Strange Days in the NYT: Obama's Opposition to Gay Marriage a Good Thing?

June 29th, 2009 3:41 PM

When Sam Tanenhaus came on board the New York Times Book Review in 2004 he was accused of being conservative, but one would be hard-pressed to convict him based on the available evidence during his tenure -- "the emptiness of free-market liturgy," anyone?

Besides having a thin, forced, and familiar feel, Tanenhaus's latest essay for the Times Week in Review, "Sound of Silence: The Culture Wars Take a Break," managed to portray Obama's opposition to gay marriage (which would normally make him a villain or at least hypocritical in the Times's eyes) as a Clintonian-style tactical victory against conservatives, absent of any the usual anti-gay taint the paper brings to bear on the matter.

The culture wars may not have ended, but on some fronts the combat has gotten rather quiet. For instance, family values.

True, David Letterman's awkward joke about a daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska prompted denunciations of the "media elite" (though it also boosted Mr. Letterman's ratings).

But the admissions of extramarital adventures by two Republican stalwarts, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina on Wednesday and Senator John Ensign of Nevada the week before, did not help their party's cause and stood in dim contrast to President Obama's recent success in co-opting parts of the conservatives' cultural agenda -- whether voicing his opposition to gay marriage, or delivering Father's Day homilies on parenting.

Also, is it the Times' understanding that "Father's Day homilies on parenting" are by definition part of a solely conservative agenda? Liberals generally get defensive at the suggestion that they are less committed to family values than conservatives.