You have to hand it to Washington Post editors. They're pretty slick. In hiring Jennifer Rubin as their token conservative blogger, they have a rightie who criticizes the Right enough to ensure they seldom have to actually put in the print edition excerpts of her posts critical of President Obama. In early March I noted how Post opinion editors excerpted a Rubin blog which bashed the conservative CPAC conference rather than say publish a blog post which attacked Obama and the media over sequester hype.
In the Monday, April 1 paper the Post was at it again, choosing to run a Rubin piece that sought to explain how socially conservative opponents of same-sex marriage "lost the fight" on the policy issue. But a review of Rubin's Right Turn blog archive shows a piece she wrote on Friday morning that would have been excellent to put in print and which attacked President Obama over his "gun histrionics." Here's an excerpt which includes many of her key points (emphasis mine):
President Obama’s anti-gun speech on Thursday was as cloying as it was purposeless. He played every heartstring and wrung every tear he could: “It’s been barely 100 days since 20 innocent children and six brave educators were taken from us by gun violence — including Grace McDonnell and Lauren Rousseau and Jesse Lewis, whose families are here today. . . . We have moms on this stage whose children were killed as recently as 35 days ago.” There is no victim who cannot become a prop in the president’s telling. The sheer maudlin overload must cause even devoted gun-control advocates to cringe. (At times the one-liners surely deserved mockery: “Now is the time to turn that heartbreak into something real.” Yes, never let a child’s death go to waste, I suppose.)
On closer inspection, the speech sounded like a campaign left-wing pep rally. (“Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change. And that’s why it’s so important that all these moms and dads are here today. But that’s also why it’s important that we’ve got grassroots groups out there that got started and are out there mobilizing and organizing and keeping up the fight.”) You can’t help but suspect this is a reaction to his plummeting poll numbers, a rather pathetic attempt to get his base back in the game.
The president is seemingly flopping from one subject (tax hikes) to another (anti-gun laws), trying to go over the heads of lawmakers to the public. But the public has never been all that receptive to his policy pleas, and this time will be no different. Rather than scare lawmakers into supporting his anti-gun agenda, he is radiating desperation and further isolating himself from voters in states with some vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents or with open seats.
The actual problem for the president is the Democrats in the Senate who want no part of his most extreme measures. The worst kept secret in D.C. is that Republicans would love to see votes on all these items and watch Democrats squirm. It is Reid who is trying his best to shield his members from hard votes and/or prevent a humiliating loss for the gun-control crowd.
Granted, at 620 words, the March 29 blog post would need to have been condensed to fit space constraints. But that most certainly could have been arranged had Post editors wished to publish what was a provocative piece strongly critical of the president.
It's also worth noting that, in paring down Rubin's March 31 piece about social conservatives and same-sex marriage, editors sliced out paragraphs which softened the blow of her original blog post. Below is the full story, with the portions excised for print shown with the text crossed out and new language shown IN CAPS. I've also bolded portions of the excised text which show that Rubin faulted social conservative messaging strategy, not so much that she believe social conservative beliefs on marriage are beyond the pale:
Social conservatives have lost the fight on gay marriage, even Rush Limbaugh observes. Regardless of WHAT the Supreme Court’s rulESing, public opinion seems to have shifted irreversibly. How did it happen? Here are seven ways in which social conservatives fumbled the issue:
1. They never explained how same-sex marriage “harms” heterosexual marriage.
2. They confused their own beliefs with those of mainstream Republicans, who were far less ideological and, in fact, were following the general societal shift.
3. They did not drum out of their ranks anti-gay (as opposed to pro-traditional marriage) voices, who portrayed the entire movement as intolerant and exclusionary.
4. They had no logical objection to states’ popular referendums in favor of gay marriage. INSTEAD With no imperial judiciary to rail against, they were reduced to making an anti-democratic argument that voters couldn’t or shouldn’t be allowed to define marriage as they saw fit.
5. They ignored the plight of heterosexual marriage (soaring divorce rate, rise in single-person households), which made their defense of “traditional” marriage seem insincere.
6. As more gay and lesbian Americans came out to friends, family and co-workers, the anti-gay-marriage voices were handicapped; they argued against an issue in the abstract while gay-marriage proponents could argue that Mike and Sam down the street or Sue and Ann at the office shouldn’t be denied the right to marry.
7. They insisted on federalizing the issue with the Defense of Marriage Act, leading to the current Supreme Court case and turning federalism (usually a conservative cause) into an argument about federal meddling into marriage.
This is not to say that if the social conservatives opposed to gay marriage had only been more deft in their reaction to pro-marriage advocates they could have won the issue. Once marriage became an expression of personal fulfillment (rather than economic necessity or religious edict) for most Americans, the issue was likely lost as soon as gay and lesbian couples showed themselves to be in committed relationships and desirous of the same security and legal rights heterosexual couples enjoy.
Nevertheless, it is instructive for conservatives defending other positions and advancing other causes that certain appeals work (e.g., fairness, inclusion) and certain ones don’t (e.g., appeals to historical norms, religious imperatives) in an increasingly diverse, secular society.
It also should remind conservatives (national security hawks, for example) that they cannot assume a set of assumptions will last forever (e.g., marriage has a distinct religious meaning, international threats are obvious).
Any political principle has to be advanced, taught and supported assiduously or it will cease to carry weight. Living in a political bubble of right-wing media, in which everyone agrees with certain nostrums (e.g. marriage is between one man and one woman, no tax increase is good, we need to spend more on national defense), leaves the right vulnerable to shifts in opinion and outmaneuvered when new, persuasive voices enter the fray. Conservatives should take the gay marriage issue as a warning — and not just on hot-button social issues.
As you can see, it appears Rubin is not so much anti-social conservative as she believes that all conservatives, social and otherwise, need to learn from what she sees as defects in messaging on the same-sex marriage issue.
That said, Rubin did give opportunity for her editors to highlight this post rather than something in which she thoroughly excoriated Obama. It would do Ms. Rubin well to be aware of how she gives her liberal editors ammunition to bash the right even when her intent may be to seek what is good for the conservative movement.