I seem to have gotten past my schaudenfreude over politicians who torture themselves responding to simple questions about whether they support same-sex marriage.  Watching Jeb Bush squirm at Charlie Roses’s straightforward inquiry (at about the 50 minute mark of this video), I found myself feeling some real sympathy for him.

I think it’s because Jeb appears to want to give the simple, right answer.  He’s smart, very well respected in his state, and knows how to answer even the hardest questions.  Watch him field Rose’s very first one about whether Jeb will be Mitt Romney’s running mate.  That is a tough question, but watch how easy it is to give a clear answer, if you have one.

Contrast that ease to what happens to Jeb when Rose gets around to same-sex marriage.  Jeb’s detours, platitudes, bromides and banality not only don’t answer the question, they don’t even seem to convince Jeb himself.

That, I think (and hope) is the tragedy of politicians of good faith.  They know they are giving the wrong answer and hate themselves for it.  Can Jeb Bush really believe that when he says same-sex marriage is a “diversion,” he is not insulting every lesbian and gay man, to whom marriage is not some triviality or stratagem, but a central fact of their daily life?

That is how a politician can view the issue — in tactical terms.  More important, it is a luxury that only heterosexuals have, to view same-sex marriage as not that important.  How nice that must be, to see an issue that is so important to the lives of others, and not have to worry about it because it doesn’t much affect you.

But that is the problem all minorities potentially face in a democracy.  Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone (that’s sympathy), it is the ability to actually see the world through someone else’s eyes.  The equal protection clause doesn’t guarantee majorities will have empathy but it does assure that the laws cannot allow this luxury of the majority to prevail.

I don’t know why I think Jeb is smart enough to understand that he is only feigning this kind of ignorance and entitlement.  It’s very possible I’m wrong and he really is that ignorant and entitled.  But in this interview, he really did strike me as troubled by the words coming out of his own mouth.

Worse for him, after watching how much easier it is now for the President to answer this simple question with a simple answer, I think (and again, hope) Jeb knows that his own political  life would be so much easier if he, too, could give the easy and right response.

8 Comments for “Easy”

  1. posted by Easy | QClick Radar on

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  2. posted by Houndentenor on

    For some time now I think Democrats feared a backlash if they fully embraced gay equality. There may have been, and may still be, some rational basis for that fear. But now that the President and Vice President have both come out for full gay rights, not just some piecemeal compromise, it removes the excuse that so many other politicians for some time now. Over and over we heard “well Kerry isn’t for gay marriage either”, ignoring that Bush was proposing a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage which Kerry opposed. But Kerry’s position was cowardly. I seriously doubt that the there will be any Democratic nominees for president going forward who don’t follow in Obama’s footsteps on this issue. At the same time I can’t imagine a Republican candidate getting past the South Carolina primary without coming out strongly against gay marriage. At least not for at least another decade. I could be wrong. The public has moved on gay marriage far faster than anyone could have predicted. But the social conservatives are just too powerful in the party. Some here will attempt to deny that but I lie in deep red territory right now and the rhetoric is the most hateful I can remember. They have no intention of compromising on marriage or for that matter ENDA or DADT.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      The Democratic default is now “equal means equal”. State parties, including Wisconsin, Montana, Pennsylvania and Texas in the last few days, are adopting marriage equality planks in their platforms, and I have no doubt that the national platform will include marriage equality, based on what I’m hearing from a friend who sits on the DNC.

      The party has made the change, and won’t go back.

  3. posted by Jeb Agonistes | The Penn Ave Post on

    […] in the interview. The subject? Marriage equality. He sounds like Obama two months ago. David Link observes: Jeb’s detours, platitudes, bromides and banality not only don’t answer the question, […]

  4. posted by Jorge on

    Blindly, I don’t remember Barack Obama or especially Joe Biden squirming when they were asked about gay marriage during the 2008 debates, and they both contorted around the “wrong” answer. I don’t remember John Edwards squirming in the 2008 primary when he was against gay marriage. Or Rudy Giuliani during the same when he did a near flip-flop on the issue. Or Hillary Clinton several years ago as senator when she supported the Defense of Marriage act. They all had a very coherant (if possibly incredulous) explanation that they delivered in a glad-handling type of way.

    I do remember Sarah Palin squirming during the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate while giving almost the same answer as Joe Biden. And there were many moments during this season’s Republican Presidential Primary–I’m not the person who is going to name names.

    I think the reason Republican politicians squirm when they are asked about gay rights questions is not because they are trying to repress pro-gay rights instincts. It is because they are trying to repress anti-gay instincts.

  5. posted by Jeb Bush squirms on gay marriage | Saint Petersblog on

    […] Andrew Sullivan thinks Bush sounded like Obama did two months ago. David Link observes: […]

  6. posted by Houndentenor on

    Sorry to nitpick but Giuliani was never for gay marriage, just civil unions. It was sad, however, to see him sell out his gay friends (like the couple who took him in after his wife kicked his cheating ass out of Gracie Mansion) during 2008. It’s an example of what will happen to any GOP candidate who supports any gay rights at all in a presidential bid. Back-tracking isn’t going to play with the fundamentalist social conservatives.

    Also, Hilary was not in the Senate for the DOMA vote. She was first lady at the time. I have no idea what her support for it was at the time but her husband signed the bill, knowing full well, as a former law professor, that it was unconstitutional. It’s one of several reasons I did not support her in the 2008 primaries. I wasn’t sure if Obama would throw gays under the bus but the Clintons had demonstrated with DOMA and DADT that they most certainly would.

    But you are 100% right about Republicans and gays. They have learned that coming out openly hostile to gay people (as opposed to details of gay rights) turns off moderates and swing voters. The GOP did very well with focus-group tested nonsense like “I’m for equal rights but not special rights” while openly opposing those equal rights. But it worked with that part of the electorate who don’t mind being racist, sexist and homophobic so long as no one calls them racist, sexist or homophobic.

  7. posted by JohnInCA on

    … you feel sympathy for a guy who is gonna vote to keep you a second class citizen (or worse) because you want to think he knows he’s making the wrong decision?

    Yeah… not sure I can understand that. That kind of sympathy is gonna be reserved for people that are doing wrong and regret it *but have no choice*. Politicians? Total freedom of choice. No sympathy from me.

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