DNC responds to my analysis of Obama’s gay ‘accomplishments’

The DNC’s openly-gay treasurer, Andy Tobias, posted a list of President Obama’s gay “accomplishments” while in office, so I decided to go through the list and see how much of it was for real. Unfortunately, there were a lot of holes, and even a few outright lies. You can read my analysis here.

Tobias has now responded. And, oddly, he’s now made the community’s understandable, and increasing, concerns about the President’s inaction on DADT, ENDA and DOMA all about me. Here’s Andy’s letter, with my analysis inserted.

Date: Tue, 18 May 2010 20:39:11 -0400
From: Andrew Tobias, DNC Treasurer
To: Rex Wockner
Subject: RE: NC26563: Aravosis looks at what Obama has done for you. Is it enough?

Thanks, Rex.

Even John grudgingly calls some of the things on the list “good.”

Even John? I supported this President during the primaries Andy. I raised $43,000 for him via AMERICAblog. I did more of the campaign’s dirty work taking on John McCain and Sarah Palin than I can ever share. Can’t we agree to keep this discussion about whether or not the President and the Democrats have come through for our community, rather than pretending that this is about you and me?

I admit that, unlike John, I think it’s wonderful, and meaningful, that two gay activists would be awarded the same Presidential Medal of Freedom that Rosa Parks was . . .

Perhaps it’s a generational thing, Andy, but it’s just not clear to me how giving two people a medal is going to help me get married, or stop me from being fired on the job or kicked out of the military. Giving medals is great, once you’ve already done something substantive for the community, but refusing to follow through on your promises to repeal DADT and DOMA, and to pass ENDA, and then, instead, giving out some medals, and pretending that that somehow makes up for it, is pathetic.

and that our continuing inequality would be included in the President’s speech at the NAACP’s 100th anniversary

Again, I think we’re seeing a generational divide here, Andy. You think that simply being acknowledge in a speech is the be all and end all. I think that it would have been a big deal in 1988, when the president was refusing to even acknowledge our existence, let alone the existence of AIDS. But in 2010, having the President mention us in a speech is “nice,” but simply not that big a deal as compared to actually getting legislation passed that advances our civil rights. I’m sorry, but words are no longer enough. We’ve matured beyond the point of getting all giddy simply because the popular boy acknowledged us in the hallway. We want him to keep his promises.

. . . and on and on (I’d urge people to read the full list – http://www.equalitygiving.org/Accomplishments-by-the-Administration-and-Con gress-on-LGBT-Equality – and perhaps even click some of the links John removed when he abridged it).

Cute, Andy. I linked to your entire document – let’s stop pretending that somehow if people clicked through they’d see how right you are. They clicked, and they weren’t impressed.

And I admit I do think it’s important we are getting Justices like Sotomayor and Kagan instead of the “Roberts/Alito clones” John McCain explicitly promised.

Nice deflection, Andy. Of course, the issue isn’t whether Sotomayor and Kagan are better nominees than Roberts and Alito, the issue is why you included Sotomayor and Kagan on a list of “gay accomplishments.” Unless the women are lesbians, or have promised to overturn DADT and DOMA, and find a constitutional right to job protections, it was wrong of you to include them in a list of gay accomplishment. The President did not pick Sotomayor and Kagan because of his concern for gay rights. In fact, there was quite a vocal campaign to make sure no one dared think that Kagan was – eeks – a gay.

Secondly, it’s interesting to see Andy use the classic apologist trick of defending a Democrat by comparing him to a Republican (i.e., arguing that Sotomayor and Kagan are good simply because they’re not Roberts and Alito). The President’s apologist make this argument a lot – that we should ignore the President’s broken promises, and the fact that he is actually fighting us in court on DADT and DOMA, simply because things would be worse had John McCain become president. As if Barack Obama had simply promise the country to be better than John McCain. I seem to recall a promise for fundamental change. If the President, and the Democrats, were as pro-gay as Andy and other apologists like to claim, then they wouldn’t need to keep explaining that the Republicans would be worse – they’d be able to to tell us why the Democrats are actually good.

