Andrew Sullivan on The Mormon War on Gay People

Andrew Sullivan, along with others who took advantage of legalization of gay marriage in California, is understandably upset about the recent election result. After all, regardless of your sexual orientation, how would you feel if someone told you that you could not marry the person you chose to marry, for any reason? Having been married to the same woman for over twenty-three years,  I wouldn’t dream of denying Andrew Sullivan the same happiness with his partner. Why are conservatives so opposed to family values for some?

The involvement of the Mormon Church in opposing gay marriage naturally has led to a response from gay individuals and organizations. Sullivan quotes Dan Savage:

When political attacks are launched from churches, political responses will be delivered to churches. If goddamned McDonald’s had organized and paid for Prop 8, we’d be marching on goddamned McDonald’s.

The anti-gay bias over this issue is remarkable in coming from those who really should know better based upon their experiences. Blacks who would be repelled by the idea of laws prohibiting marriage between blacks and whites fail to see that legislating who gay individuals can marry is ethically no different.

Sullivan details a disturbing pattern of Mormons persecuting those who are gay. This is also rather hypocritical considering their history. Sullivan considers their overall world view:

I do not intend in any way to remove a single right from Mormons. I do intend to protest their imposition of their own religious dogma – that marriage is always between a man and a woman and it is eternal and will be replicated in heaven by the couple physically present – on civil rights protections vested in a civil constitution.

Sullivan is rather kind in this paragraph considering the persecution he details elsewhere in his post. While they legally are calling for marriage to be between a man and a woman in California, many are perfectly willing to accept that marriage can be between a man and a woman, and a woman, and a woman, and even some under-aged girls in Utah. A group which has had their religious views of marriage limited by law would hopefully be above using the law to impose their religious views upon others.

Barack Obama on 60 Minutes: Torture, First Dog, and Football Playoff

Barack and Michelle Obama gave their first major televised interview as president-elect last night on 60 Minutes (video above).  One segment which has attracted interest was his response on torture after there have been some stories that Obama might not be planning to end the use of torture:

Kroft: There are a number of different things that you could do early pertaining to executive orders. One of them is to shutdown Guantanamo Bay. Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops. Are those things that you plan to take early action on?

Obama: Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.

When discussing the presidential “appointment” which has attracted the most interest, Michelle Obama stated that this decision might be deferred until they are settled in at their new home:

The dog, the dog front? We’re on-call mode on the dog front. Because the deal with the dog was that we would get the dog after we got settled. Because as responsible owners, I don’t think it would be good to get a dog in the midst of transition. So when we settle, get in a routine, we think about late winter, early spring, we’re gonna get the dog. Now, we cut that deal with the kids before America knew about it. So they’re good with it.

Being fall, the subject of college football also came up with Obama backing a playoff:

Kroft: We get along fine. I have one last question. As president of the United States, what can you do, or what do you plan to do, about getting a college football playoff for the national championship?

Mr. Obama: This is important. Look, excuse me for a second.

Michelle Obama: Please. Don’t mind me.

Mr. Obama: I think any sensible person would say that if you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner that we should be creating a playoff system.

Eight teams. That would be three rounds, to determine a national champion. It would it would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m gonna throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.

I agree with Obama about an eight team playoff and discussed the benefits of this last season. Currently none of the bowl games on New Years Day have meaning towards selecting the national champion, and only two teams have a shot following the regular season. An eight team playoff would allow us to have four bowl games on New Years Day which would be meaningful, followed by a limited number of additional games after New Years to settle the national championship on the field.

Any system would still have controversy in deciding which teams are to be included, but at present there are too many situations in which the top two teams selected might not necessarily include the best team in the country. While a selection of eight teams to play for the national championship will not necessarily contain the exact eight best teams, it is unlikely that the best team in the country would be excluded from a field of eight. This could both return to the era when the bowls on New Years Day were meaningful while also leading to a true national championship game, giving us the best both of the pre-BCS system and the current system.

The transcript of the interview is available here.

Update: The interview had the highest ratings for 60 Minutes in at least nine years.

A Center-Left Country

Tod Lindberg, a conservative and adviser to John McCain, realizes something that most conservatives are in denial about. While many conservatives think they lost because they weren’t conservative enough, Lindberg realizes they lost because the country has moved to the center-left:

We are now two elections into something big. This month’s drubbing is just the latest sign that the country’s political center of gravity is shifting from center-right to center-left. Republicans who fail to grasp this could be lost in the wilderness for years.

Here’s the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat. My Hoover Institution colleague David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the research firm YouGovPolimetrix have been analyzing data from online interviews with 12,000 people in both 2004 and 2008. It shows an overall shift to the Democrats of six percentage points. As they write in the forthcoming edition of Policy Review, “The decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents, and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats.” This is a portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left.

Conservatives often cite polls showing that a minority identify themselves as liberals. This is most likley because the word liberal has been demonized by the right wing, leading many people to dislike the word regardless of whether  their views are actually liberal. Lindberg has an additional explanation:

True, the percentage of voters describing themselves as “liberal” and “conservative” has held relatively constant over many election cycles, with self-described liberals checking in at 22 percent this time around (up one percentage point over 2004) and self-described conservatives at 34 percent (unchanged from 2004). The numbers may not have changed, but the views behind those labels certainly have. Nowadays, it’s a fair bet that most of those calling themselves “liberal” support gay marriage. In 1980, those same liberals were, no doubt, cutting-edge supporters of gay rights, but the notion of same-sex marriage would have occurred only to the most avant-garde. In 1980, having a teenage daughter who was pregnant out of wedlock would have ruled you out for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket. This year, it turned out to be a humanizing addition to the conservative vice presidential nominee’s résumé.

Dan Rather Showing Progress in Case Against CBS

Before being forced from CBS News, Dan Rather exposed how George Bush had avoided going to Vietnam and fulfilling his National Guard commitments. Even if the controversial, and possibly faked, memos are ignored, Rather still had a strong story based upon other evidence. In his suit against CBS, Rather is showing that instead of being a bastion of a supposedly liberal media, CBS was, as Editor and Publisher puts it, “acting mainly to get the GOP off its back.” The New York Times reports:

So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.

Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.

Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment…

Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not “mollify the right.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was named a panelist by CBS, but only after a CBS lobbyist “did some other testing,” in which she was told, according to Ms. Mason’s notes, “T comes back with high marks from G.O.P.”

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled “Roger Ailes,” the founder of Fox News.