We wrote last night about how Ted Olson, George Bush’s former Solicitor General (the guy who argues the administration’s cases before the Supreme Court) – and the guy who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court on behalf of Bush – is now teaming up with attorney David Boies to launch a federal legal challenge to Prop 8 in Cailfornia.
As I mentioned last night, it’s hard to overplay the significance of this. Olson may very well be the man singlehandedly responsible for putting George Bush in the White House these past eight years. He is a conservative. He was a member of the board of the American Spectator, the magazine that investigated Bill Clinton in the early 90s, and got that entire ball of wax rolling. Olson was the guy who was so conservative that Harry Reid torpedoed Bush’s desire to make Olson Attorney General after Gonzales. Olson is so conservative that Bob Novak (aka Novakula) called him “highly esteemed.”
You get the point.
This is as significant in conservative circles, I believe, as former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt, now supporting gay marriage. Moderates in the Republican party – or perhaps more accurately, conservatives – are suddenly speaking out with more moderate views. The irony is that we always wanted moderate/liberal Republicans to stand up and denounce the culture wars. To take their party back. But instead, we have a growing number of conservatives who are washing their hands of the religious right and its phobias.
Read what Olson said to Byron York at the Washington Examiner about his work on the Prop 8 case:
“I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions,” Olson told me Tuesday night. “I thought their cause was just.”
I asked Olson about the objections of conservatives who will argue that he is asking a court to overturn the legitimately-expressed will of the people of California. “It is our position in this case that Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court, denies federal constitutional rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution,” Olson said. “The constitution protects individuals’ basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote. If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. We believe that denying individuals in this category the right to lasting, loving relationships through marriage is a denial to them, on an impermissible basis, of the rights that the rest of us enjoy…I also personally believe that it is wrong for us to continue to deny rights to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
If Ted Olson can say that about gay marriage, then all bets are off in terms of what we should expect from Democratic politicians.
Joe and I both used to give a lot of latitude to Democrats on gay marriage. We’re both realists who believe that civil rights, like so many other victories, are most often won in small steps (or “tranches” (aka slices) as they say in the financial world, and France). We were willing to cut Obama some slack on gay marriage because we understood that America wasn’t there yet, and it was difficult for a Democratic politician to openly support gay marriage and not lose his career.
Times have changed. We have conservative Republican leaders like Steve Schmidt and Ted Olson openly endorsing gay marriage while our Democratic president and far too many of his administration are treating gays and their civil rights like some kind of crazy Aunt you don’t talk about in polite company because she’s just so embarrassing.
Religious right bigots like to invoke Obama’s supposed opposition to gay marriage when trying to take away our civil rights, and the White House says nothing to dispel the comparison. Well, perhaps it’s time we started quoting pro- gay marriage conservatives like Steve Schmidt and Ted Olson, and asking the White House why Barack Obama seems to have a bigger hang up with our civil rights – hell, with us (do you see anyone openly gay in the Cabinet?) – than two of the most conservative Republicans in Washington.