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Julie in Boise

The McClurkin matter was a bombshell at the time, but most gays and lesbians have since been able to place Obama's response and the rest of his record on civil rights issues in perspective. It's also worth noting that the Obama campaign added an openly gay minister to the McClurkin rally as a gesture of reconcilliation.

MG, I don't know if this will help, but most of Edwards' LGBT steering committee have come over to the Obama side. Click my name.


Well, I don't know about most, but I get what you're saying Julie. As you know I've struggled with this for some time. I'm just tired of being a pawn in somebody's election game. As Obama himself might have said had he realized the importance of the issue, I want to change the mindset that says that it's okay. It's not.

Don't get me wrong, if Obama wins the nomination I will support him. I just hope the same can be said for those that are supporting him now if Clinton gets the nomination. I know you are all very passionate and I respect that.

I'm not going to panic though. We're strong, we can be united. I have no doubt about that.

[And you know you're always my idol, even when we disagree.]


Excellent post MG - thanks.

Now that Edwards is out of the race, I'm an Obama supporter. I've noticed these past few weeks that it seems one of the symptoms of Obama fever is an urge to disparage the Clintons, and of course it's easy to find reasons to do so if one is inclined (especially if we throw Bill into the mix). Several times lately I have had to remind myself that, even though I'm for Obama, Clinton is an amazing woman and a worthy candidate. If she gets the nomination, I'll be proud to support her.

You might find this article "Goodbye to All That" (posted at The Women's Media Center) about Hillary interesting - http://www.womensmediacenter.com/ex/020108.html.

Here's an excerpt:

"Goodbye to the phrase “polarizing figure” to describe someone who embodies the transitions women have made in the last century and are poised to make in this one. It was the women’s movement that quipped, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” She heard us, and she has."

Dr. Blues

MG- I understand your struggle and, although I support Obama, would certainly campaign for and vote for Clinton should she get the nomination.

I am afraid using JFK and civil rights as an example of a politician who got the issue of his time "right" counters your argument, however.

JFK voted against the civil rights act of 1957 when he was in congress. Most historians have described him as "luke warm" when it came to civil rights. He said little about it during the campaign because he knew he needed to win some Southern states to beat Nixon. A number of Southern Democratic segregationists shared the podium with him on the campaign trail.

While President, he okayed J. Edgar Hoover's wiretaps of MLK and did everything he could to stop James Farmer from continuing the freedom rides.

He grew in the job, however. Circumstances caused both JFK and Bobby to come around before both were assassinated. As his civil rights legacy, JFK introduced the legislation that became the civil rights act of 1964.

Like JFK, Obama is more interested in bringing people together than in excluding them. I think that if we start to say one issue is a "litmus test" for our support, we will be like the poor social conservatives who are willing to hand the election to the Democratic candidate rather than vote for the "impure" McCain.

I understand your unwillingness to "get on board" at this time. But, I hope you will remain open to the possibility. The Obama train is obviously gaining steam and the ride is exciting.

I was an Edwards supporter until he dropped out. I still believe he was the "true" progressive in the field and I doubt that either Hillary or Barack will take on corporate abuse like John Edwards would have.

I have had to admit that, like Clinton, Edwards didn't have the ability to inspire and energize the American people in the same way Obama does. In that sense, he does remind me of JFK.

Dr. Blues


Thanks for setting me straight, so to speak :), on the history of JFK and his early record on civil rights. Being overly emotional about this and with the JFK torch having been sort of "passed" to Obama by Teddy, I'm afraid I grabbed him as an example without accounting for this early part of his history. So, thanks for that.

I do hope that which ever way the nomination goes, we all come together in the end. And of course my ultimate goal still remains that those of us who identify as LGBT be seen as people, not as second class citizens.

Tara Rowe

Two words: James Meredith.

You knew I couldn't stay out of this conversation for long! Here's a history lesson:

Kennedy did NOT vote against the 1957 Civil Rights Act, if I am remembering correctly there was a provision in that legislation (possibly the jury trial amendment or powers granted to the Attorney General) that he originally voted against and then voted for the final passage of the bill. Keep in mind this was Eisenhower's civil rights legislation and that the voting on the bill was sadly politics as usual leaving Kennedy in fear of his nemesis LBJ gaining additional power in the Senate.

