Back to mobile

White House Hosts Pitiful Meeting with LGBT Journalists

by Published on

Hello Folks,

Well, there was big gay news this week, of the most pitiful variety.

According to a couple of terrific articles in The Advocate by Kerry Eleveld, Senior White House Advisor Melody Barnes spoke to nine LGBT reporters and bloggers, at “a first-of-its-kind briefing 18 months into an administration whose commander in chief hasn’t given a single interview to an LGBT outlet nor taken a single question from one.”

So the meeting itself was the big gay news, folks. Because, and hold on to your hats now, NOTHING new was said or decided during that meeting.

In fact, all of Ms. Barnes’ quotes are non-quotes–phrased in that nauseating bureaucratic lingo that tries real, real hard not to say anything at all.

For instance: “We believe that in the last 18 months … we have taken more steps and made more progress with regard to the LGBT community than past administrations have,” she said. “We would not argue that change has come as fast as we would want it to or as quickly as we would want it to, but we would certainly argue that in other contexts as well – it took us a year and a half to get the health care bill done and the same with other pieces of legislation that are priorities for us.”

I mean, how’s that for a whole mouthful of nothin?

When asked, again according to The Advocate, whether the White House would “actively oppose” congressional efforts to kill the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, Barnes replied: “What I can tell you is that when we see any amendments that are filed, that we will continue to do what we did through the process in the House, which is, work to move this forward. Obviously if there is an effort to undermine repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” the president will fight — wouldn’t be supportive of that. At the same time, I can’t sit here and walk through hypotheticals for amendments that I haven’t seen or that haven’t been filed.”

And here’s the very best part. Apparently, several of the journalists present, including “Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly, Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, and Joe Sudbay of AmericaBlog,” asked “why there isn’t a high-level LGBT adviser somewhere in Obama’s inner circle — either someone who is LGBT and has direct access to the president or someone who has direct access and is specifically responsible for advocating on behalf of LGBT people.”

And Ms. Barnes answered: “I think that there are a number of very senior members of this administration, whether it be Rahm [Emanuel] or Valerie [Jarrett] or me or Jim [Messina] that are not gay or lesbian for whom these issues are important and [who] have conversations and provide advice to the president on these issues. And I think that it is helpful and important to have people — and before you react to this I want to follow this up — who are not gay or lesbian or transgender who care about these issues and are advocating for them in the White House.”

She softened that point later, by saying, basically, that she understands why LGBT people would want some high-level LGBT person advising the president on LGBT issues in the White House, but that she feels the current set-up is just as good.

And I’m sorry to cuss, folks, but I think that’s just so chicken-shit. As is the argument that we’re holding Obama by some unfair standard because we expect him to be better than Bush and Cheney. And that’s basically what the administration is saying to the LGBT community: “What are you so upset about? After all, we’re better than Bush and Cheney.” And I’m sorry, but that’s NOT a compelling campaign slogan.

And I know that Obama’s hearing it from all sides right now. I know that he’s fighting two wars, and dealing with the BP spill, and the economy, and unemployment. But he really shouldn’t blame us for holding him to a higher standard, since that is, after all, how he sold himself to us in the first place.

This week, Obama accused GOP politicians of breeding cynicism, which of course they are, in their typical, sniping, garden-variety way. But you know what really breeds cynicism? A leader who promises us a higher standard, a new deal, and then, just strings us along with hollow promises and fancy talk. A leader who won’t even take a question from an LGBT news-source!

Anyway, folks, I know the jury’s still out on whether or not Obama sincerely intends to honor his commitments to the LGBT community. I know the fat lady hasn’t sung yet. But I have to say, I have a decidedly “show me” attitude. And if the president finds that perplexing, then I’d encourage him to call up The Advocate and get their perspective on it.

And you owe it to yourself to read both of Ms. Eleveld’s articles for yourself, right here:

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/07/01/Barnes_Briefs_LGBT_Outlets/

http://advocate.com/Politics/Washington_D_C_/View_from_Washington_Straight_WH_Allies/

And here’s another account of the same meeting from the terrific blog, Pam’s House Blend:

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/16562/white-house-aide-meets-with-lgbt-media-no-news-lotsa-spin

Love Y’all, Robert

Contributing writer Robert Leleux is the author of two books, The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy and The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving.