David Axlerod let the cat out of the bag: Barack Obama was just trying to win an election when he said he opposed same-sex marriage in 2008.
Running against Alan Keyes for U.S. senator in Illinois, when the election wasn’t much in doubt, Obama even denied marriage was a civil right.
So when will Hillary Clinton, who is vying to be the next president of the United States, also come clean about her gay marriage duplicity?
After all, Clinton also ran for president as an opponent of same-sex marriage in 2008. Her evolution on the issue came later than Obama’s, though conveniently close enough for her 2016 presidential campaign.
Yes, Obama’s use of his children as a prop in his sudden transformation on the marriage issue ahead of some 2012 Hollywood fundraisers was more than a little unseemly. And given that his shift on gay marriage helped move black public opinion, maybe some state defense-of-marriage referenda, such as California’s Proposition 8, would have failed if Obama had shown the courage of his convictions earlier.
But anybody who was paying close attention had to realize that Obama was just shining us on about his supposed belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. Obama told a gay media outlet as far back as 1996 that he supported same-sex marriage.
How many people do you know who supported gay marriage in 1996, when according to Gallup this was the position of only 27 percent of Americans, but opposed it in early 2012?
Even when Obama allegedly opposed same-sex marriage, he never supported any federal or state-level initiative that would have stopped it. He opposed the federal Defense of Marriage Act as early as 2008 and never supported anything like Prop 8.
Obama lied, traditional marriage died.
Hillary’s opposition to same-sex marriage had some substance to it. For example, she supported the Defense of Marriage Act — a federal law withholding federal recognition from gay nuptials signed by Bill Clinton — for well over a decade.
“Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman,” she said when running for elected office for the first time in 2000.
As a Democratic senator from the liberal state of New York, Hillary described marriage as “not just a bond, but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”
During a 2006 Senate debate over the federal marriage amendment, Clinton droned on about “the fundamental bedrock principle that [marriage] exists between a man and a woman going back into the mists of history as one of the founding foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principle role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.”
One of the reasons for her belief in the sanctity of marriage, Hillary said, was her own troubled marriage with Bill.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama, Clinton and John Edwards all opposed same-sex marriage. (Edwards subsequently revealed he didn’t really believe in marriage of any kind.)
The former first lady tried to sell gay rights activists on the value of the Defense of Marriage Act. “DOMA served a very useful purpose,” Clinton told a Daily Kos convention.
Clinton was already telling gays and lesbians that the Defense of Marriage Act was a good tool for stopping the federal marriage amendment, while at the same time using it to assure more socially conservative Democrats that she too opposed same-sex marriage.
Pressed to reconcile her support for gay rights and opposition to gay marriage, she said, “I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions.”
One gay rights activist justified Hillary’s evasions by saying, “In the 2008 cycle, I don’t think any candidate can come out and say, ‘I am for gay marriage.’”
Perhaps not. One day maybe Hillary and Obama will tell us about how they were riding around in a helicopter that was hit by anti-gay marriage RPG, or regale us with stories about that time Hillary and Chelsea ducked anti-gay marriage sniper fire.
But let’s not pretend that either Democrat is a bold truth-teller in the culture wars. And in Hillary Clinton’s case, her opposition to same-sex marriage was more than rhetorical.
So when did the lying start? It all depends on what the meaning of marriage is.
W. James Antle III is managing editor of The Daily Caller and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.