Dr. Blues' comments seem to be ignoring the political game that was going on in many of these cases with civil rights. Let's not forget the Thurmond filibuster that came with the '57 Act or the fact that Hoover had both Kennedy brothers between a rock and a hard place in many respects. Could Kennedy have gone against J. Edgar Hover on the wiretapping? Probably. Would there have been hell to pay? Yes. Kennedy had supported King. That we know from his attempt to get King released from jail in 1960 and from his meeting with him in August of 1963.

Kennedy was the man who sent the National Guard in to Mississippi against the governor's orders to escort James Meredith into Ole Miss. Kennedy sent his brother to negotiate for the Freedom Riders. Kennedy and his legacy are the reason the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Take a look at Kennedy's speech after the encounter with George Wallace in the summer of 63 if in doubt. I wouldn't call any of this a change of heart.

And while I am at it, I have a hard time swallowing this concept of passing the torch. Is the torch really Ted Kennedys to pass? Caroline, maybe.

The entire premise of comparing Obama to JFK should end right after Obama supporters cite the oratory issue. Yes, Obama, like President Kennedy, has the gift of inspiring people through speech. Yes, Obama, like President Kennedy, is running after a relatively short period in the Senate. Yes, Obama has the support of a handful of Kennedys and Ted Sorenson. Enough already about Obama and Kennedy.


Thanks for weighing in Tara and yes, I knew you wouldn't/couldn't stay out of this for long.

Seems we all could use a JFK refresher.

sharon fisher

You're not alone; a number of my gay friends in other parts of the country feel as you do.


I agree Tara about having enough of the camparison. At least between the men, themselves. But the camparison between what happened then and today is inescapable in my mind. The passing of the torch is accomplished not so much between Kennedy to Obama as it is from one generation to the next taking hold of the reins of power. JFK became a symbol of social change, remaking the country into the image of that generation.

JFK's presidency heralded that change as does the hope for Obama. Many of us feel this transition is overdue. Hence the enthusiasm. If Obama doesn't become that catalyst, the bubble of enthusiasm that surrounds him will not be transferred but will pop, deflate and disperse. The two leaders are but symbols for the times. As I'm sure Obama will agree it will be all of us that accomplishes that change, not the symbols of it. Those symbols are merely tapping into what we all want.

Dr. Blues

The point of my post was not that JFK was weak on civil rights. I was just trying to make two points. One, civil rights was not an issue he devoted much attention to prior to becoming President. Two, he grew in the job.

In her defense of Kennedy’s civil rights record, Tara said that I was ignoring the “political games” Kennedy had to play. No- in my view that was central to why he didn’t make civil rights a priority issue.

Like gay equality is today, civil rights was an extremely volatile and divisive issue at the time and Kennedy chose not to take a strong position prior to becoming President, partially because he needed at least minimal support from Southern Democrats. I don’t criticize him for that. He was practicing pragmatic politics.

Once in office, he faced circumstances that demanded he show leadership. Fortunately, he rose to the occasion. But it should be pointed out that he never initiated a civil rights agenda.

In the case of sending in the National Guard to Ole Miss or sending Bobby to aid the freedom riders, he was reacting to a situation not of his making. In fact, I think it would be more accurate to say that Bobby was doing the pushing and JFK went along rather reluctantly.

The reason I pointed any of this out was to suggest that we may have a similar situation with Obama. If, as MG suggests, “equality for gay people is the social and civil rights issue of our time,” then we ought not judge Obama solely on the McClurkin issue.

In addition to inspiring rhetoric, another characteristic Obama seems to share with Kennedy is an instinct for pragmatic politics. Personally, I will take a pragmatist over an ideologue any day. I would point out though, in his more recent stump speeches (listen to the Va Jeff/Jackson Day speech), Obama has taken to addressing Gay rights specifically.

Tara, I am guessing that you and I are the only two historians who are reading this, so others might find the rest of this comment tangential.

