Sunday, February 29, 2004

# Posted 8:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOHN KERRY, MASTER OF NUANCE: Yet again, John Kerry has come forward with an extremely complicated explanation of why positions he has taken might seem inconsistent at first but are in fact part and parcel of a sophisticated and coherent worldview. The issue this time is gay marriage and the relevant facts have been provided by CJR's Campaign Desk. Here goes: In 1996, Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. This week, Ron Brownstein of the LAT asked Kerry whether his position on DOMA implied that the only way to ban gay marriage is by amending the constitution. Kerry responded to Brownstein by stating that he was wrong in '96 about the constitutionality of DOMA. Following Kerry's logic, Brownstein then asked whether Kerry would vote for DOMA if it up were put before the Senate today. Kerry evaded that question by saying that DOMA is already the law of the land.

Campaign Desk goes through all of this in order to demonstrate that a number of major media outlets have misrepresented Kerry's views on gay marriage. As far as I can tell, they have, albeit slightly. Even so, you have to have a lot of faith in Kerry in order to believe that his rhetorical acrobatics represent a sincere effort to explain his views rather than a calculated effort to explain them away. And even if the Senator's views are consistent, his decision to dodge Brownstein's final question is a pretty clear indication of the fact that Kerry does not want to let anyone know what his real views on gay marriage are.

But that's only the beginning. It also turns out that Kerry would support amendents to state consitutions that outlaw gay marriage provided that such amendents protect civil unions and the like. However, Kerry is against an amendent to the federal constitution which would do the same. These positions are consistent now that Kerry has revised his view of the constitutionality of DOMA. But what did he revise his view of DOMA? Has he changed his interpretation of the 14th Amendment, or did he misunderstand certain parts of DOMA?

Perhaps the more important question is whether it hurts Kerry more to reinforce his reputation for straddling the fence, or whether he should pay that price to avoid seeming too liberal (or too conservative?) on gay marriage. On the one hand, I sympathize with Kerry for having to make such a hard decision. On the other, I expect real answers from a candidate for President.
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