Frank Rich is off today –in his “Gays are likeable enough” New York Times piece today! (Sunday, 12.28.08)

Frank Rich

Frank Rich

Frank Rich is always very much worth reading, and today’s piece –about Barack Obama– is not exception. He is opposed –and I agree– to inviting Rick Warren to preside over the Inauguration because of the anti-gay remarks that Warren made.
But in doing so he imputes “hubris” and “arrogance” and, yes, “cockiness and glibness” to Barack, just like when Barack said to Hillary in that debate, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary”

It’s on Rich’s interpretation of that remark that I disagree –and you can read my argument below that I already made in my Comments on the Frank Rich piece in the NY Times, and that I reproduce here.
I also take a somewhat different line to Frank on the issue of Gay Marriage, as you will see.
As ever, I will be interested in your reactions:

“Dear Frank Rich,

Two things bother me about your (otherwise)excellent column today –and by the way, I am a huge, longstanding Frank Rich fan, who always aches a little whenever he sees that (Frank Rich is off today) announcement.

Having said that, I do think that…(Frank Rich is off today.) Somewhat.

The first concerns your –and apparently just about everybody else’s– persistent interpretation of Barack’s “You’re likeable enough, Hillary” as being “condescending”.

I got no sense of condescension (whether anti-female or just personal) from him when he made that remark. Indeed, far from it: I took his remark as an indication of a sophisticated, intelligent sense of humor that poked a little bit of fun at being put on the spot by a rather crass “popularity-poll” type of question, coming not so much from Hillary –who was also somewhat poking fun at it- as from a crass media which had been incessantly pushing –drudge-like?– “Hillary’s likeability” as an issue.

He denied giving credence to the crassness. At the same time he found a way to indicate to Hillary that he wasn’t, in the debate situation, going to use the crassness –with its strong anti-female overtones.The “likeability” of all the other, male, candidates was never raised (maybe it should have! Rudy? Mitt? Pick your poison).

But –and here’s my point: yes, there they all were on stage for the debate-competition, all of them wanting to win, and not cede any advantage to anyone else.
That’s why “You’re likeable enough, Hillary” was, in the situation, the perfectly-pitched, tongue-in-cheek, even self-deprecating, sophisticated way of dealing with the question –with no putdown intended. Or, I believe, taken.
Barack was saying: “Hillary, we are neck and neck. This is a close race. ‘Likeable enough’ is likeable enough.

Barack condescending? I haven’t seen it.

And when I see Michelle, I think I know why.


The second point: Rick Warren is a huge Evangelical 2.0 improvement on predecessors, but his anti-gay imputations were outrageous, and I feel he should not
have been given the spot.
But Barack –ruthless pragmatist that he is– has been ahead of us all on lots of things, and I think I fall into that “audacity of hope” category, hoping for a healing. Indeed, Warren’s subsequent quasi-retraction does bear that out. Somewhat. But only somewhat.

One aspect of the Gay Marriage issue that I believe has not been properly addressed is the sizeable number of gays who do not support it, and who find themselves “strongly discouraged” by their Pro- colleagues from expressing their opinion. If indeed it is heard at all. (It’s a PC subsection.)
They demand the full civil rights –and I strongly support that; it is outrageous that they are denied. But they feel that the word “marriage” should retain its dictionary meaning, and, further, that a segment of the antipathy –enough even to have reversed the Proposition 8 vote?– is related to the very issue of the word “marriage”.

Malachi McCormick, Staten Island.

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