Your claim about Kennedy’s vote on the 1957 Civil Rights Act brings up an important point. The original bill, the one Kennedy voted against, had a key provision- that certain violations of it could be tried in court without benefit of a jury and that violations would be subject to criminal contempt proceedings, not civil contempt.

Why was that important? Because it was obvious to all that southern juries would never convict any white person accused of violating a civil rights law.

So, the Act that finally passed (the one Kennedy signed) included jury trials and, as a result, was pretty much toothless. The fact that he voted against the first and for the second would seem to provide evidence for my argument that civil rights was not a priority issue for Kennedy while he was in the Senate.

At that point LBJ was not Kennedy’s “nemesis.” In fact, it was LBJ who finally engineered the passage of the 1957 Act and who strong-armed... err...convinced Kennedy to vote for it.

There is an interesting Idaho connection here because Johnson, in order to get Northwest Senators to sign, included a provision completely unrelated to civil rights in the Act, the building of hydroelectric dams in Hells Canyon,. If you want to read more about this incident, see Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ

Of course, the question about Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights will never be resolved. There is persuasive evidence to support your view. My view, that circumstances (and Bobby) forced him to act (re-act), echoes much of the current scholarship that tries to bring some balance to Camelot.

For example, as I am sure you are aware, the most detailed account of the Civil Rights movement is Taylor Branch’s trilogy. Look at the last half (from chapter 10 on) in "Parting of the Waters". Again and again, it is Bobby who is educating and persuading JKF as events unfold.

Really, it is not just current scholarship. For example, in Schlesinger’s celebratory "A Thousand Days", civil rights is not even mentioned until the last two chapters.

Of course, in Kennedy’s defense, it is international affairs that dominated the early part of his Presidency. And so it goes....

Sorry about the long-winded post, but I love talking about this stuff.


Not the only two historians, but I've been along time away from any scholarship. I appreciated the "long winded post". Very interesting regarding the Hells Canyon dams.
Bobby certainly was pushing his brother but the decision was still the president's. And interesting comment about seeking "balance". From what? Is that a code word for revision? When I studied these times I don't recall a lot of sugar coating of events requiring "balance". In fact my professor's were somewhat critical. I assume you're talking about balance from the tendency of some to glorify the Kennedy's.


Excellent discussion.

MG: As someone who shares your view that "equality for gay people is the social and civil rights issue of our time" I was as troubled as you by Obama's campaign event this past October.

At that moment I forced myself to re-examine every position I took for granted from Obama. My conclusion? Both candidates represent a major shift in gay issues and would be a welcomed change from our recent tract.

Two things comforted me in my support for Obama:

1) Obama's positions on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is stronger as he has said he will repeal all of DOMA, a position he has held since 2004. From my understanding Clinton only supports repealing the section on federal recognition of gay marriage.

2) Obama's has incorporated "gay issues" into many of his speeches, including the Va Jeff/Jackson Day speech mentioned above. What is key here is that he incorporates these issues into his speeches directed at general audiences and not only progressive or gay-friendly audiences. Another example, the day before MLK day Obama in a speech at Atlanta's mostly African-American Ebenezer Baptist Church Obama had this to s, "our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community, [in part because] we have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them."

I may be wrong, but I haven't seen Clinton take the same risks in front of traditionally non-gay audiences.

While I am a proud Obama supporter, I consider both to be excellent candidates and will strongly support our Democratic nominee in November.

Dr. Blues

Sorry Sisyphus, didn’t mean to exclude anyone. I have just learned over the years that not everyone shares my enthusiasms!

As I think about it, I should not have used the term “balance.” That leaves us with the mistaken impression that once we “weigh” the evidence we can somehow arrive at the Truth. Since Kennedy’s death, historians have done what historians do: reevaluate, reassess, reinterpret based upon new evidence, bring new perspectives to the same evidence, etc. And, of course, rather than arriving at some sort of consensus “truth,” we are left with a number of different narratives, some we find convincing, others we do not.

