Weird NYT front-pager on a decision confronting President Obama: "whether the government must provide health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees."
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said he would “fight hard” for the rights of gay couples. As a senator, he sponsored legislation that would have provided health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
Now, Mr. Obama is in a tough spot. If he supports the personnel office on denying benefits to the San Francisco court employees, he risks agitating liberal groups that helped him win election. If he supports the judges and challenges the marriage act, he risks alienating Republicans with whom he is seeking to work on economic, health care and numerous other matters.
Is it just me, or is this in fact not a particularly tough spot at all? The situation is apparently as follows: Obama supports same-sex-partner benefits. His base supports same-sex-partner benefits. And a clear majority of the American people (73 percent, according to a Newsweek poll from three months ago) support same-sex-partner benefits. (The Times story doesn't mention this last point for some reason.) The only people who don't support it are members of the minority party. And Obama is supposed to capitulate to them because he needs their support on health care? How is that going to work? Are the Republicans going to explicitly agree to vote for health care reform as long as the gays don't get benefits? Or is Obama going to fold in the hope that folding will in some intangible way make the Republians more tractable on big economic issues? What's the percentage in capitulating, for Obama?
Behind this Times piece, I suspect, is the present media consensus that Obama's change-the-tone rhetoric somehow means that any kind of confrontation will be disastrous for him. So far, there is little evidence to support this.