In some ways, the debate hosted by George Washington University last night between Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich was the first of the presidential campaign season, at least for Gingrich. Based on his performance, he'll be a formidable debate opponent for his fellow Republicans and, who knows, maybe President Obama. The former House Speaker demonstrated his ability to speak easily and at length on what will be the most prominent issues of the campaign, like the economy, national security, health-care reform, and immigration. He also briefly shared his thoughts on gay marriage:
So Gingrich's argument is that:
1. He believes that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
2. The GWU student believes that marriage should be between anyone who wants to get married.
3. Both have an equal right to their own beliefs.
4. Gay people can't get married.
Something weird happened there between 3 and 4. The logical solution would be that gay people can get gay married, Newt Gingrich can get straight married, and nobody has to force their own personal beliefs on the other. But Gingrich doesn't come to that conclusion for some reason. Admittedly, neither does about half the country, and Gingrich's position is widely accepted, especially among Republican primary voters, the first group he has to impress.
But here's a prediction: Gay marriage may not be a hugely important issue in the election, but because President Obama seems destined to announce his embrace of gay marriage in the not-too-distant future, it will be an issue. And you just know how Obama is going explain his change of heart, whenever he's asked about it, in debates and town halls and TV interviews with stirring language about upholding core American ideals like equality, individual freedom, and loving thy neighbor. Maybe our liberal New Yorker mindset is tainting our thinking, but it's not hard to imagine Obama's conversion pushing a populace already rapidly warming to the idea of gay marriage further in that direction, to the point that a clear, reliable majority of the country finds the arguments of Gingrich (and the rest of the Republican field) as hollow and unconvincing as they truly are. At the very least, Gingrich may want to start thinking about how to deliver these unconvincing arguments without a sneer.