I know, I know: your instant reaction is: of course he did, and so what? That sort of blasé reaction is just what Axelrod is banking on:
Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.
“I’m just not very good at bullshitting,” Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book.
Practice makes perfect. And he’s had a lot of practice. Hey, he was just being practical:
Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.
Obama understood: if you don’t lie to people while running for office, you’ll never have the chance to lie to them while in office!
Let’s look at a representative quote of his from the time, and call out the lies as we see them:
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” [LIE] Obama said at the time. “Now, for me as a Christian [LIE] — for me — for me as a Christian [LIE], it is also a sacred union [LIE]. God’s in the mix. [LIE]”
As you might have guessed, I don’t believe him when he says he’s a Christian.*
Axelrod has made a calculated decision here. He believes that the public knows that most politicians lie; that they accept that; and that it therefore doesn’t really matter if they admit it . . . once it’s too late to do anything about it. He believes that it’s more important for Obama’s faithful to understand that Obama always had the “right” position on gay marriage, than it is to believe that he has always told the truth, which we all know nobody does.
And he’s probably right. That will be people’s reaction. Will this story dominate the headlines for days — as it should? I doubt it. Will people put the question directly to Obama and insist on an answer? Nah.
While I agree that most politicians lie, I refuse to participate in the trivialization of lying. Yes, Obama has a Gruberesque contempt for the public, and repeatedly lies to their face. I refuse to shrug my shoulders and say it’s no big deal. I refer you to the words of Aaron Altman, the Albert Brooks character from Broadcast News, who said the following of the Brian Williamsesque anchor played by William Hurt:
He will be attractive! He’ll be nice and helpful. He’ll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing! He’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing… he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit. And he’ll talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.
The speech obviously doesn’t apply to Obama in every respect — I think you can guess a few places where I would say the analogy doesn’t hold, and I’ll leave it at that — but the general thrust of the speech is that standards matter. Deliberately lying to the public matters. David Axelrod doesn’t think it does. But it does.