Vice President Joe Biden’s public support for gay marriage earlier this week was not a calculated trial balloon designed to test whether the time had come for President Obama to embrace equal rights. It was just Biden being Biden.
So says President Obama, who told ABC News that while he was already on track to announce his new position before the Democratic National Convention, Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks forced an announcement ahead of schedule.
“He probably got out a little over his skis, but out of generosity of spirit,” Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Would I have preferred to have done this in my own way on my own terms without, I think, there being a lot of notice to everybody? Of course. But all’s well that ends well.”
Some Republican critics have suggested the move was cynical politics, either to rally gay donors or fire up young voters, who are much more tolerant of gay marriage than their older cohorts, but Obama insisted that, if anything, his new position might be problematic.
“I’ve been consistent in my overall trajectory. The one thing that I’ve wrestled with is this gay marriage issue,” Obama said. “And I think it’d be hard to argue that somehow this is something that I’d be doing for political advantage because, frankly, you know, the politics, it’s not clear how they cut.”
He added that there are “some places that are going to be pretty important on this electoral map it may hurt me.” Sure enough, his endorsement of gay marriage came only a one day after North Carolina, a critical swing state and site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, passed an amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions by an overwhelming margin.
In the end, however, Obama said, “I think it was important for me, given how much attention this issue was getting both here in Washington, but [also] elsewhere, for me to go ahead, ‘Let’s be clear: Here’s what I believe.’”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.