President Obama on Friday morning released his own contribution to the "It Gets Better" project. That push, led by journalist/sex columnist Dan Savage and inspired by a recent spate of suicides by gay teenagers, is a series of videos that try to tell gay teenagers that the bullying and awkwardness of their adolescence will pass.
"It Gets Better" has been snowballing all week and has now snagged its highest-profile backer in the president. Saying he was "heartbroken" at the deaths, he acknowledged that he didn't know firsthand the experience of being bullied for being gay, but said he could relate in some ways:
I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart—I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself—for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else.
The whole three-minute video is quite moving, and might be universally lauded by gay-rights supporters—if only it didn't come within days of the Obama administration's appeal of a federal judge's ruling striking down "don't ask, don't tell," and shortly after it appealed another ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. Indeed, gay-issues advocates have had a mixed reaction, alternating between gratitude and anger at the perceived hypocrisy of his statement.
The episode is a tidy microcosm of liberal frustration with Obama. The president says—and, as in this case, seems to genuinely believe—what they see as the right thing. But at the same time, he takes policy steps that are contrary to what he says. The prime example of this has been a public option for health insurance, which Obama said on the campaign trail he supported and claimed to back but did little to push for while Congress was writing the health-reform bill. "Don't ask, don't tell" is perhaps an even better example. While Obama has called for the policy's legislative repeal, he has shunned judicial repeal by appealing the judge's ruling—using legalistic arguments that are questionable at best, as my colleague Ben Adler wrote on Tuedsay.
The Obama administration's response to liberal discontent has been impatient, treating the "professional left" (to use Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's phrase) as petulant children. And to a certain extent it's right: Obama is a politician, never said otherwise, and is bound to behave as one. But heartfelt, eloquent statements like this video seem to torment liberals. If Obama said nothing or was plainly indifferent, gay-rights activists might be irked but would not be quite so disappointed.
Elsewhere in gay politics, we have an, um, flamboyant ad from Sean Bielat, the Republican who's challenging openly gay Rep. Barney Frank in Massachusetts. Dave Weigel snarkily sums the ad up: "Psst! Barney Frank is gay, apparently." From Ladd Ehlinger, the man who brought us Dale Peterson for Ag Commissioner, comes the "The Barney Shuffle." The message seems to be: Hey, look! Barney Frank is fabulous! He dances with disco balls! The subtext isn't so subtle.
Nor is a second ad from the gay Republican group GOProud (via Weigel) that calls Frank "catty." Ehlinger's spot for Bielat is catchy—that's his specialty, after all—but will it really get across its attack on Frank's record? It seems it may be remembered mostly for having a dancer in a fat suit and bad stock music (watch it below). That may be a moot point, though: Bielat's much-ballyhooed run against the favorite Republican target doesn't seem to have gained much traction.