Friday, May 11, 2012

Pants On Fire

Fox News, that fortress of objectivity, that embodiment of fairness and balance, must have been close to spontaneously combusting when President Barack Obama admitted to supporting same sex marriage. This is a big deal for Fox's conservative right wing audience, and the Fox on-air teams sang in unison of their disapproval. (Well, all except for Shep Smith, who seemed to support Obama.) 
It's a big deal for the Presidential election, too. The feeling is that by openly supporting same sex marriage, President Obama has reclaimed some of the more progressive ground from presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.  Romney's electability comes from his moderate position on a range of issues; it is expected that his moderate positions would appeal to Undecideds and conservative Democrats who've become cynical after four years of GFC.
Support of same sex marriage tends to be binary. It's yes or it's no. By grabbing that socially progressive middle ground, Obama has just forced Romney to move to the right and claim the voters opposed to same sex marriage. Across four major polls conducted this year, support for gay marriage has consistently scored higher numbers than the opposing view. It's a real point of differentiation, and it plays to the Democrats' strengths.
So was this simply fortuitous timing on Obama's part? I doubt it.
suspect Vice President Joe Biden announced his support of same sex marriage a few days ago as part of a coordinated campaign. Biden dipped his toe in the water, found the temperature acceptable, so President Obama waded in, with only the words for me, personally to keep him safe should things turn to custard. 
Fox News presenters were strongly voicing their fair (conservative) and balanced (conservative) suspicions that the evolution of Obama's support of gay marriage lacks credibility. Over the past decade, he's been guilty of some high-speed u-turns on the issue. According to Fox, at least some of those conflicting statements must be untruthful. Politically useful lies.
Where have I heard accusations like that before? 
Could it have been right here, in Australia, where the Prime Minister has evolved from Julia to JuLIAR in the wake of some spectacularly nasty reaction to the Carbon Tax? 
Prime Minister Gillard's well publicised pre-election pledge that there would be no Carbon Tax under her government has been credited with getting the ALP just enough votes to form a minority government. Then, when a Carbon Tax was announced, the accusations were immediate and unrelenting. Political anger turned to personal abuse fuelled by Sydney shock-jock Alan Jones, and at its heart is the assumption that the Prime Minister lied to get elected.
Did Prime Minister Gillard break a pre-election promise? Absolutely.
Did Prime Minister Gillard lie to get elected? I honestly don't know.
I've never been able to swallow the JuLIAR Kool-Aid. For me, it's always seemed more plausible that Ms Gillard changed her mind. New information, a changing economic environment as the world fell over the edge into the GFC, the need to respond to the Greens' agenda, the reality of a minority government with an obstructionist opposition and a thousand other factors may have tipped the balance. 
It's entirely likely that when Ms Gillard stated that there would be no Carbon Tax introduced by her government, she believed every word of it, and believed it was the right decision. Not far down the track, she saw that a different decision was needed.  Was there a political factor to her decision? Probably. <I>She changed her mind. <i/> That's different to lying.
And what of Prime Minister Gillard’s position on same-sex marriage? She has been been over-ruled and undermined by her party. Should she ‘change her mind’? No. I disagree with her on this, but she is entitled to her opinion. If, however, her opinion genuinely changes, that’s good too.
Is Obama's evolved support for same sex marriage really what he believes, or is it cynical political manoeuvring? And if this is the way Obama's stance has evolved, will it stick, or is it subject to change? Was he lying...or has he changed his mind?
None of the answers matter. President Obama and Vice President Biden have stated their support for gay marriage. If gay marriage is a vote-changer for American voters, they now have a clear choice.
In Australia, the Carbon Tax is coming in July. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has made a ‘pledge in blood’ to repeal it, although business analysts from DeutscheBank have reported that it would take at least 2 years to effect that backpedal, and would cost billions of dollars, including compensation to companies that have invested in new technologies to avoid paying Carbon tax.
After coming to power - and it looks inevitable that he will - I wonder if Tony Abbott will decide his blood pledge to repeal the Carbon Tax is too expensive, financially or economically…and if he does, will he be accused of lying, or will be allowed to change his mind.

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