« NPR interview on "The Death of Facts" | Main | NPR interview on partisanship versus facts »

May 08, 2012


It's not just the media that give Democratic politicians a pass on gay marriage. In 2004 John Kerry disagreed with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case that permitted same-sex marriage in that state, reiterated his personal opposition to same-sex marriage, and stated he'd support a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as long as it allowed civil unions. The response of the Human Rights Campaign? "It's always disappointing when we find elected officials or candidates who do not support us 100 percent," said its political director. "But we understand that people are on a journey of becoming more understanding and more supportive of all that affects the gay and lesbian community." Though they found Kerry's position on a state constitutional amendment "deeply disappointing," the HRC subsequently endorsed his candidacy for president.

A journey of becoming more understanding--you may not agree with the HRC's double standard but you have to admire the poetry of their rationalizations. And the hilarity continues to this day.

Why have the mainstream media treated changes in position differently for Romney than for Obama? Here are some possible reasons:

1. Pro Democrat/Anti Republican bias.

2. Media particularly unwilling to criticize the character of a black Democrat.

3. Media were cowed by Obama's attacks on unfriendly media (E.g., his many attacks on Fox News and his effort to exclude them from certain press events. See http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/documents-show-obama-white-house-attacked-excluded-fox-news-channel/ )

4. Romney’s (alleged) lack of skill at glossing over his changed views.

5. Obama was protected by the fact that his position changes were mostly made under relatively little scrutiny during his freakishly easy campaign for the US Senate in 2004, whereas Romney's changes took place during a Presidential election.

6. Obama's position changes were considered old news by 2008.

Verifying causality is generally difficult or impossible. In this instance, there's no way to determine which, if any, of these six items were the cause of Obama's more favorable treatment. Certainly Political Science offers no answer. Yet, Brendan leapt to the conclusion that 4, 5, and 6 are the reasons, while 1, 2 and 3 played no role. You can draw your own conclusions about Brendan's motivations.

I meant to add:

However, Brendan does deserve credit for noticing and pointing out that the media treated Obama more favorably than Romney on the issue of changing one's position.

Re the Daily Telegraph post you cited in your tweet, do you really think "Pledging to restore America’s standing in the world but lowering it instead" counts as an objective flip flop? Not only is this partisan spin, if you look at polls of perceptions of American leadership it's simply false.

Of course not. I'm not endorsing every word. Look at the substantive examples.

Mitt Romney has a reputation as a flip-flopper because he is famously on both sides of almost every issue, whether it's his health care mandate, the auto bailout, catching bin Laden, opposition to/ support of the Blunt amendment, condemnation of/ demanding credit for the auto bailout, support for/opposition to cap-and-trade, belief in/ doubt about climate change, and of course his pro-choice/anti-abortion stance.

In 1994, Mitt Romney told Massachusetts that he would be a stronger advocate for gays than Ted Kennedy. Today, he wants to pass an amendment to the constitution ensuring they can never get married anywhere in this country.

Obama has gone from being a strong supporter of gay rights, to being an even more openly committed supporter of them. He stopped enforcing DoMA on constitutional grounds. Gay and Lesbian soldiers can now serve openly without risk of expulsion. He has extended benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees. And now he also agrees that they should have the right to marry.

If you can't understand why Obama is described as "evolving" on the issue while Mitt Romney is described as a "flip-flopper", it's because we've always known whose side of the debate Obama has been on.

The comments to this entry are closed.