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Letter grade B-

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Letter grade B-

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right., er
My thoughts on one Barack Obama, addressing the Human Rights Campaign.

"Many of you don't believe progress is happening. I want to be honest about that because it's important to be honest among friends. I said this before, I'll repeat it again, it's not important for me to tell you to be patient."
Note how he used 32 words here, but didn't make a single definitive statement about anything he's in control of?
While this little chunk was cringingly double-speak, it does get better.

Here's the full transcript. Me poking at it with a blue pencil follows, behind the LJ cut.

"For nearly 30 years, you've advocated on behalf of those without a voice. That's not easy. For despite the real gains that we've made, there's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open. There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones -- good and decent people -- who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that's painful and it's heartbreaking. (Applause.) And yet you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make, and by the power of the example that you set in your own lives -- as parents and friends, as PTA members and church members, as advocates and leaders in your communities. And you're making a difference." This one boils down to 'there's a lot of work you've done, and a lot of work left to do'.

"I will say this: We have made progress and we will make more. And I think it's important to remember that there is not a single issue that my administration deals with on a daily basis that does not touch on the lives of the LGBT community. (Applause.) We all have a stake in reviving this economy. We all have a stake in putting people back to work. We all have a stake in improving our schools and achieving quality, affordable health care. We all have a stake in meeting the difficult challenges we face in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Applause.)"
I kind of translate this one as 'everything I'm doing as president affects you. Even if it's issues that aren't directly addressing the concerns on your plate which I claimed I would prioritize.' Which, sure, we're all Americans. The economy getting back on its feet benefits every one of us Americans. Same with decent healthcare. Same with better schools, same with decreasing unemployment.
Barry, we already get coverage of these issues in the news. Surely it's not absurd to think that someone would talk to a special interest group about their particular interests?

"I met with Judy -- who's here tonight with her husband -- I met her in the Oval Office, and I promised her that we were going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill -- a bill named for her son. (Applause.)
"This struggle has been long. Time and again we faced opposition. Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. But the Shepards never gave up. (Applause.) They turned tragedy into an unshakeable commitment. (Applause.) Countless activists and organizers never gave up. You held vigils, you spoke out, year after year, Congress after Congress. The House passed the bill again this week. (Applause.) And I can announce that after more than a decade, this bill is set to pass and I will sign it into law. (Applause.)"
My translation here: 'Congress is adding transgendered status and sexual orientation to federal definitions of hate crime'. Amount Obama definitely did to cause this? Nil. He most certainly may have done something, but the persons to whom you want to give credit on this (or blame for voting against it) are your Congressperson and Senator. I find it intriguing how often he uses 'we': as we know, the third-person plural is for more than one person. Which batch of people is he calling 'we', here? The Democratic Party? His administration? Himself and David Letterman? Or maybe he means 'the HRC and I', here? It is- a mystery.

Now, over half-way through this speech, we get this:
"We're pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill. (Applause.) For the first time ever, an administration official testified in Congress in favor of this law. Nobody in America should be fired because they're gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. It's not fair. It's not right. We're going to put a stop to it. (Applause.)"
Note that over halfway through the speech we get the first actual definite statement that the administration has any investment in tackling issues that have a specific relevance to the target audience's interests. It's a great statement- and I really hope it plays out as suggested, because he's right: it's not fair, it's not right, and a stop should be put to it.

5: "We are reinvigorating our response to HIV/AIDS here at home and around the world. (Applause.) We're working closely with the Congress to renew the Ryan White program and I look forward to signing it into law in the very near future."
Note, again, the use of the Nebulous we here (rather than the Royal we). Who's the group of persons? The US? The government? Everybody who had the lime jello for desert last week, in the congressional canteen?
Actually, that last one's unfair. if 'we' are working with Congress, then we are probably not a portion of Congress.
Though that's just a 'probably'.
Oh by the way, the Ryan White program (for those of you who don't remember) was a proposed program to fill gaps in healthcare for HIV/AIDS patients. Technically, this one simply falls under the umbrella of 'universal healthcare, which we're working on on behalf of every American', mentioned early on.
"We are rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status. (Applause.) The regulatory process to enact this important change is already underway."
This one simply translates to 'we're joining the rest of the planet in the 20th century', rather than some groundbreaking, far-visioned step towards the forefront of these issues.

6: "We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford -- for our military's integrity -- to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you. (Applause.)"
Hey lookie there! The first person plural!
This is one that I actually think he's really inclined to put his weight into. And that's good. Isn't it a shame that in talking to a roomful of people who actually want to know where he stands on such things, it took him 2/3rds of his time to even get to the point of attributing anything to his own agenda or actions, though?

"And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. (Applause.) I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. (Applause.) And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people's lingering fears for political and ideological gain."
It is pleasing that after a bunch of commentary that felt kinda smokescreenish, he zeroes in a bit and starts speaking both in the personal (I am committed to this, I support doing this, I've called for this) and the LGBT-folk concerns (gay marriage, don't ask don't tell).

"Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let's say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he's held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it's time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us -- on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.
"I believe the future is bright for that young person. For while there will be setbacks and bumps along the road, the truth is that our common ideals are a force far stronger than any division that some might sow. These ideals, when voiced by generations of citizens, are what made it possible for me to stand here today. (Applause.) These ideals are what made it possible for the people in this room to live freely and openly when for most of history that would have been inconceivable. That's the promise of America, HRC. That's the promise we're called to fulfill. (Applause.) Day by day, law by law, changing mind by mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling."
Okay, this one gets points from me as a genuine 'I get it' kind of statement.
It's a nice little echo of Harvey Milk's child 'somewhere in Pennsylvania', isn't it? By which I mean the idea that this is about protecting the children. About ensuring they get the world they deserve. It's such a nice metaphor to use, too, because whether they're gay kids or not, appeals to 'think of the children' hit below the belt so very, very neatly.

Overall, while he started out in this speech way off-target (to my ear, anyways), he did zero in neatly, and I'm glad that the starting-out-weak didn't actually make me stop reading. I'd appreciate a little less double-talk in the introductory section of a speech, myself, but overall, he came off pretty well in here.
Now let's just hope he does more about this stuff than he does about USA PATRIOT Act corrections to fall within the guidelines of Constitutional law, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, finding new and fascinating ways to treat military detainees in congruence with the Geneva Conventions.
I'm especially offended by the USA PATRIOT extension based on the simple fact that he's supposedly a constitutional law scholar: he should, by rights, know that crap's wrong.
  • My take on it is that it was a wonderful speech. In fact, it's almost identical to ones he made when he was running against Hillary and wanted our votes and our money. Now that he's President? Not so wonderful. Especially when it's combined with his complete failure to do anything for us. All talk, no action.

    Speaking as someone who voted for him and wanted him as our President, I'm rather sorry at this point that we don't have President Clinton in office.

    • Yeah. he gets the issues, but I don't feel like he's doing much with them.

      This bit of analysis of promises of Obama the Candidate vs. accomplishments of Obama the President is a bit heartening, in truth: there's a lot more that's in progress or accomplished than there is negated or stalled.
      But there's even more that has yet to be touched. He does have years left to touch it (and frankly, the way the Republicans are going, it seems like he'll have more like 7 more years to tackle 'em).
    • I rather agree with Andrew Sullivan's commentary about it. And this one too by John Aravosis.
    • 7 years? Damn he's putting them on a back burner isn't he?

      I was shocked that the HRC said they'd judge him in 2017 - wow, they're really going to bat for GBLT people? So long as GBLTs can be included in last minute gestures they'll be happy
      • Oh, I'm more saying 'I think that the Democrats could run a syphillitic mule in 2012 and still get the presidency' with that 7 year timeframe.

        I agree, a lot of the speech was very much 'siddown and shaddup'; I do think, however, that it's a fair bit optimism-inducing that Obama knows how to talk the lgbt sympathetic person talk so frankly.
      • Considering Teh Rise of the Tea Party and the aneti-government strain of Beckmania, I'm not sure if getting a Dem president is so easy - and I think the Dems could very well lose Congress to a groundswell of liberal 'meh' and rightwing crazy, which will leave an emboldened, more reactive and more frankly batshit GOP setting the legilsative agenda.
        • The "tea party" hysteria you've been seeing reported via Rupert-Murdoch-begat media outlets are, in fact, begat by said outlets. They are also, 9 times out of 10, reported by said outlets, and reported as far more successful than they are. So the 'tea party''s rise has been an engineered absurdity, and I think most of us who avoid Faux News know this.
          Glen Beck, however, is actually the topic of mockery on mainstream television comedy, of late. While I do think there'll be a fair bit of liberal 'meh' in 2010, I do think also that the middle-of-the-road folks aren't going to swing back towards the Republicans anytime soon, what with a thousands of corpses, outright calumny, and absurd two-facedness having become all too apparent.
          Who knows, we may even get a trial for Cheney around then, that'd certainly help out.
      • He knows how to spin and he has more charisma than you can shake a stick at

        And the problem with that is that politicians who can make passionate, sympathetic and moving speeches use them in lieu of actually doing anything
  • Thank you for the analysis :)
  • I listened to his speech

    I read his speech.

    I read it again

    The content, where is it? The substance also appears to be missing

    Feel good speech, pretty words, pat yourselves on the back, yeay a lot of people have done shiny things. Anything Obama has done? no. Anything Obama plans to do? Maybe, kinda, sometime in the future. But not now (the whole "healthcare touches everyone" was pretty much as "sit down and shut up") and he's not going to say when. But have some vague intention! YAY!

    Frankly it stank as yet another vague bone thrown at the GBLT folks so they'll shut up and keep giving that unquestioning support. He said nothing new, he made no real plans and no real promises. He gave (at BEST vague intentions) and a lot of good feeling
    • At the same time - are we likely to join the log cabin republicans?
      • True - chances are it'll be a case of support the dems because the alternative is just pure awful.

        but there's a difference between "support the dems because the reps are evil" and "support the dems because they're GBLT friends"
    • there's a reason I went for 'a bit above passing grade' rather than 'well-done' here: you do bring up solid concerns that trouble me, as well. The starting in 'you guys' then moving to 'we' and on to 'I' is a tricky rhetorical practice, and one that almost always leaves the reader or listener going '...wait, we're over here and you're over there,' on some level.

