No Principle Here
Jonathan Capehart is too kind. Too kind to Chris Christie. It's not only that he considers (video below) it an "honor" and a "privilege" to be bullied on national (cable) television (video way below). (Note: videos, both from MSNBC, are presented here in reverse chronological order.)
Capehart's undeserved kindness consists in his cogent, accurate, and generous description of his and Obama's differences withthe New Jersey governor. He explains
Christie has a point. He and Obama both support civil unions. But there are several reasons Obama isn’t criticized as much as Christie.
Yes, Obama is in favor of civil unions. And he has caught hell from the gay community for saying repeatedly that his position on same-sex marriage is “evolving.” Heck, The Post and the New York Times have urged the president to evolve already. But let me point out the differences between Obama and Christie and why Christie fails to meet his own “courage” test.
The state legislature handed Christie a bill that would have made New Jersey the eighth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. He had the opportunity right then and there to show true courage and leadership by signing it into law. Instead, he punted. Obama has had no such opportunity to affix his signature to such historic legislation. Saying flat-out “I’m for gay marriage” would be high on symbolism and moral persuasion. But it would be low on real impact. Instead, the president has taken real actions that fly in the face of Christie’s criticism.
The Obama administration declared a year ago today that it viewed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional and therefore would no longer defend it in court. Obama has vocally supported the state-by-state efforts to allow gay and lesbian couples to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. And he has even thrown his support behind S 598. That’s the Respect for Marriage Act sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would repeal DOMA.
In short, the president is using whatever power he has to do right by gay men and lesbian couples who want to marry. Remember, this is a democracy, not a monarchy or a dictatorship, despite what you hear from some in the Republican Party. If Congress were to put the Feinstein bill on Obama’s desk he’d sign it. If only Christie had had the courage to show true leadership when a marriage-equality bill was sitting right in front of him last week.
Christie, according to the Washington Post columnist, would have demonstrated "true courage" and "the courage to show true leadership" if he had only signed into law the bill establishing same-sex marriage the New Jersey legislature had passed. But Christie had two opportunities to display courage. He could have signed the bill. Or he could have vetoed it, and let it go at that. But he did neither, instead vetoing the bill, then calling for a referendum. Both chambers of the New Jersey legislature are "controlled" (think US Senate "controlled" by Democrats) by Democrats and the Senate President thus far has refused to call a vote on Christie's referendum.
The Governor's veto of the same-sex bill is unlikely to be overturned, especially now that the Governor, as slick as always, has called for an ombudsman to be appointed, ostensibly to ensure that the state's civil union regulations are enforced. Understandably, the gay rights community, as well as legislative Democrats, recognize this as a ruse, and Christie has not explained why after more than two years as governor, he has discovered the flaws in the state's civil union law.
Initially, I believed that the Governor vetoed the legislation, then called for the voters to pass judgement, because it put him into a no-lose situation: tell the base he opposes same-sex marriage and not have to incur endless enmity from the gay community if the referendum passes. However, the Governor's push for an ombudsman, which might provide cover for any Republicans who might be tempted to join the Democratic effort to override his veto, suggests that the Governor is hoping gay marriage is rejected at the polls. He still would have a win-win on his hands; 2016 primary voters would see him as defying liberal "social engineering" while he can argue to the national media that he let the people decide.
Jonathan Capehart believes the Governor would have demonstrated courage if he had signed a same-sex marriage bill roughly half of New Jerseyans support. But that would have been approximately as courageous as vetoing the initiative. Either would have been far bolder- and far more forthright- than the course Chris Christie is taking. The bill should have been signed or vetoed. Period.