This week, Tim and I were joined frequent guest Sarah Cosgrove of Mashrabiyya (@s_cosgrove on Twitter); and a new guest, Dee of My Little Bits (@DAbitty on Twitter), one of our all time favorite Twitterers. Or Tweeters. Or whatever.
Anyway, after discussing our respective Twitter Friends of the Week (and, seriously, if you don’t follow Della Lee (@dellalee) you really should), we turned our attention to the latest additions to the 2012 Republican presidential field: Erstwhile secessionist Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, and essentially unknown Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan. With regard to the latter candidate, for those of you who didn’t get my outdated cultural reference to the 1960s television series Get Smart, the Chief of the CIA-parody agency “CONTROL,” who was played by character actor Edward Platt, was named Thaddeus. It’s an obscure bit of TV trivia that seemed (to me, at any rate) to befit an obscure Republican presidential candidate with little or nothing to recommend him.
The panel also discussed, among other topics, Wisconsin State Sen. Alberta Darling’s bizarre comments last month in which she embraced Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare privatization plan, saying the media was “lying” about Ryan’s plan and that he is a “hero” to her. Given that Sen. Darling is one of the targets of the Wisconsin recall effort, that’s probably an unwise position to take; but more to the point it shows how out of touch some Republicans really are. This led to a broader discussion of “entitlement” programs like Medicare and Social Security, which, as I observed, are “entitlements” only because working Americans pay for them and are therefore entitled to receive those benefits. So, a better way to look at Medicare and Social Security benefits is that they are obligations the government owes its people, not handouts the people demand for free.
In any event, we then briefly discussed Marcus Bachmann’s hateful comments about gay and lesbian people being “barbarians” who “need to be disciplined,” and Tim played a couple of brilliant clips of Jim Hightower talking about corporate tax breaks and “executive protection dogs” and underground bunkers. Eerily insightful stuff by Jim Hightower, to be sure.
Also on today’s show, in my “Legal Corner” segment I talked about the recent developments in the marriage equality movement, and, specifically, the positive actions taken by the Obama Administration to end enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, or “DOMA.” As I wrote last week, not only did a bankruptcy court in California rule that DOMA Section 3 was unconstitutional to the extent it purported to deny legally married same-sex couples the right to file joint bankruptcy petitions, but the Department of Justice announced that it would not challenge the California bankruptcy court’s ruling and would not challenge joint filings by legally married same-sex couples in any other bankruptcy case throughout the country.
Yesterday, Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly provided an update on the case:
Today, in a bankruptcy court filing in Los Angeles, lawyers for a married gay couple seeking to file a joint bankruptcy petition claimed victory, following several days of moves by the government suggesting – and then announcing – that it would no longer challenge such filings in court.
The move appears to be the first time that the federal government is, as a matter of policy, recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of applying federal law. Before this week, married same-sex couples’ joint bankruptcy petitions were opposed by the government as impermissible under the Defense of Marriage Act.
Notably, the move has come without any apparent opposition from House Republican leaders, whose 3-2 majority on the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has led the Republicans to defend DOMA in other court challenges.
As Geidner explains, after the California bankruptcy court ruled in favor of debtors Gene Douglas Balas and Carlos Morales, the U.S. Trustee’s Office filed the necessary paperwork to appeal that ruling, in order to give the Department of Justice an opportunity to decide how to handle the issue. When DOJ subsequently announced that it intended to withdraw that appeal and let the bankruptcy court’s ruling stand, debtors Balas and Morales initially objected to the withdrawal, indicating that they wanted a definitive, binding ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit so that other similarly situated joint debtors would also be protected. However, being satisfied with DOJ’s assurances that it would no longer seek to bar legally married same-sex couples from filing joint bankruptcy petitions anywhere in the country, Balas and Morales withdrew their opposition to DOJ’s efforts to drop the appeal, saying:
In view of the Department of Justice’s decision to no longer seek dismissal of joint bankruptcy cases filed by lawfully married same-sex couples anywhere in the country (a decision apparently prompted by BLAG’s repeated refusal to appear and defend DOMA in the bankruptcy context), this Court’s landmark June 13, 2011 opinion will now be given nationwide effect. Accordingly, the Debtors are pleased to report that they have no objection to the dismissal of the United States Trustee’s appeal.
Barring any unforeseen problems, this should put the issue to rest.
Finally, although I did not have the time to mention this on today’s show, I want to address the controversy that erupted over Rachel Maddow’s comments on the night New York passed its marriage equality statute. Specifically, Maddow said that “Pres. Obama is against what just happened,” and later on Twitter refused to back off that statement. The fact is, the statement she made on the air – that Pres. Obama is “against” the New York equality statute – is untrue. The President never opposed New York’s marriage equality law, but said that the decision whether to allow same sex marriages should be left to the states. Perhaps even more importantly, the President explicitly said, just before the vote in New York, that same-sex couples “deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” meaning that whether the legal recognition of those relationships is called “marriage” or “civil unions,” the legal rights that attach should be exactly the same. Given that the choice in New York was not between marriage and civil unions, but between marriage and nothing, it would be much closer to the truth to say the President in fact supported what happened in New York.
But here’s the thing: It was a mistake. Period. It’s not the end of the world.
Unfortunately, Maddow’s erroneous comment led to predictable results: Within hours, Twitter was (or so it seemed) divided into two armed camps – one that used Maddow’s inaccurate statement as proof positive that Barack Obama secretly hates gay people, and one that labeled Maddow a “liar” and a traitor to the cause. One group was wedded to the notion that a liberal TV pundit is incapable of ever being wrong under any circumstances, and the other group felt personally stabbed in the back.
Oh. Good. Lord.
Look, I really like Rachel Maddow, but she’s just one person expressing one person’s opinion. Most of the time she gets it right; this time she got it wrong. She’s neither infallible, nor is she guilty of treason. Either of those positions places entirely too much importance on one person.
We just have to get past this idea that certain liberal commentators are somehow unassailable, or that whenever any liberal commentator makes a mistake he or she is a traitor who must never be trusted again. In other words, as much as we may like and admire Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann or any of the rest of them, no matter how much importance we want to invest in them, we still have to think for ourselves.
© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.