But if all that matters is legislation, then all the more reason to do everything we can to support Democrats, who overwhelmingly favor our legislative priorities . . . and keep from losing ground to Republicans, who are overwhelmingly opposed.

Legislation is irrelevant, Andy, if our leaders refuse to push for it. This President promised to be our fierce advocate. So far, he’s been okay, but hardly fierce, and hardly an advocate. What is he doing to push DADT, or DOMA or ENDA? Nothing that any of us can see. And he’s actually defending DADT and DOMA in court. And what about the other legislative priorities? The pro-gay language got dropped from health care reform, nothing is being done to reunite gay families that are divided by nationality, and even the benefits bill for federal employees (which is nice, but hardly on the level of DADT, DOMA or ENDA) is seemingly going nowhere.

So tell us Andy about all those great pro-gay legislative priorities, that are going nowhere.

I don’t want to see Nancy Pelosi have to hand her gavel to John Boehner, or Barney Frank have to hand his to the gentleman from Alabama. I expect your readers don’t, either. So even as we push for our rights – as we absolutely should – I’d urge John and others not to demonize our allies and, in so doing, discourage our community from acting in its own self-interest by failing to fight like mad to keep the right wing from gaining more power.

Nice straw man, Andy. But I have to tell you, if you can’t tell us why we should vote for Democrats, other than to say that they’ll be better than John Boehner, then you have a serious problem. Is this your approach to dating – telling a guy he should date you because you don’t beat your spouse nearly as much as the guy he went out with before?

If you’re so worried about the fall elections, and gays not being motivated to vote, then do something about it, Andy. Stop being a Democratic apologist, and start being gay. Defend your community. Use your contacts – you are a high-level DNC official, after all – to get the Democratic party to come through on its top-level promises to our community. Don’t berate people who are legitimately and understandably upset that the President broke his promises to our community. Lobby the President to keep his promises, Andy.

We have every reason to be frustrated that our list is not yet longer. But I expect the President is nearly as frustrated as we are at how hard it is to get things done.

Yeah, if only President Obama were still a Senator, then he’d have real power.

Do you think we’re stupid, Andy? That we’re going to buy the White House line that the President is powerless to influence legislation? We all saw how health care reform languished for a year while the White House played the “Obama is powerless to influence legislation” card, only to see the President finally get involved in the last month of the debate, and when he did, reform passed.

But just as important, are you seriously trying to tell us, Andy, that candidate Obama didn’t understand how hard it was to get things done in Washington when he made us
all those silly promises on the campaign trail? That’s a rather chilling admission from a senior DNC official – that our candidate, and now president, was naive about how Washington worked.

Even as President, you can’t just stamp your foot and close Guantanamo – he got 6 Senate votes for that. You can’t just stamp your foot and get a bipartisan deficit commission – once the 7 Republicans who co-sponsored it found the that President had agreed to their proposal, they all voted against it.

No, you can’t. You need to actually spend some political capital to get things done in this town. Perhaps you should ask the President, Andy, when he plans on spending some on behalf of our community.

Still, we are making progress that we never would have made with the Republicans in charge.

Ah yes, your child gets a D, and you praise him because he’s doing better than the kid who got an F. If we are to permit politicians to lie to us in exchange for our votes, then you give us no reason to trust their promises in the future, Andy. Is that what you’re really arguing? That the President’s promises don’t matter simply because he’s better than John McCain?

And if we don’t form TOO tight a circular firing squad, we will make a lot more.

That’s nice talk for a pep rally, but we have serious concerns about this party breaking its promises to us, Andy. And if we don’t hold them to their promises, if they don’t feel the need to keep their promises, then why should we vote for them based on those promises in the future?

I’ll say it again: It would be nice if, for once, Andy, you actually defended your own community, rather than always being the best little apologist in the world.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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