I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte (colubra) wrote,
I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

Letter grade B-

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.
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