      I do have one nit to pick with your objections, though. You'd written: he made no real plans and no real promises.
      This is true in some senses, and false in others. To quote:
      "We are rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status. (Applause.) The regulatory process to enact this important change is already underway."
      then later
      "I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act."
      While neither of those are specific timelines, both are specific goals and agenda items, as is HIV funding for all (which I would've included earlier: people in the glbt community have concerns about HIV, universal healthcare has to include HIV because people in the USA get it, so see? there really is an item here that's got a specific appeal to your interests). A 10-minute speech to laymen isn't the place to propose a broadly-sweeping change in Federal policy and outline the manner in which you'll make it happen, though- especially when the purpose of the speech is essentially to turn up on National Coming Out Day and say 'yeah, I'm on the same page with you guys, 'cause today is all about you'.

      If you need a pick me up, though, track down the vid of the guy who wrote Milk addressing the crowd today in D.C.. That one stirs the heart, truly.
      • Personally I've always been a bit irritated by the way everyone treats HIV as a gay issue - it's a health issue for everyone. It's not a gay disease and making HIV all about gays is not doing us any favours at all methinks. Frankly, having a universal healthcare without including a HIV platform would be silly - it'd be like ignoring cancer.

        He had the federal benefits extended because the GBLT community was spitting blood after the bigoted DOMA brief fiasco. It was a quick, cut-price gesture to be made to try and salvage the situation when it was clear people were enraged (much like this speech today). And "as many federal benefits as possible" is limited because of the other rights he's danced around ignoring (or ACTIVELY repressing)

        The "I've called upon.." seems hollow in light of the brief. And more pretty speeches elsewhere add little. Plans without time lines or assurances just sound like he's fobbing people off - here's a gesture, something to hope for now sit down and shut up until 2017 (a pill Joe Solomonese has swallowed)

        Both are goals without timelines or structure - they're much the same as he said in his campaign speech.

        And that's my main objection with his speech. It's a GREAT campaign speech - for someone hoping to get in power. It's a GREAT speech for someone like Joe Solomonese who is lobbying the powers that be for change. But a speech full of vagueness and promises ISN'T a good for someone who is president and has been president for some time - it just highlighted that there was no "I have done" (lots of what others had done) and that his promises could have been lifted verbatim from his campaign promises - because precious little has moved forward since then and, other than more promises, there's no real indication that it will.

        His speech is supposed to convince people "I'm on the same page as you guys" I'm not convinced he is. It came off far more of a "will you GBLTs just shut the hell up and let me get on with it. Your rights can weight until I havew time -if I ever do"
        • He had the federal benefits extended because the GBLT community was spitting blood after the bigoted DOMA brief fiasco.

          The problem with this is that he still did nothing. Most federal agencies were already giving same-sex partners benefits. And even after Obama spoke up - and it was not an executive order so the next president can just tell these same agencies to stop doing it - the biggest benefit that every family needs - health insurance - is NOT included.
          • Hence an empty hollow gesture to keep people happy without him having to do anything or actually work on gay rights at all
            • Heck, for perspective, us American glbt folks are still getting used to an executive branch who knows we EXIST.
              Seriously, it's been 30-some years since a president last spoke to the homos. And that prior one was just about to say 'you're filthy and dirty and vile, go away'.
              Much as I agree that Obama's throwing lip service at us, it is more than we've had before.
  • I think the only possible grade is:

    "Incomplete. See me after class for make-up work in order to pass the semester."
    • Naw, I was just judging it on its merits as a speech. As far as a statement of What Has Been Done, yeah, incomplete, since he's done fuck-all.
  • Fierce advocacy looks like this, who knew? Not that it isn't nice to have someone in office who won't veto civil rights legislation, but as the Commander-in-Chief he could, say, instruct the armed forces to stop any and all DADT-related investigations and outprocessings while waiting for Congress to get around to repealing it. Yes, it's the law but it's also against the law for people in the military to commit adultery and there's damn little enforcement of that against het folks.

    Non-President-Related Anger: I am resentful as fuck that the HRC is now, after claiming for years to represent trans folks' interests while treating us as... negotiable, claiming victory as The Big Gender/Queer Org That Doesn't Mention Queer In The Name (send money!). Seethe. We are, finally, in the most recent hate-crimes bill to pass the House. We'll see if we stay in as it goes through the Senate and conference.

    I don't even let myself hope there will be a trans-inclusive ENDA.
    • I do let myself hope for that.

      Yeah, the whole situation is awfully fraught, as the comments above suggest firmly.
      • To elaborate on my last point: I am trying to prepare myself for the disappointment I expect will come when either ENDA fails and it's blamed on its inclusion of trans rights or trans rights are stripped from the ENDA that does pass and it's claimed as a big victory.

        Of course I'm biased. I've lost a job because there were rumors I was trans. These days I pass, but I'm not out. It doesn't take much to stoke the fear of discovery to near-panic levels.
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