, titled: Why Did Obama Refuse Executive Order?
And, anyone buying the White House "we want to pass ENDA" line needs to read, White House Whopper on ENDA Executive Order, by Jillian Weiss. In response to Jay Carney's claim that the White House is "aggressively pursuing passage of ENDA." Jillian wrote:
What?! Someone's pants are on fire, and they're not mine.Here's why she wrote that:
On ENDA, the White House never weighed in, despite the fact that there only a few votes needed to pass it, and, in fact, declared they wouldn't, as it wasn't their place to do so.The White House doesn't have a valid policy reason for why they're not doing this executive order, which means politics is at play. And, it means they're more worried about the reaction from the professional homophobe community than what the LGBT community thinks. Disturbing to think that's how these decisions are made by the Obama team.
This is a shell game -- watch the pea under the shell and see if you can figure out where it is this time. The Democrats have successfully played a shell game with LGBT rights for quite a long time.
In my 2010 meeting with Melody Barnes, the Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, this is what happened:
She also noted he has mentioned ENDA, and that he believes it should be integrated into the agenda. He has articulated his support and will continue to. "We are not a barrier," she said. But, she continued, "we look to the Senate leadership; they know what we support and if the President were to push issues it would be a long list. It's up to them."