Thursday, 2 July 2009

Showing Them Some Love

Here's Obama at a White House reception for the LGBT community last week - the first time any President has given a white house address on LGBT issues, let alone an address in the White House to that audience.

I loved the deadpan understatement of this bit:

"We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps... We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."
Obviously, there are some noteworthy policy statements in this - his confirmation that he has instructed the Secretary of Defence to begin working on a plan implement the repeal of DADT. A repeated promise to overturn DOMA and to abolish the ban on HIV positive individuals entering the country.

But what I was struck by more than anything else was the body language. In recent weeks we've been hearing a lot about the tensions between the Obama White House and the Gay community, but in this speech even the preternaturally self assured President seemed really relaxed - comfortable, at home, and like he is genuinely in the company of some of his favorite people. Of course, to a large extent this is true - as he reminded us in the series of shout outs at the beginning, folks like campaigner Steve Hildebrand and John Berry at the Office of Personnel are quite literally and not just politically "old friends".

But notice the casual banter, for example at about 4 minutes 30 seconds in when he cracks up at someone's cell phone ring tone.

He seems here, dare I say it, a bit like how George W. Bush seemed when he spent time with the pro-life folks. There's a sense of, "These are my people."

Or maybe, to be cynical, he's adopting that attitude precisely because of the reported tensions from the community - a way of cooling them off. But if it were merely a performance, it would be masterful.

Either way, I believe him when he promises action. Any day now would be good.

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