Kerry Eleveld at the Advocate writes that a White House spokesperson says the president "looks forward to speaking directly to the LGBT community about the steps his administration has taken thus far and the progress he hopes to achieve in the coming weeks and months." On the surface, that sounds fine and dandy -- better, certainly, than this morning's warning for everyone to get ready for a big helping of the same-old same-old.
But, further into the piece, Kerry presses press secretary Robert Gibbs on what, exactly, we might expect:
That statement suggests Obama might deliver some fresh new piece of information Saturday, but White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday didn’t presage anything new during Friday’s briefing, saying only that he expected the president to talk about “a range of issues.”
When I asked Gibbs if the president would highlight anything beyond the recently nominated openly gay ambassador and the nearly sealed hate-crimes legislation, Gibbs said he didn’t want to “zoom past” the hate-crimes achievement.
“Hate-crimes protections are long overdue, in the president's opinion,” Gibbs said. “He believes that their passage represents an important step, and looks forward to, when that legislation gets to his desk, signing it and making that the law of the land. I think that's certainly part of what he'll discuss on Saturday night.”
Based on that response, I think it’s safe to say that hate crimes will clearly be a major emphasis of the speech.
Look, the majority of the LGBT community has clearly and consistently advocated for hate crimes legislation, congressional votes have been there for a while (depending on what insane parliamentary procedures are implemented to skew votes akimbo). We finally have a president who will actually sign a hate crimes bill. Yay, and so on. But if Obama hangs his hat of pro-gay accomplishments on hate crimes, well, that would signal a pretty deep unwillingness to engage energetically on other issues like DADT repeal.
Obviously, I'm reacting to something that hasn't happened -- I'll react more fully tomorrow night when I'm on Sirius OutQ for the broadcast of the speech. And my thinking, until this morning's Post piece, was similar to Kerry's: Why on earth would Obama bother making such a high-profile speech to a community so on-the-edge waiting for signs of positive -- and substantive -- change in federal law and policy if he didn't have something new and significant to bring to the table?
But, I thought the same about the big gay White House reception and was wrong; I believed Obama when he said DADT repeal would be a priority, and I was wrong. A president can't do everything, but Obama can clearly do more than he bothered to try so far.
I'd really prefer not to be wrong yet again.