A Chicago Gay and Lesbian newpaper, the Windy City Times, has unearthed a candidate issue survey written by then Illinois State Senate Candidate Barack Obama in 1996. What is notable about this document is what has changed. Take a look at number 6:
“6) I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
When I heard this news, I wasn’t angry or surprised. I was reminded of a story that from the primary campaign. This isn’t the first time Obama 1996 had a disagreement with Obama 2008. In December 2007, Politico reported that Barack Obama had taken “unabashedly liberal positions” on a questionnaire he filled out while running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The premise of the article was that his “far left” positions could damage him in the general election:
Regardless, the blunt statements of his earlier views, preserved on a questionnaire he filled out for an Illinois voter group that later endorsed him, would allow a Republican opponent to paint him as being way to the left of the nation’s electorate on questions that have historically been potent wedge issues.
A week after Politico requested a comment, the Obama campaign responded by saying that a campaign aide, not then candidate Obama, had filled out the questionnaire. His campaign manager from the 1996 campaign confirmed that she had filled out the questionnaire.
Four months later, in March 2008, we learned that the campaign’s December 2007 explanation wasn’t entirely accurate. Politico received an amended copy of the questionnaire with notes on the front page written in Barack Obama’s handwriting. His new excuse was even more creative:
Through an aide, Obama, who won the group’s endorsement as well as the statehouse seat, did not dispute that the handwriting was his. But he contended it doesn’t prove he completed, approved — or even read — the latter questionnaire.
“Sen. Obama didn’t fill out these state Senate questionnaires — a staffer did — and there are several answers that didn’t reflect his views then or now,” Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama’s campaign, said in an e-mailed statement. “He may have jotted some notes on the front page of the questionnaire at the meeting, but that doesn’t change the fact that some answers didn’t reflect his views. His 11 years in public office do.”
So he was handed a voter questionnaire and all he did was jot some notes on the first page about his endorsements. He didn’t even flip through the questionnaire to see how his aide had characterized his views. What the campaign did not explain at the time, was why the questionnaire had been amended:
Consider the question of whether minors should be required to get parental consent — or at least notify their parents — before having abortion.
The first version of Obama’s questionnaire responds with a simple “No.”
The amended version, though, answers less stridently: “Depends on how young — possibly for extremely young teens, i.e., 12- or 13-year-olds.”
Let’s assume that then-candidate Obama as soooo busy doing fundraisers and traveling across his district and holding rallies and doing TV interviews to fill out his own candidate issue forms. Let’s assume that his campaign manager did all of that for him (and in the aforementioned case, she changed her mind about parental consent for teenagers seeking abortion). And let’s assume that then candidate Obama was too busy with his hectic campaign schedule to read what he was signing.
First, the results of THIS survey were published in what was then called Outlines Newspaper.
Outlines newspaper, as with the new Windy City Times, surveyed candidates for all levels of elected office, and also reported on the results from pro-gay and progressive groups. We summarized the results in that 1996 article by Trudy Ring, but did not list exact answers to questions. In that article Outlines did note that Obama was a supporter of same-sex marriage; that article was never challenged or corrected by Obama.
Now it’s possible that then candidate Obama was too busy traveling his district to read what the newspaper reported about the candidate survey, but there is another problem. Another candidate survey for IMPACT, then Chicago’s main GLBT political action committee. Unlike the aforementioned surveys, which were typed, this survey was completed by hand. Take a look at question 7.
Do you support the Marriage Resolution, a statement of support for the right of same-gender individuals to marry:
“Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice,
RESOLVED, the state should not interfere with same-gender couples who [choose] to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage.”
If you do not support the resolution, will you at least oppose any attempts to outlaw same gender marriage and/or to ammend reciprocity agreements with states which permit same-gender marriage? Will you oppose any federal initiatives which attempt to over-ride certain state laws which allow same-gender marriage?
Obama’s hand-written response:
I would support such a resolution.
Obama flip-flopped. Big deal. He’s a politician. Politicians do that. Those of his supporters who understand the nature of politics won’t be fazed by this. Those who think he walks on water are probably looking for evidence of a Clinton or PUMA conspiracy or they’re looking for a way to rationalize the contradictory statements. Those of us on planet Earth are wondering what Barack Obama really believes about gay marriage? Which candidate expressed his accurate views on the topic–Obama ’96 or Obama ’08? More importantly, now that he’s won the election, is he going to flip back? I’ll sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation of his decision.
(Via Ben Smith)