That was why I made my initial comment cautioning against using Kennedy and civil rights as some sort of standard by which to judge Obama and gay rights. But I also understand that the comparisons that are being made between Kennedy and Obama are not about historical evidence. I think those comparisons resonate with many of us on a deeply personal level. I remember how I felt, as a young boy, hearing Kennedy speak. In many ways, the values he articulated then helped frame many of the core values I hold to this day. Up to this point, Barack Obama seems able to make those same connections with Americans starving for an inspirational leader.

Dude, thanks for pointing out Obama’s “evolving” position on gay issues. I wasn’t aware of his MLK speech. I agree that his willingness to address this issue in front of audiences that are not necessarily “gay friendly” is telling. That sort of courage is an absolute requirement if we want action, not just political rhetoric from the next President. We still have a long way to go in this campaign. Let’s hope both Barack and Hillary have to courage to explicitly address this issue from here on out.

By the way, I too am an Obama supporter who will enthusiastically support the Democratic nominee in November. My God, if Hillary wins we will have a woman President, something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.

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Quotes For 2010

  • "The main thing is to keep everybody going down that road as we try to find the answers and solutions to all these problems. It'll be fun! We'll get it done." — Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star) when asked in an Idaho Reports broadcast how the State House will handle making tough budget decisions this year, 1.29.10.

Quotes For 2009

  • "[Some politicians] wouldn't recognize the Constitution if it fell in their laps and called them Daddy." — Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett (R-Challis) at a tea party tax protest.
  • "Just, you know, putting beans on the table." — former Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) when asked by Nate Shelman (670 KBOI) what he's doing these days.
  • "I said yesterday we hope and pray things will get better before they get worse. It's obvious to me some of you need to do a better job of praying." — Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert), Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee co-chair on the grim economic forecast facing the committee.
  • “We’ve been called a lot of things but we’ve never been called sneaks before.” — Rep. Maxine Bell (R-Jerome) in a budget dispute with the governor's staff over legislators' computer funding.
  • "I’m not wearing rose-tinted glasses. But I am a glass-half-full kind of guy." — Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter attempting to remain optimistic while delivering tough economic news in his State of the State/Budget message.

Quotes For 2008

  • "I am not ashamed that we use a lot of energy in this country. It has made us the most prosperous Nation on the face of the planet. ... Using energy makes us prosperous." — Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) during debate on an energy bill that, among other things, invested in alternative and renewable energy sources and repealed tax subsidies for large oil companies. (H.R.6899)
  • "If [Oversight Committee Chairman] Henry Waxman was interested in doing more than just showboat, we'd be there in a heartbeat. It's political grandstanding." — spokesman Wayne Hoffman explaining why Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) was absent from congressional oversight hearings into the financial crisis where, among other things, it was learned that AIG executives indulged in a lavish retreat a week after the bailout.
  • "You know what, campaigns are fast and furious, I accept responsibility that we don't have the right citation there, but the facts I stand by - we are correct about that." — Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) reacting to a campaign commercial fact-checking report.
  • "There are people out there without health care, and we need to address that, but it's not as big of a problem as some people would make it out to be" — Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) in a Lewiston, ID debate
  • "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." — President Bill Clinton in a speech at the 2008 DNC
  • "To my supporters, to my champions, to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits, from the bottom of my heart, thank you." — Senator Hillary Clinton in a speech at the 2008 DNC
  • "The America that we know, that the founding fathers envisioned, will cease to exist." — Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID-01) speaking at the state GOP convention about the possibility of a Democratically controlled White House and Congress.
  • "Sometimes the problems have to get larger before you can solve them. We can still drive around the potholes, so they must not be big enough." — House Speaker Lawerence Denney (R-Midvale), explaining that lawmakers still need to be convinced about the extent of road maintenance problems before they'll agree to tax or fee increases.
  • "Those people that believe in shooting animals through the fences . . . ought to turn the rifle the other way." — Former Governor Cecil Andrus, at sportsmen's rally, decked out in full camouflage, urging opposition to "shooter bull" operations on domestic elk farms.
  • "GARVEE is like swallowing a raw egg - it seems to be one of those things that's really hard to stop in the middle of." — Rep. Marv Hagedorn (R-Meridian), in comments on a package of transportation bills introduced by House GOP leaders at an emergency committee meeting.
  • "I'm a professional dairyman. I have milked and milked everything I can possibly milk." — State Police Maj. Ralph Powell, arguing that the state crime lab's bare-bones operation has reached its limit and now costs the state money as testing is sent to private labs.
  • "Idaho is ranked last in the nation in protecting the safety of children in day care centers." — Sen. Kate Kelly (D-Boise), in support of an unsuccessful move by Senate Democrats to force a daycare standards bill out of committee.
  • "This [anti-discrimination bill] is something we will propose every year until it passes." — Rep. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise), responding to the latest BSU Public Policy survey in which 63 percent of Idahoans think it ought to be illegal to fire someone for being gay or seeming to be gay.
  • "I assumed it would be a bunch of radical college students, so to fit the part, I grew a goatee, got a revolutionary T-shirt and put on some ratty jeans." — Rep. Curtis Bowers (R-Caldwell) in an Idaho Press-Tribune opinion explaining how he disguised himself to uncover alleged communist plots.

