President Obama's muddled position on gay marriage is back in the news. In case you missed the latest uproar, Vice President Joe Biden created confusion about whether the administration was shifting its policy when he told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that, "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties." The White House and the Obama campaign have insisted that there was no change in position and Obama still refuses to come out and say he supports gay marriage. He's in his fourth year as president, yet is position is allegedly still "evolving."
The reality is that Obama is a coward on the issue. He eventually came around to pushing for a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and his Justice Department stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act. So that will be his pitch to voters concerned with gay rights. But he doesn't want to come out and fully embrace gay marriage, because he's worried that doing so will alienate swing voters who oppose it. Liberal blogger Greg Sargent has declared Obama's position untenable and said it "just won’t wash." But I think the importance of this goes beyond just the gay marriage debate.
As we know, Obama's vulnerability on the economy means that his chances of winning reelection hinge on his ability to raise doubts about Mitt Romney. As we also know, one of Romney's biggest weaknesses as a candidate is that his flip flops on a variety of issues have made him look too much like an inauthentic calculating politician. Obama wants to be able to say, as President Bush did when running against the flip flopping Sen. John Kerry in 2004, "Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand." But the longer Obama twists himself into contortions trying to avoid outright saying he favors gay marriage, the more it will undermine this line of argument.