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Sexual realpolitik: searching for the middle of the road | Hunter of Justice

Sexual realpolitik: searching for the middle of the road

by on September 22, 2008  •  In Elections

From the always perceptive Lisa Keen in Bay Windows:

One candidate last week said that barring military recruiters from universities is a "mistake." Another said "I’m from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds, and I’m not going to judge someone on whether they believe homosexuality is a choice or genetic."

The first was Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, a candidate who simultaneously believes that Congress should repeal the military’s policy of excluding open gays. The latter was Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who also expressed the opinion that the pro-gay book for kids, Daddy’s Roommate, should be banned from the public library.

This is what happens when the party conventions are over and campaigns begin running toward the political middle. But in close contests, candidates must fight for the middle while hanging on to the fringes.

The down-to-the-wire, razor-thin character of the 2008 presidential contest may explain why Palin seemed to choose her words so very carefully when asked by ABC’s Charles Gibson whether homosexuality is a matter of genetics or choice.

"Oh, I don’t — I don’t know," said Palin, "but I’m not one to judge. And you know, I’m from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds, and I’m not going to judge someone on whether they believe homosexuality is a choice or genetic. I’m not going to judge them."

It may also explain Obama’s response, when asked during the Sept. 11 forum whether universities that have excluded military recruiters from their campuses should "invite them back on campus?"

"Yes, I think we’ve made a mistake on that," said Obama.
The answer likely surprised those viewers who know of Obama’s own hard line position against the military’s policy of excluding gays. He obviously anticipated that.

"I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy," continued Obama. "But, the notion that young people … in any university aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake. That does not mean we disregard any potential differences in various issues that are raised by the students here, but it does mean that we should have an honest debate while still offering opportunities for everybody to serve, and that’s something I’m pretty clear about."

Maybe not. Suddenly, the campaign was hosting a telephone conference call with reporters to "discuss the failure of ’Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy’." Speaking for the campaign Sept. 17, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.) said the positions are "very consistent" but he sidestepped the question of whether Obama’s remarks about recruiters signaled that the candidate believes the military’s need to recruit trumps a university’s non-discrimination policies. No opportunity for a follow-up was allowed….

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