We’re pretty certain the President isn’t suffering from a bad case of multiple personalities, but some observers are questioning different voices during three separate events. Yet, the actions always speak louder than the words.
There was that 2,900 word Sept. 14th speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner where he talked about how “thrilled” he was to be there. And then we have the 2,400 word Oct. 2nd speech at leading gay lobbying organization Human Rights Campaign’s dinner.
Sandwiched in between what the 3,700 word address on Sept. 24 to the Congressional Black Caucus. What will be remembered is the last two paragraphs.
“Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC…,” the President said on September 24 to the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual dinner.
Indeed there is quite a bit of work to do. Though many focus on the difference in tone to the three groups, the true focus should be on where each stands in terms of policy. When comparing the CBC’s legislative agenda and that of similar groups, Hispanics and Gays in particular, the differences in what has been completed and what is left to be done are stark.
When President Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday, he said there is a, “…slow, inexorable march towards a more perfect union. You are contributing to that story, and I’m confident we can continue to write another chapter together.” The President outlined several policy and legislative pushes important to gay Americans. Many have been realized.
They include the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which was signed into law in March 2010 and the elimination of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which came to an end on September 20 after 18 years. President Obama ended a 22 year old HIV travel ban in January 2010. The Gay lobby is also pushing against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which mandates that states are not required to recognize same sex marriage.
Regarding DOMA, the President said Saturday, “I’ve called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people’s lingering fears for political and ideological gain.” The Obama Administration is also pushing for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
At the Hispanic Caucus dinner on September 14, the President talked about immigration reform and the Dream Act.
“Everybody here tonight, keep the heat on me, keep the heat on Nancy [Pelosi], the rest of the Democrats…we know the real problem isn’t the members of Congress in this room,” he told the Hispanic Caucus dinner on Sept 14. More substantively, the White House has had a number of forums, summits and policy meetings on Hispanic issues.
More than any other group. But, that’s a reflection of the political flavor of the month as both Democratic and Republican parties are itching to get a scratch of the Latino vote.
The White House hosted a first-ever 2-day Hispanic Policy Conference in July and will host the third of three Hispanic Summits in Arizona on Oct. 15. The first was in Orlando and the third will be in Las Vegas. A White House Summit on Hispanic Education was held in October 2010 and a Univision hosted event entitled “Latinos and Education” was attended by the President in March. The President attended 9 Hispanic-themed events in 6 weeks in April and May of this year.
During his first two years as President, when the Democrats held the majority in the House, the Congressional Black Caucus pushed for the following legislative initiatives that became law. They were: 1. a change for the first time in 26 years in the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine; 2. funding for black farmers who won a discrimination suit against the Department of Agriculture; 3. the addition of language in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill for an Office of Minority Inclusion as well as consumer protections against predatory lending; and 4. funding for community health care centers, which was in the health care reform bill.
However, for the CBC, specific legislative pushes have been slightly more difficult to find. The caucus pushed five specific items at a meeting with the CBC Executive Board on March 30; a full CBC meeting with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley on May 4; the President on March 30; and a second, full CBC meeting with the President on May 12, 2011. They were: 1. A redistricting task force; 2. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 initiative; 3. Funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); 4. Support for Barbara Lee’s bill H.R. 589 to extend unemployment insurance for 14 weeks; and 5. NIH funding to focus on health care disparities.
So far, the President has not spoken in public on many of their five initiatives. However, TANF is in the American Jobs Act as an unemployment extension.