I caught very little of the YouTube debate.
The one segment I saw was the bit about gay marriage. I wasn’t quite sure about the content of Edwards’s reply: I think he was saying that although as a Southern Baptist he can’t consider two men or two women a married couple, he didn’t think he would be justified in using that belief to oppose granting them all of the legal consequences of marriage except the name. That seems to me like a fairly reasonable stance to take, but of course the name “marriage” is also something of value to be granted or denied by public policy.
Obama’s response, on the other hand, I thought was very clever indeed. He said that the question of the legal accidents of marriage was one for the state to decide, while the label was something for the churches to decide. I think that means that, in Obama’s view, if a Congregationalist minister marries two men, they’re married, and the state has no business saying otherwise.
In practice, of course, that’s full suport for gay marriage, since any couple, whatever their religious backgrounds, can find a Universal Life Church minister, or a justice of the peace, to perform the ceremony. But rhetorically it appeals to freedom of religion, a value almost universally shared, rather than to gay rights, which remains more controversial. I could be wrong, but I think lots of the traditionally religious voters to whom Obama wants to appeal — black and white — will be able to swallow that anwer, where a frank advocacy of equality of treatment for those of minority sexual orientations would go down much harder
Footnote I gather the YouTube version of a “debate” was more fun, and more serious, than the debates where the questions are asked by our radically unserious political journalists (see previous post).
I’d still like to see the candidates go mano a mano, without hecklers of any kind, The fact that Obama would likley dominate in that format makes me is part of the reason, but I always think candidates ought to be forced to move beyond sound-bites in situations where they also can’t rely entirely on canned oratory from their speechwriting teams.