"And the LGBT community, what are they, we, looking for?" Kushner continues. "Yes, we’ve been asked to wait a very long time, asked to eat oceans of shit by the Democratic Party; we’ve been 75 percent loyal for decades without a wobble and without a whole lot of help from these people. And it’s important that somebody keeps screaming; the trick is how do you scream, and who do you scream to? If we’re dissatisfied with these Democrats, let’s get better ones instead of fantasies about mass uprisings that are going to resemble the October Revolution. Yes, it might sometimes feel good to throw the newspaper across the room. There’s much criticism of Obama that’s legitimate. He backs down on things, he waffles, like on the mosque, and you wince. And I consider his decision to appeal the Federal court ruling abolishing DADT to be unethical, tremendously destructive, and potentially politically catastrophic. But is Obama really supposed to say, as the first African-American president, that same-sex marriage is his first priority? Clearly he believes in it; he’s a constitutional scholar. It’s not conceivable to me that he believes that state-sponsored marriage should be unavailable to same-sex couples, even if he has religious scruples."The penultimate and ultimate sentence in this excerpted quotation betray such shocking political naïveté, such self-willed credulousness, such an astonishing lack of perspicacity, and such lousy insight into the psychology of political leadership that I actually paused when I first read it. Did he really say that?
-The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Himself, New York Magazine
The idea that Barack Obama either believes or does not believe in same-sex marraige, let alone the notion that he "clearly" believes in it (clearly . . . how?) is perfectly indicative that Tony Kushner, for all his evident learning and admirable erudition, for all the sweep of his intellectual grasp, for all his intricate knoweldge of modern Western history, is upon consideration a deeply ignorant man, a person for whom the susurrus of beautiful "theory" is an irresistable lullaby. He's asleep at the library desk. Outside the window, the world turns.
Kushner goes on to say that Barack Obama concealed or de-emphasized certain principles in order to get elected, which in its partially correct analysis is all the more wrong. The basic premise is incorrect. It presumes a preexisting principle to conceal. Barack Obama doesn't believe in gay marriage. He doesn't care about it one way or another, except insofar as splitting the difference on the issue signals to various slices of the "coalition of constituencies that brought [him] to the White House" that he secretly believes whatever it is that they themselves believe. If you are Kushner, you can believe that this purported "constitutional scholar"--pray tell, where is the written evidence of this scholarship?--believes deeply in something that he must conceal in order to appeal to more socially traditional elements of his party. If you belong to those elements, you can give greater credence instead to those "religious scruples", or whatever, that Kushner, believing Obama to be like-me, dismisses outright. Of course religious scruples do not trump constitutional principles. Of course secular legalism doesn't trump moral conviction. Everyone gets to pretend like they win! In the meantime, one man has actually won what he wanted: a presidential election. The rest of you suckers can suck it.
Just a few paragraphs earlier, Kushner was betraying an even more inexcusably naive attitude as he mentioned the American liberal attitude toward labor:
The fate of the actual first black president has been on Kushner’s mind as he takes stabs at rewriting [The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide], though the original was inspired, in part, by the Broadway stagehands’ strike of 2007. "I thought all us liberal-shmiberals would be out on the line with them," he says, "but instead it was: 'They’re ruining the theater with their featherbedding.' It was stunning to me, because isn’t the idea of labor unions that you get working-class people to live in nice houses and send their kids to college? It’s great that they’re making $100,000 a year, why the fuck shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they have an iPod?"Once again, this man is supposed to be the most penetrating political artist in America, and yet somehow he's not noticed the fifty-year alienation of America's rump labor movement from its ostensible labor party, the Democrats? I do understand that his observation is being made toungue slightly in cheek, but the core of his surprise is real, even though everyone knows that, of course, stagehands don't deserve iPods and 100K wages. I mean, it's not like they went to college. A person should have to work for his salary, not simply work for it. What's offensive in this gentle scolding is that it seems so oblivious to the actual nature of American liberalism, in particular liberalism as represented by the Democratic Party. Contempt for workers isn't symptomatic of lefist principles gone lax in an era of material prosperity; it is a principle, one might even say the principle, of the Democrats, whatever their quadrennial appeals to the management lackeys running the AFL-CIO may be. This is perfectly plain, "clear" if you will, to anyone who pays attention. But Tony Kushner is not paying attention.
To admit to my own naïveté: I find Kushner's bland political attitudes dispiriting. (Compare this mild-mannered apologia for Obama to mad Harold Pinter calling for Tony Blair to hang.) His defense of Obama's militarism is that he "inhereited" two wars. His defense of Obama's wealth-coddling is that he "inherited" a "collapsing global economy." These are the sorts of defenses that you'd expect in the hack pages of The Nation. Oh . . . oh. What? Tony writes for The Nation? He's on its editorial board?