Vice President Joe Biden really did get ahead of President Barack Obama on accepting gay marriage in 2012 — and the White House really wasn’t happy about it, despite their many attempts to claim otherwise.
That’s the story laid out in Jo Becker’s new book, “Forcing the Spring,” which documents the past few years of successful efforts to expand the legalization of gay marriage, according to an advance copy obtained by POLITICO.
Speculation that Biden’s comments on “Meet the Press” in May 2012 were meant as a trial balloon, Becker writes, came from people “not privy to the chaos that erupted inside the West Wing after an emailed transcript of the interview landed in the inbox of the White House press team.” A furious Valerie Jarrett, Becker adds, accused Biden of “downright disloyalty.”
Becker describes the months leading up to that rushed moment as a scramble to weigh the political dangers of backing gay marriage against the expected push to add marriage equality to the Democratic convention platform. And Becker says Obama senior adviser David Plouffe reached out to an unexpected ally: former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay himself in 2010.
In a private lunch at the White House, Mehlman advised Obama that backing gay marriage could reassert his character strength from 2008, appealing to young people, Republicans and independents and beyond by seeming to take a bold stand without regard to the political consequences. On November 10, 2011, Mehlman sent Plouffe a full write-up of how the president should announce his support — in a joint interview with the first lady, conducted by a female journalist and “all 3 should be sitting. Soft lighting”—as well as a full suggested script for the president to use.
That script wasn’t far off from what Obama eventually said as he went public with his “evolution,” and though he did the interview solo, he did do it with as Mehlman advised, with a female interviewer (ABC’s Robin Roberts).
But he did it six months after Mehlman sent Plouffe the email, and only after Biden forced him. The first lady and Jarrett, Becker writes, were pressuring Obama to pull the trigger but his own personal and political anxieties held him back.
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SOURCE: EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE