New York Times reporter Mark Landler, with President Obama in Honolulu, filed “Obama Still Lets Surrogates Take the Lead as Gay Rights Momentum Builds” for Sunday’s paper.
Like his colleague Ashley Parker did in her own Sunday Times story, Landler celebrated Obama’s oratory, but right at the beginning of his story, on the president keeping his support for gay marriage at an official arms length. Landler also assumed opposition to gay marriage will be a political loser for whoever the Republican candidate may be.
President Obama has long relied on his oratorical gifts to ease him through tricky political situations. But on the emotionally charged issue of gay rights, Mr. Obama has been content recently to let his lieutenants do the talking. And they have said some striking things.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience of diplomats in Geneva this month that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” In an interview in November, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of housing and urban development, said that he was proud to support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The president enthusiastically endorsed Mrs. Clinton’s message, issuing a presidential memorandum directing all federal agencies to promote gay rights overseas. And while he said nothing publicly about Mr. Donovan’s declaration -- which went further than Mr. Obama’s own position on the issue -- a senior administration official said that Mr. Donovan enjoyed “the trust and respect of the president.”
Landler used campaign trail anecdotes to push the debatable idea that opposition to gay marriage was a losing political issue in a general election (avoiding the issue of how many votes a Republican may lose if he supports gay marriage):
The president may have history on his side: a nationwide exit poll conducted by the firm Edison/Mitofsky in the 2008 elections found that 4 percent of voters indicated they were gay. Of that group, 70 percent said they voted for Mr. Obama and 27 percent for the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.
This time, Mr. Obama is being helped by Republican candidates who are competing to proclaim their opposition to same-sex marriage as they court social conservatives in Iowa. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas have all been confronted in recent days over their positions on gay rights.
Mr. Gingrich told a voter in Iowa that he should “be for Obama” if same-sex marriage was the sole issue he cared about. Mr. Perry was heckled for a television commercial in which he declared, “There’s something wrong in this country if gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.” Mr. Romney sat down with a military veteran in a New Hampshire restaurant and ended up sparring with him over the state’s gay-marriage law, which Mr. Romney opposes.