Quotes For 2007

  • "Divorce is just terrible. It's one of Satan's best tools to kill America." — Rep. Dick Harwood (R-St. Maries) describing the work of the Idaho Legislature's Family Task Force.
  • "I am not gay; I never have been gay." Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) in a statement responding to news of his arrest and subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct after an incident in an airport men's room.
  • “Most of the hospitals in this country have Christian names. If you think Hindu prayer is great, where are the Hindu hospitals in this country? Go down the list. Where are the atheist hospitals in this country? They’re not equal.” — Rep. Bill Sali (R-ID-01) to the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board in response to criticism of his views regarding Hindu prayer in the Senate.
  • "We are all Nintendo warriors today. Remember that game, that electronic game, a few years ago, push buttons zim, zam, boom and it was all over with? That is not the way you fight war, although we as a society have grown to believe that." — Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) during debate on an amendment to a bill providing for defense authorization.
  • "While we are Democrats and Republicans, in our hearts we are all Idahoans." — Sen. Clint Stennett (D-Ketchum), reaching out to Republicans while outlining the Democratic agenda for the 2007 legislative session.
  • "One of the hardest things we've had to do here is taking off our party hats." — Rep. Marv Hagedorn (R-Meridian) on a proposal to restrict Idaho's primary elections.
  • "This is outrageous. The people of Idaho are entitled to have their representatives base their votes on the merits of a bill, not on who backed the loser in a speaker's contest." — Former GOP Gov. Phil Batt responding to accusations of political retribution taken by House Speaker Denney (R-Midvale) on other members.
  • “There was one of those six projects that was removed altogether. Why? Because the senator and the representatives from that district were from the wrong political party. We need to take a step back" — Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) to the Senate when debating the GARVEE bill.
  • "I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself." — Gov. Butch Otter, speaking to a hunters' rally at the Statehouse.
  • "To get a kick out of smoking industrial hemp, it would take a cigar the size of a telephone pole." — Rep. Tom Trail (R-Moscow), downplaying the relation between hemp and its cousin marijuana
  • "I guess I would just make a plea saying we need the money. You know we need the money on roads." — Rep. JoAn Wood (R-Rigby), on proposed bill to collect gas tax from sales on Indian reservations.
  • "No one wants to carry the canoe bill." — Rep. Eric Anderson (R-Priest River), agreeing with Gov. Otter that non-motorized boats should also pay registration fees, but noting any such proposal will be a tough sell.
  • "I don't think we should let the threat of a lawsuit force us to implement something that's not well thought out." — Abbie Mace, Fremont County Clerk, testifying against a "modified-closed primary" bill being pushed by GOP leaders.
  • "There's a lot of things that I pointed out in my State of the State (address) that haven't passed. Unfortunately, I can't think of one that has." — Gov. Butch Otter, addressing reporters on the legislative session so far.
  • "I say let's have a hearing and take our clothes off and go after it." — Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, trying to get lawmakers to print his bill.
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