- - Friday, May 18, 2012

On May 8 in an Oval Office interview, for the first time in U.S. history a sitting president announced his support for homosexual marriage. The cover of Newsweek heralded President Obama as our “First Gay President,” and liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote in a corresponding story that the president finally “let go of fear.”

But listening carefully to the president’s exact wording begs a question: Is Mr. Obama primarily focused on his own views and re-election or on what’s best for America?

Exhibit A was his first slip of the tongue early in the interview: “When I think about those soldiers, or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out their fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone … I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Fighting on my behalf? This is odd vocabulary for a man whose remarks were broadcast on “GoodMorningAmerica” and available through various news outlets to more than 310 million fellow Americans - all of whom are defended by our military. If military performance were on his mind, surely Mr. Obama would consult at length about this decision with current military leadership (including military chaplains) rather than assembling as he did a group of homosexual bloggers at the White House to discuss national marriage policy. The president’s repetitive self-references, moreover (“for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think …” ) suggest uncertainty, if not direct prevarication.

Which brings us to Exhibit B: Mr. Obama’s dubious claim that his views on gay marriage “have evolved.” Even if slightly rushed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s lack of restraint on “MeetthePress,” the announcement’s timing seems calculated. The president’s campaign has been closely tracking polls, which have shifted recently in Mr. Obama’s favor on this issue. Homosexual marriage is now favored by a majority of Americans, 52 percent of whom say they think it should be legal, compared with 43 percent who do not. (In 2006, just 36 percent favored homosexual marriage and 58 percent were opposed.)

The strongest support for same-sex marriage rests with 18-to-29-year-olds, a key voting bloc for Mr. Obama in 2008, who have been disillusioned by unfulfilled promises for “hope” and “change.” Today’s typical college graduate borrows $25,250, and an astonishing 53.6 percent of those below age 25 with a bachelor’s degree are either unemployed or underemployed.

This seems more like political calculus than conviction. Because the president knows Mitt Romney signed a campaign pledge supporting traditional marriage in August, he has offered not so much an “evolved” view of same-sex marriage as a piece of red meat meant to galvanize 18-to-29-year-old voters and wealthy homosexual activists who already make up 1 in 6 of the Obama campaign’s bundlers.

Exhibit C is a third interview misspeak - perhaps the president’s most stunning - that accompanied his explanation of his February 2011 decision to stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). For a former law professor and past senator, this error was truly revealing: “Well I, you know, my Justice Department has already said that it is not going to defend the Defense Against Marriage Act. I agree with them on that. You know, I helped to prompt that, that move on the part of the Justice Department.”

DOMA was passed almost unanimously by both houses of Congress in 1996 and has been upheld in federal court four times. So the president’s slip would be humorous were it not betraying his long-held views: Incorrectly and on two separate occasions in the interview, he labeled the law “the Defense Against Marriage Act.” It is almost as though, all along, the president and other powerful Cabinet voices leading this charge have construed the current law of the land as preventing rather than defending marriage. Some “evolution.”

If this latent support for same-sex marriage has, in fact, been long harbored by Mr. Obama, it is interesting to consider how last week’s interview illustrates a president who is truly “leading from behind.” Just before this announcement, two Cabinet principals publicly signaled shifts in their personal views of homosexual marriage - and the president followed. Last year, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department decided not to uphold DOMA, and the president tells us he “helped to prompt that, that move on the part of the Justice Department.” Frequently, this able rhetorician offers the last word rather the first one.

Josh Good is executive director of Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE).