Obama Advisers Furious That Biden Stole President’s Thunder on Gay Marriage: Book


Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new book Double Down, about the 2012 campaign promises to be as much of a page-turner as Game Change, their previous book which chronicles the behind-the-scenes action during the 2008 election.

ObamaYesterday, Steve reported a tidbit about Michele Bachmann declaring "I'm a loser" after a disastrous Iowa campaign speech, but here's another that will probably be of interest, describing what went on before Obama's "evolution" on marriage equality, which as you may recall, resulted in a daytime TV 'breaking news' interruption.

If you'll recall, there was much debate about whether Obama's 'evolution' was prompted by a  push from Joe Biden, which took place days before, on a Meet The Press segment.

Now we're finding out the answer, the Huffington Post reports:

DoubledownBiden was a veteran of "Meet The Press." Still, the book reports that Obama advisers were worried that he would speak out of turn, and over several days, they spent "upwards of twelve hours" drilling him on a slate campaign issues.

But there was one they left out — gay marriage.

On Friday, May 4, 2012, Biden sat down to tape the interview, and said, "I am the vice president of the United States of America; the president sets the policy." He added, "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties."

Biden didn't think he had made news. But Plouffe was mad.

"WHAT THE F–K? was his reaction when he took a look at the transcript. We were going to do this! In the next two weeks! As a f–king surprise! HOW CAN THIS HAVE HAPPENED?!" the authors write.

Obama had wanted to "evolve" on gay marriage before Election Day, the book reports, and he was planning to come out in favor the next time he was asked.

Plouffe and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer had urged him to state his position in a better venue than a simple press conference.

"Find the time and moment soon rather than later," Obama told them.

The book goes on to say that Biden apologized to Obama shortly before that breaking news announcement when he had finally come to understand why everyone was so angry at him.


  1. jomicur says

    “HOW CAN THIS HAVE HAPPENED?!” Simple. It happened because the Obama administration is proving even more incompetent in their second term than they were in the first. Their weird mania for spying on everyone, everywhere on the planet has destroyed our credibility with every other nation on the map. Obamacare is shaping up to be the biggest political debacle in decades. How can this have happened, Mr. Plouffe? Got a mirror?

  2. Gregory in Seattle says

    Every single advance that has been made on LGBT rights during the Obama administration occurred because the president was dragged, kicking and screaming, into supporting such change. He has always been good at the honeyed words, but he is not, and never has been, an ally.

  3. Kieran says

    It’s so nice that they understood the seriousness of people’s equal rights… to use them as a “surprise” publicity announcement. It’s such a “Let them eat cake” attitude, which doesn’t communicate that you truly believe someone else is equal to you when you’re “letting” them have equal rights.

    “That was supposed to be a surprise.”

    It’s such a craven “tolerant bigot” attitude. Sure, they think you should have rights, but they still think they’re better than you. And giving you your rights are only something that serves their image an ambition, not actually believing in it and doing it because it’s the RIGHT THING.

  4. Vint says

    It happened because Obama thought he could take the support of gays for granted, no matter how craven he was in failing to forcibly militate for gay right, and because he viewed our rights as chips to be used in his political campaign rather than as moral imperatives to be urgently implemented.

  5. Anton says

    I really don’t get this.

    That Biden apparently wasn’t drilled on marriage equality to me suggests that it wasn’t an issue with Obama and his campaign people at all. After all, if they were planning on letting Obama come out favorably on the issue as a surprise, wouldn’t the normal course of action have been to inform Biden of this beforehand? How can anyone blame Biden for giving his honest personal opinion about something if they apparently didn’t tell him they were secretly working on something regarding the same subject? That comment from Plouffe just turns everything upside down:

    “WHAT THE F–K? was his reaction when he took a look at the transcript. We were going to do this! In the next two weeks! As a f–king surprise! HOW CAN THIS HAVE HAPPENED?!”


  6. Moz's says


    actually obamacare is appearing to be a success despite republicans trying to sink it

    The US spies? all other countries spy? all nations throughout the entire history of the world have spied on each other?

    Clutch your pearls and smelling salts at such

    Ohhhhhhhhh noezzzzzzz, who knew the US ever spied on anyone despite history showing everyone have always spied

  7. Jols says

    The level of imbecility in these comments is baffling.

    1/ Within Obama’s presidency, DADT has been abolished, DOMA has been abolished, many states have gained gay marriage or repealed bans, and the list goes on. If you think this would have happened without Obama (yes, including supreme court rulings, which don’t happen in a vacuum) you’re completely crazy.

    2/ A political campaign is a complicated machine. What do you think, that just being a good guy is going to win an election?? Of course not, of course there’s planning, of course there are issues of timing and announces. It doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t important or isn’t held highly by the candidate – just that a political campaign has to be managed. The point is to be ELECTED so as to carry out those views and promises, not just say you have them. If you don’t understand that, then you’re really naive.

    As far as I’m concerned, I do understand the problem Biden caused in the campaign if that’s really what was going on. Then again we’ll never know what would have happened if he hadn’t said it.

  8. Jacques says

    As Kathleen Sebelius would say, Whatever. This is the kind of factoid that give people like Halperin and Heilemann a stiffy, but otherwise who cares? And you have to take anything those two report with a grain of salt since they’ve been known to be more truth-y than truthful.

    Aside to Jomicur and Moz’s since this if off topic: Everyone has always spied, but no one before has ever spied on EVERYONE.

  9. Vint says

    @JOLS: the imbecility belongs to those who think Obama had much to do with any of this. Just because something happens during a president’s administration doesn’t mean the administration was instrumental in enacting it. Obama’s method is to wait until change is inevitable, then claim he’s led us to that change. And that he certainly has not. It’s not Obama that’s responsible for our gains in marriage equality, and every *actual* move he’s made towards gay rights has been kicking and screaming against his will as he calculates how to maximize the political advantage he can derive from it.

  10. JackFknTwist says

    Obama, if you were vigilant to lead you would have listened to the people; they are way ahead of you and you tripped over your own clumsy caution.
    You need to grow a pair.
    It sound nice that you “were going to evolve”…..but that’s in hindsight……you were too slow, too stand offish, to cautious, too conscious of your image.
    Leadership is what we want.

  11. Gregory in Seattle says

    @Jols – “DADT has been abolished” — By Congress, with absolutely no Presidential support, with the law going into effect almost a year later as Obama dragged his heels for as long as was possible, and only after steadfastly refusing to use his authority as Commander-in-Chief to issue a stop-loss and end DADT discharges.

    “DOMA has been abolished” — By Congress, with absolutely no Presidential support, and while the President was still using his bully pulpit to insist that marriage was for one man and one woman only.

    “many states have gained gay marriage or repealed bans” — With absolutely no Presidential support during efforts to bring marriage equality, and only very weak wishy-washy support after the fact.

  12. Jols says

    The president didn’t support the repeal of DADT?? Are you f*cking kidding me?

    You people are aware that saying something doesn’t make it a fact, right?

  13. Larry says

    I never thought i would see the day where we have a President and Vice President fighting over who loves and supports gays more, god I love the Obama administration. Say what you want but this is the most pro gay administration in U.S. History. And President Obama has kept his promise to be a fierce advocate for lgbt equality

  14. candideinnc says

    Obama should have thanked Biden for paving the way. If the response had been really bad, and public opinion rose up against Biden, Obama would have/could have washed his hands of the issue and gone on his merry way. As it was, this demonstrated that the time was more than ripe to stand up for same sex marriage, and there was no political danger to taking the right stand on the law.

  15. jamal49 says

    @JOMICUR Those are wonderful FOX talking points ya got goin on there, boy, but let’s clarify a few things. If you can take the time, bone up on U.S. national security law, The Patriot Act and the charter for the NSA. Frankly, the Obama administration is not the only one that has “spied” on private or public communications, especially international ones. As yet, there has been no violations of U.S. law, only a few pseudo-ruffled feathers by vainglorious, posturing European politicians. So, your “argument” is bogus and, typical for your type, infantile.

    As for the Obama administration being a disaster? Take your head out of your FOXhole. There’s not disaster there, no matter how much you want to believe there is. The only disaster is that Republicans have impeded every, sensible, rational proposal offered by the President to fix our nation and get it moving forward.

