Clinton, Obama dodge questions about homosexuality

Among the top three Democratic presidential contenders, only Edwards says out of the box that Peter Pace was wrong.

Published March 15, 2007 3:53PM (EDT)

We've noted Hillary Clinton's linguistic evolution on her vote to authorize the war in Iraq; now she seems to be having a much quicker one on the morality of homosexuality.

After Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace told the Chicago Tribune that he believes homosexuality is immoral, ABC's Jake Tapper asked Clinton Wednesday if she thinks it's immoral, too. "Well, I am going to leave that to others to conclude," she said. "I'm very proud of the gays and lesbians I know who perform work that is essential to our country, who want to serve their country, and I want to make sure they can."

A Clinton spokesman subsequently said that the senator "obviously" disagrees with Pace. Then, Wednesday night, the Clinton campaign posted a statement from Clinton herself in which she said of Pace: "I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple. It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other dangerous places around the world."

To be fair to Clinton, Barack Obama hasn't exactly acquitted himself admirably on the question, either. Newsday's Glenn Thrush says he asked Obama repeatedly Wednesday if homosexual relationships are immoral. The closest the senator came to an answer: "I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow." As with Clinton, a spokesman was left to clean up for Obama after the fact: The senator, he told Thrush, disagrees with what Pace said.

So which leading Democratic presidential contender has shown the small amount of courage to say, right out of the box, that Pace is wrong and that homosexual relationships aren't immoral? That would be John Edwards. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Edwards Tuesday: "In your opinion, is homosexuality immoral?" His response: "I don't share that view. And I would go further than that ... I think the 'don't ask, don't tell' [policy] is not working. And as president of the United States I would change that policy."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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