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(The usual blah blah: Thanks to the deal with the syndicators, the column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2012
       So, the vice president “apologized” to President Barack Obama for forcing the issue of same-sex marriage, and the boss accepted. That’s the official story being peddled to reporters by various administration “sources.” Usually, there is good reason to be skeptical when these unnamed officials spread the party line in such a coordinated way.
       Is there any reason to believe that Joe Biden’s comment on “Meet the Press” was not some slick move -- a clever way of allowing the president to have his coming out on this hot issue so he could get rid of the controversy long before the election and turn it to his advantage just in time for some huge Hollywood fundraisers? The best reason is that the Democratic strategists usually just aren’t that slick.
       However this really played out, the fascinating point is that Obama’s new embrace of gay marriage seems to be a big positive for him. The polls have shown a quickly growing acceptance of it in society. It also might help explain the push to end the president’s “evolution” in his thinking, particularly when we note how his side is so quickly touting it and reaping fundraising rewards.
       At the same time though, the hard-rock conservatives are going bonkers. The mainstream Republicans are trying to get the emphasis back where they want it. “The president can talk about it all he wants,” sniffed an irritated House Speaker John Boehner, “I’m going to stay focused on what the American people want us to stay focused on, and that’s jobs.”


      Among those shying away is the GOP’s lead actor, Mitt Romney, who -- beyond mumbling that he feels marriage should be between a man and a woman -- isn’t saying much about the subject.
       Could that be because of the Washington Post story that exposes the teenage Mitt as a homophobic bully, buying into the privileged cruelty of his exclusive school and assaulting a hapless fellow student who just happened to be “different”? The most egregious violence against the student was when the group pinned him down and cut off his hair because they were offended that he had peroxided it. Although Romney claimed not to remember the incident, he finally decided he should apologize for the “prank,” particularly since one of the other participants was quoted as saying the harassers had operated like a “gang of wolves.” Romney went to the safe haven of Fox News to tell Neil Cavuto: “There is no question that I did some stupid things in high school, and obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for that and apologize for it.” He also insisted that his motives were not homophobic, although classmates cited incidents of hearing slurs from him.
       How vicious bullying is. And damaging. The victim in this case led a life of drifting before dying of liver cancer. The argument can be made that although one can change over 50 years, Romney is still known to enjoy pulling off practical jokes. And let’s face it, practical jokes are, by definition, fundamentally demeaning.
       But it’s the here and now. And Boehner is correct: It’s time to focus on the economy. A huge issue is the responsibility that the wealthy have in rescuing us from the dire straits many of them caused.
       Should they pay their fair share in taxes? Should they be controlled by effective regulations to prevent manipulation and consumer abuse?
       It’s interesting to watch the president finesse the issue of gay rights and to see the effects it will have on the election. That, after all, is what this is all about. We can only hope that the forces of greed in this country are not as successful in confusing the financial issues, in effect, using their massive resources to bully their opponents.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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