The discussion has begun. Former President Jimmy Carter says that the U.S. is ready for a gay president in the "near future," telling BigThink.com that "we have realized that this issue of homosexuality has the same adverse and progressive elements as when we dealt with the race issue 50 years ago." Mr. Carter has jump-started a larger discussion on the matter, even as the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" legislation looms large on the public radar.
"Can you imagine how much a gay president would have to overcompensate to please the macho ninnies who control our national debate?" HBO host Bill Maher tells New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. "He'd have to nuke something the first week."
Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, also advises Miss Dowd, "It's one thing to have a gay person in the abstract. It's another to see that person as part of a living, breathing couple. How would a gay presidential candidate have a celebratory kiss with his partner after winning the New Hampshire primary? The sight of two women kissing has not been as distressful to people as the sight of two men kissing."
Mr. Frank adds, "It's not clear that a gay president could use federal funds to buy his husband dinner. Would his partner have to pay rent in the White House? There would be no Secret Service protection for the paramour."
We are not necessarily a tidy, middle-of-the-road nation. Forty percent of Americans identify themselves as conservatives, while 35 percent say they are moderates - a percentage that has declined to a new low, says Gallup research. Twenty-one percent are liberals. The findings are based on responses from more than 26,000 Americans in surveys conducted in 2010, plus historic records.
"Fewer people in all three party groups call themselves moderate today than did so in 2002, but the decline is particularly steep among Republicans," says Gallup analyst Lydia Saad. "The percentage of Republicans calling themselves moderate fell from 31 percent in 2002 to 27 percent by 2006, and now stands at 23 percent. There has been a commensurate increase in the percentage of Republicans calling themselves conservative, now at a record-high 72 percent."
The percentage of Democrats who identified themselves as "liberal" climbed from 29 percent in 2000 to a record-high 40 percent today, Gallup found.
"While the changes are not large, they are unmistakable. Moderates are growing fewer in number, while the percentages of conservatives and liberals have expanded. Conservatism has gained ground among Republicans and independents, while the growth in liberalism is strictly among Democrats," Ms. Saad says.
The beachfront house on the windward side of Kailua is bustling. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, dog Bo and a hefty support cast are now ensconced in the splendid property for the Christmas holiday; President Obama will likely join them on Wednesday after lame-duck wrangling in Congress wanes to a few stray quacks.
Ah, but things are never simple. First time visitor Bo is in Hawaii under the auspices of the state's Department of Agriculture. Spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi says the Obamas paid a $224 entrance fee and met assorted health criteria by preparing for Bo's visit "earlier this year."
He was vaccinated twice, implanted with an electronic microchip, treated with anti-tick preparations and completed a blood test to ensure that he was rabies free. The Portuguese waterdog was also given a complete physical and examined for stray ticks by an Air Force veterinarian upon his arrival, and to "make sure all the paperwork is in order." No word on his passport or American Kennel Club pedigree, though.
The entire Obama family will return to Washington on New Year's Day.
IN THE BREW
A strategic alliance of note, and it's all lovey-dovey. CNN and the Tea Party Express will co-host a primary debate for Republican presidential candidates over Labor Day next year, sparring in Tampa, Fla., site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
"Over the past two years, the American people have engaged in the political process like no other time in history. The Tea Party movement continues to grow and will play an even greater role in the 2012 elections," says Amy Kremer, chairman of the exuberant group that staged several cross-country tours to support local candidates. "The debate will give presidential candidates an opportunity to focus on the issues near and dear to the tea party and our supporters across the country."
The network, meanwhile, knows a potential audience when it sees one.
"The Tea Party Express is a fascinating, diverse, grass-roots force that already has drastically changed the country's political landscape," observes CNN political director Sam Feist.
POLL DU JOUR
- 77 percent of voters who call themselves "tea party" members say the new candidates they elected will "remain true to their beliefs."
- 61 percent of voters with no family or friends in the tea party movement says those candidates "will become just like other politicians."
- 21 percent say they will stick to their tea party beliefs; 18 percent are undecided.
- 46 percent of all likely voters says tea party candidates will become like other politicians.
- 34 percent say those candidates will maintain their beliefs; 20 percent are not sure.
Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Dec. 15 and 16.
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