Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama's HRC Dinner Speech - We Don't Need a Cheerleader, We Need a President

I will post video when made available.

UPDATE 2: Read the transcript of the president's speech.

UPDATE: Other reactions:

Time Magazine, "Obama's Gay Outreach: All Talk, No Action."

Rex Wockner, "Inside the HRC dinner - Obama's speech."

Karen Ocamb calls Obama a sissy.

Michael Jones of, "Obama's Big Gay Speech."

Jeremy Hooper, "The president does not deserve a standing ovation."

President Obama needed to convince me of a lot in his speech at the HRC dinner tonight. I needed to be convinced that he had a plan, that he truly understood what was at stake for all of us in the LGBT population, and that he was aware that there possibly isn't as much time left to get actions accomplished as he may think.

What I heard convinced me, again, that President Obama sure knows how to deliver a powerful speech, and though I didn't hear a timeline for a Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, and though I didn't hear him call out Maine or Washington State and express explicit support for their fights against anti-LGBT referendums, I did choke up. I choked up because I heard a sitting president say, "I'm here with a simple message. I'm here with you in that fight."

So why do I feel disappointed?

Obama declared "there are still laws to change and hearts to open" and described discrimination as "painful and heartbreaking." He added that "We cannot and will not put aside issues of basic equality" and that he is standing with us against those "who would enshrine discrimination into our constitution."

The president has been very aware of the criticisms launched against him, that the incremental approach for LGBT rights is not enough anymore. I've been among them. We may not have another term, and even more pressing, we may not have as friendly of an LGBT Congress after next year's election as we do NOW.

"I appreciate that many of you don't feel that progress has come fast enough," he said. "It's important to be honest amongst friends . . . It's not for me to tell you to be patient . . . I will say this. We have made progress and we will make more."

After acknowledging that we are impatient, after admitting that progress has been slow, after ignoring Maine and Washignton state, he stuck to a theme of incremental progress without a commitment to any timeline, gave himself credit for allowing gays and lesbians to play with Easter eggs on the White House lawn and then dressed it all up in beautiful language hoping yet again to distract us from the fact that the speech lacked any real content.


". . . do not doubt the direction we're headed and the destination that we will reach." But how will we get there? Convince me I shouldn't doubt!

In addressing ENDA, Obama said, "Nobody in America should be fired because they are gay." But where are we on getting this passed? Like Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Hildebrand said on CNN after the speech, "you don't just wave a wand" and the legislation hits the president's desk.

In regards to Don't Ask Don't Tell: "While some may wish to identify you by your sexual orientation or by your gender identity, you know and I know that none us want to be defined by one part of what makes us whole . . . You are soldiers, you are neighbors and you are friends, and most importantly, you are Americans who care deeply about this country and its future.

"We are moving ahead on DADT. We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped up to their serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage . . . when we're fighting two wars.

"I'm working with the Pentagon its leadership and members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. I will end DADT policy."

When? Who knows. Yet again no sign of leadership on the repeal.

The Hate Crimes bill has made impressive progress passing the House but faces an uphill battle in the Senate. But Obama believes "This bill is set to pass and I will sign it into law."

DOMA: "I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act." But just as Congress has reached out to you, President Obama, on direction on how to proceed with repealing DADT, where's the direction on repealing DOMA?

"Are we a nation that can transcend old attitudes? Can we embrace our differences and look to the hopes and dreams that we equal and all of us deserve the same?"

I believe that you believe this, President Obama. I believe you when you say, "My commitment to you is unwavering." But with commitment comes action. With leadership comes direction. You have made history for being explicit in your support for the LGBT population.

Sean Bugg on SiriusOutQ's coverage said, "If you aren't a wonk or activist clued in to the messy politics going on behind the scenes, this speech is a huge home run of support from the President of the United States."

I guess I'm an activist (or wonk).

You asked us to keep the pressure on you. So here it is: Be a leader. Lead. Because in these times, a beautiful speech isn't going to cut it. We don't need a cheerleader. We need a President.


"Not a rerun speech as a sitting president. Unfortunately, those were quite brave words. That's why we fight so hard!"

"The money quote in that speech was Obama giving himself credit for letting the homos roll easter eggs at the white house!"

"I think it was a good speech... wish he'd give more detail though."

"Definitely a rerun speech by Obama. With a few more memorable rhetorical flourishes. Moving but no real movement."


  1. "just the kind of rhetoric that doesn't help, imo."

    I made this comment in reply to this tweet: "RT @Pam_Spaulding The money quote in that speech was Obama giving himself credit for letting the homos roll easter eggs at the white house!" not to the President's remark. I believe his speech went as far as it could without promising things that he himself cannot deliver. I think he has given direction by speaking so publicly about his wishes for the LGBT community and Equality for All Americans. I think he has thrown down the gauntlet for us to get to work and lobby all of our representatives, he has said that if these issues reach his desk in the form of a law he can sign, he will. And I will take the President being our cheerleader over being our roadblock any day. Let's 'Unite the Fight until we attain the goal of " Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states".

  2. I removed. My apologies. I guess that's an indication of the limitations of Twitter.

    I couldn't agree more about your call to action to equal protection.

    Yet, we need a road map. Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid has asked for specific direction from Obama on how to repeal DADT. We have asked numerous times. I just feel tonight could have been so much more than hearing the same promises we've heard before.

    I acknowledge the historical value of a president being very open about being on our side, but actions speak louder than words.

  3. Actually the words Obama speaks are just as concrete as actions. His words are a manifestation for reality. He wouldn't risk saying what he said if that were not to be true. I love how Obama holds off from making a "date-driven" promise. Given this entire time with this administration, what could be possibly held to a date? He didn't even hold the Stimulus package to a date or Healthcare reform. None of it has been presented as calendar driven.

  4. I agree that the speech was moving but inadequate. Obama can suspend Don't Ask Don't Tell today using his powers under stop-loss. Doing so would make it possible for gay service members to serve openly, and once that genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting it back. This would pave the way for Congress to repeal the law.

  5. I think he has thrown down the gauntlet for us to get to work and lobby all of our representatives


    Actually the words Obama speaks are just as concrete as actions. His words are a manifestation for reality.

    Let those sink in bit. Noble Peace Prize. MISSON ACCOMPLISHED.

  6. UTF:

    Um, what happened with your anonymous source who predicted Obama would say something about Maine? Didn't pan out, it would seem. Did this get changed at the last minute, or was the source just wrong?

  7. The source is extremely reliable. But I would suspect that the speech went through many drafts and in the end, it was decided that they shouldn't take risks with specifics but with floral language that doesn't get us far.

  8. we heard the same stuff from clinton. he "felt our pain" and he "got it"...and then he gave it to us with DOMA and DADT.
    this time around, the prez is "with us" while his whitehouse fights us in the courts, says DADT can't be reversed until all wars have ended, and has called the marchers on washington a bunch of lefty nutbags. deja vu ?