    It comes down to the GOP being a seditious element, the enemy within, that seeks to subvert, undermine and perhaps overthrow the legally-constituted government of the United States.

    Mr. Obama has but our deficit in half since he first took office in 2008. He has cut spending to levels not seen since the 1950s. There is a long, long list of accomplishments Mr. Obama has achieved in the five years of his presidency that goes way beyond the 8 years of the destructive fiscal and social policies of the Bush Reign of Error.

    Your talking out your nether regions, son, of things you know nothing about. If you’re going to come here and blather on with whiny-con talking points, at least be informed and drop a few statistics, a few facts to back up your noxious, ridiculous comments.

    Otherwise, sit down and shut up.

  16. Randy says

    Yes, Dols, the president did NOT support repeal of DADT. What happened was that Obama’s staffers for months kept telling gay groups that they “had a plan” to repea, but that they cannot reveal that plan right now. And they were admonished NOT to ask what that plan was because it was supersecret. EVeryone went along with that for the first year of Obama’s presidency. At the time, the Democrats controlled bout the House and the Senate, so passage should have been easy.

    As the mid-terms started to get closer, and it was clear that the Republicans would regain the House, we got worried that Obama was dragging his feet. There was no plan announced, and everyone time it was brought, the gay groups were told to shut up and trust Obama. At the time, ALL the major democratic consultants were telling everytone, inccluding Obama’s staffers, that repeal of DADT would be the kiss of death to the administration because that’s exactly what happened under Clinton in 1993, over ten years earlier.

    Finally, by the beginning of summer, we got smart at realized that Obama’s “plan” was to do nothing on repeal, and then wait until the House turned republican, and THEN try to repeal, knowing it would fail. Then he could use that as an excuse for why we should vote for him for a second term, because then he would be able to repeal it without any backlash.

    So the gay groups took matters into their own hands, and got repeal language added to an armed force appropriation bill. On the eve of this crucial vote, Obama should have been calling Senators to get their backing. He made NO phone calls, claimaing he didn’t have time. It came out later than he did have time, on the eve of the vote. to call a woman’s basketball team and congratulate them on their win. This was about two months before the mid-term elections.

    So he did nothing at all. At this point, repeal was dead. The news backed off the issue, and everyone realized that the only way to repeal DADT before the mid term elections was to have a stand alone vote, but Obama did not offer any solutions or help in this matter.

    That’s when ACTUP and Daniel Choi chained themselves to the White House fence, and the news cycles started up again. They were arrested and a trial was held. Nancy Pelosi said she could get a vote immediately, and put the issue up. It passed the House overwhelmingly, without a single help from Obama.

    It passed so quickly and overwhelmingly that the Senate was forced to act as well. Harry Ried called up a vote, and it passed easily. Again, Obama was totally silent on this vote. It went to Obama’s desk and he signed the bill repealing DADT and taking full credit for it.

    NO — Obama did nothing to repeal it. If anyone we activists gummed up the works for him, beause now the advisors and consultants were sure that the Democrats would lose the House because of the vote, despite the fact that at the time, 77% of all Americans, and even a majority of Republicans favored repeal. They badly misread the polls, looking only backwards to Clinton and his failure as the only possible outcome.

    As it turned out, the House did in fact turn red, but no one attributed it to the repeal, and it became quickly a non issue.

    So yes, Obama did nothing to repeal to DADT. If you can find me any evidence that contradicts my account, please share. If you can find that mysterious plan that Obama had for repealing DADT, please inform me. If you can find a single instance of Obama attempting to persuade any senator or rep to support repeal, please show.

    But you won’t find any, because Obama did not. And I fully believe that it was the same with marriage equality. The aides and staffers now claim they had a “plan” all along, but they wouldnever share it with anyone, and not even the vice-president! The fact is that it took Biden to embarrass Obama into supporting marriage equality.

    Their MO is clear. Claim they are doing all this stuff on your behalf, but it’s super secret and don’t ask us about it. Then hope you go away. That’s pretty much the real plan.

  17. Randy says

    Oh, and BTW, we gays made it loud and clear that we were going to shut down the GayTM machine for handing over money to the Democrats across fht board unless and until Obama starts doing things for us, including repeal of DADT and support for marriage equality.

    At first, the Dems thought that kinda cute and didn’t take us seriously. Then when they realized the large donors, many of whom are gay, were withholding their funds and their fundraising parties, they suddenly started to take us seriously. But we had the GayTM fully shut down until Obama finally annoucned his support for marriage equality.

    So — did he change and offer his support because Biden jumped the gun, or because they were starting to feel the heat from donors, or a little bit of both? I suspect it was a little bit of both.

    Which means that Obama had no interest in actually supporting us until WE started the pressure. So yes, he finally supported us, but he came on kicking and screaming.

    Yes, I’m glad he finally came around. Yes, we would not have any progress under McCain. I will admit all that. So now it’s for you to admit that Obama never had any intentions of doing anything substantive for us until we put his balls in the floor and forced the issues.

    And we are seeing this again. Where is his support for ENDA? No where to be seen. But please — tell me in detail where his support is of this last crucial issue for us.

  18. Joe in Ct says

    I truly believe it was a calculated move to have Biden “test the waters” before Obama came out in favor of it. If not, then Obama has only himself to blame for not making his statement sooner.

  19. simon says

    That is certainly not correct to say he has done nothing. He is supportive of repealing DADT. You think Romney won’t veto the bill if he were president. He also did something by doing nothing. i.e. stop the defense of DOMA.
    He immediately implemented the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA concerning federal benefits for same sex couples.
    In the humble view, these are great achievements.
    It is unlikely that Romney would have done all these things if he were president.

  20. Vint says

    @Simon: He gets full credit for not acting against the will of the American people expressed through the votes of their representatives in Congress. He didn’t become an actual obstacle in the repeal of DADT. But he doesn’t get credit for passing it. An occasional statement that he’s in favor of repealing DADT eventually is *not* the same as forceful advocacy manifested by action. He managed to miss nearly every opportunity he had to take action. He took no political or personal risks on our behalf. These are rights we seized for ourselves, not rights given to us by Obama.

  21. simon says

    One thing is quite sure. A Republican administration wound have defended DOMA. You think a Republican president would defy Boner by stopping to defend DOMA?

  22. simon says

    One may argue DOMA decision would be the same without Obama. But it would be less likely to be overturned if Obama’s appointee Kagan were replaced with a Republican appointee.

  23. simon says

    You think he hasn’t discussed with the Democratic Congress beforehand and “collaborated” with them? Of course the system mandated that it has to be decided by the Congress, but his “vote” is necessary to get it passed.

  24. stevetalbert says

    Yes, Obama is better than the GOP alternatives. Yes, Obama is worse than he led on that he would be. And the Democrats had a generational majority for 2 years and did nothing with it. We don’t need more Dems, we need better ones.

  25. says

    @Simon: not vetoing human rights doesn’t make Obama a hero. It’s the bare minimum acceptable behavior.

    If you don’t mind politicians who have their own re-election as their top priority, rather than the well-being of the governed…you’ll get them. Sacrificing a few points in the polls to ensure gay rights wouldn’t have made anyone Jesus, it would just have made them slightly less megalomaniacal. But so far there’s been no president who’s been willing to do that.

  26. Marc says

    I don’t want a surprise. I want my president and vice president to take a stand. Obama, if your VP beat you to the punch, it’s your own damn fault. You snooze, you lose. I’m glad Biden did what he did. Who knows if that “surprise” would have happened if he hadn’t pushed the issue.

  27. coattails says

    All I know is, no sitting president has ever supported gay marriage. Obama did and won his re-election by sweeping the electoral college. While I would like to attribute his victory to gays flooding the polls, that’s unlikely since most of us live in cities that are already democratic. Obama greatly out-performed among two core groups, Blacks and Hispanics, in key states which pushed him over the edge. That was what Romney’s pollsters failed to account for.

    So next time you racists pull out your pitch forks, remember who kept Obama in office to fight another day to ensure that repeal of DADT and DOMA continue stay in place.

  28. Jerry6 says

    “Much ADO about NOTHING!!! Who cares what the strategy was or was not, The only important thing is that Marriage Equality PASSED. Monday Morning Quarterbacking is seldom correct.

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