As she prepares for her presidential race, confident that New Yorkers will re-elect her, Hillary Clinton is working to position herself properly to win the Democratic nomination by adjusting, tweaking and, where necessary, reversing her issue positions.
But last week’s flip-flop on gay marriage, in which she said she would approve of state action to legalize it, came with some reconstructed history that tried to paper over her switch by obfuscating the historical record.
Her statement dismissed her support of her husband’s Defense of Marriage Act as "a strategic decision to help derail a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage."
Nonsense. I was in the room at the White House strategy meeting and was sitting next to the president when he decided to promote and sign the bill. Nobody was even talking about a constitutional amendment back then — 1995-96 — and no one in the meeting so much as mentioned the possibility. His decision to sign the bill closely followed my announcement of polling data that suggested overwhelming support for the legislation. His announcement to his staff and advisers that he would sign the bill was, indeed, a strategic decision, but one that related to his re-election prospects rather than to any push for a constitutional amendment.
The bill was passed by Congress because of fears that legislation in Vermont, signed by Gov. Howard Dean, allowing same-sex "civil unions" might force other states to recognize unions formed under Vermont law. The worry was that same sex couples could force the other 49 states to recognize a marital relationship allowed under Vermont law by invoking the U.S. Constitution’s full-faith-and-credit clause, which requires that states recognize the actions of their fellow states. To forestall this possibility, the Defense of Marriage Act tried to prohibit courts from making states recognize gay marriages or civil unions allowed by another state.
Hillary supported her husband’s decision to sign the bill and has often reiterated her position. Her recent announcement that she would now approve of state action to allow gay marriage is a flip-flop, pure and simple.
During the discussion at the White House strategy meeting at which the president told us he would sign the bill, adviser George Stephanopoulos cautioned President Clinton to "give us several days" to break the decision to White House staffers who might object. "Tell them we’ve created 4 million new jobs," the president said sharply, "and that they ought to go out and take a few of them."
Whenever Hillary tries to slip and slide her way through her myriad issue contradictions, amendments, qualifications and reversals, one wonders if she really thinks we believe her or not.
Eileen McGann co-authored this column.