President Obama, please watch and learn.
Howard Dean was at his firebrand best on the Rachel Maddow Show last night. In unvarnished language he condemned the DoJ brief on DOMA calling it a "big mistake" and a problem Obama will have "dig himself out of."
The money quote:
"But this is a huge mistake. You cannot talk about gay Americans the way gay Americans were talked about in this brief."
I encourage every to watch a true, "fierce adovcate" at work. Howard Dean you rock!
Transcript in full after the fold:
MADDOW: Are you ready for the latest talking points against same-sex marriage in the United States? Here we go. Are you ready?
Consensual same-sex marriage between two adults is comparable to - marriage of uncle to niece. Underage marriage. And the government needs to preserve the traditional form of marriage which is an age-old societal institution.
These are the words of Pat Roberts - actually, no. These would be the words of the Obama administration, the words of the Department of Justice under our self-described "fierce advocate-in-chief."
Late last Thursday, the Obama Justice Department filed a brief in federal court defending quite vigorously the defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law that prevents same-sex couples who were married legally in their home state from having those marriages recognized in other states or from securing social security spousal benefits, filing taxes or getting any other federal benefit that married couples get.
This is from the same president who supported repealing the defense of Marriage Act when he took office. Instead, he‘s not only defending it, he‘s defending using the same arguments as the Bush administration, contending that the act is not discrimination, that it is constitutional, all the while using arguments that equate same-sex marriage with pedophilia and incest.
Joining us now is former DNC chairman and governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. Under his leadership, Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions back in 2000. Gov. Dean, it‘s nice to have you with us here today. Thanks for joining us.
FMR. HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FORMER CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:
Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: Common wisdom in Washington is that the Obama administration isn‘t really anti-gay, that they‘re actually going to do a ton of stuff for gay rights. They‘re just going to do it later. Do you believe that?
DEAN: I believe it. But I think this was a big mistake. The language in this is - first, of all the president‘s position is marriage is between a man and woman. OK. Let‘s just accept that for the time being. That said, DOMA is unconstitutional because it‘s a violation of the reciprocal contracts clause or whatever the lawyers call it, but the notion that contracts of one state have to be recognized in another.
DOMA, of all the things that were done in sort of an anti-gay period, electioneering period engineered by Carl Rove and Newt Gingrich and people like that - DOMA was probably the most offensive. And these - I think most people believe it never should have been signed.
And the language in this brief is really offensive and it really is a terrible mistake. I doubt very much the president knew this was coming. I don‘t think for a minute this represents the president‘s position. But he is now going to have to dig himself out of this because people are really upset about this, not just in the gay and lesbian community, but in the community of people who are interested in equal rights.
MADDOW: Within the same week, we saw not only this brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act, we had another brief which avoided some of the more offensive language of the DOMA brief on "Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell."
And again, it was - for that brief, it was also argued that maybe the president doesn‘t know exactly what‘s happening with these briefs. It does seem clear at least that the administration is not going out of its way to keep gay people from getting out of them and people who support gay rights just getting out of them.
DEAN: Look, I was asked about this whole business by another reporter about two or three weeks ago. And I defend the president‘s choice not to move the "Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell" problem to the front of the agenda. We‘ve got a huge health care battle going on. We‘re in the middle of a huge economic problem that we haven‘t seen - the likes of which we haven‘t seen since the Depression.
And I understand that and I defend the administration. But this is a huge mistake. You cannot talk about gay Americans the way gay Americans were talked about in this brief. And I think they are going to have to do something about this.
And what most likely I would predict is that they are going to have to move up their switching positions on "Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell." I think the American people will accept that and the polls show that. The military has accepted it.
Gen. John Shalikashvili, who is the joint-chief-of-staff, has now - the chairman of joint-chiefs has now said that he thinks that "Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell" should be abolished. So I think - but I think now because of the language of this and furor it has rightly caused in the gay and lesbian community, that something is going to have to be done.
MADDOW: Do you feel there has been tension between the organized gay rights movement and the Democratic Party around these sorts of issues, that sort of debate that you just described about whether or not, sort of, at what point patients should expire? At what point it should be OK that something isn‘t at the top of the agenda, but is maybe - at least we are content that it‘s on the agenda.
DEAN: I‘m sure there is tension, and the tension is to be expected. The same kind of tension happened during the civil rights with African-Americans. Martin Luther King pushing, if not now, when? And Lyndon Johnson saying the time is not right and it got done.
It doesn‘t get done unless the community pushes harder than the community at-large is willing to go, and that‘s the job of the leadership. And so that‘s always the dynamic when people are struggling for rights, for equal rights under the law. So sure, there is tension. I don‘t think that tension is bad.
But I do think it‘s bad that this kind of language is used in a Justice Department brief, presumably without the president‘s knowledge. That is really - you just can‘t do that. You can‘t - it is true that the attorney general has the obligation to defend the law of the land, whether the law of the land they agree with or not.
But there are some times when the law of the land is so noxious - this is not a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. That is not what this does. If DOMA gets repealed, it does not legalize same-sex marriage in some places like Alabama and Texas which may not want to have same-sex marriage. But it does recognize the constitutional reciprocity of contracts from one state to another, and that is a basic constitutional right.
MADDOW: But doesn‘t it push the Democratic Party to a certain extent to have Dick Cheney to the left of the Democratic president on this issue, to have Steve Schmidt, John McCain‘s campaign manager, significantly to the left of this.
We even had John McCain come out in an interview last week with Ana Marie Cox and say - yes, he would have started reviewing "Don‘t-Ask, Don‘t-Tell" on day one. I mean, it‘s almost impossible to believe that the party of Karl Rove would outflank Democrats on gay rights issues right now. But the gay community has been left empty-handed by the Democrats now over and over again.
DEAN: Well, let‘s not go too far out here.
MADDOW: I never do.
DEAN: Republicans used the gay community and whipped up anger gay and lesbian Americans in order to win elections for 30 years. I hardly think the Republican Party is to the left of the Democrats on gay rights.
But I have always - you know, individuals or human beings are very interesting people. And while I disagree with Dick Cheney and think frankly some of his conduct has been reprehensible around the issue of torture and the war, I‘ve always admired him.
And I actually told him so at the White House before I left the governorship how much I admired him on the issue of gay rights. He has a personal stake in this. And he hasn‘t been afraid to say what most Americans who find out they have gay people in their family say, "If given the choice of being anti-gay and loving my children, I‘ll pick loving my children."
That‘s where 90 percent or more of Americans go. That is one of the reasons that the movement for equal rights among gay and lesbian Americans have been so successful. So yes, I think this is a bad situation here. I think I have no doubt the Obama people will do the right thing. But they don‘t have a lot of time because this is a little bit too far.
MADDOW: Tick-tock, tick-tock.
DEAN: It was a lot too far. It wasn‘t a little bit too far. It was a lot too far.
MADDOW: Gov. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, former DNC chairman, current contributor to CNBC and always a very welcome guest on this show. Thanks for joining us, sir.
DEAN: Thanks, Rachel.