John McCain sat down with the New York Times the other day for a wide-ranging interview that covered quite a bit of ground. The NYT brought up a culture-war subject that we haven’t heard too much about lately.
Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?
McCain: I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.
Q: Even if the alternative is the kid staying in an orphanage, or not having parents.
McCain: I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents.
Q: But your concern would be that the couple should [be] a traditional couple–
Now we’ve known for a while that when it comes to opposition to gay rights, McCain is pretty extreme. He not only campaigned in support of an Arizona anti-gay measure a couple of years ago, McCain is even on record opposing civil unions at the state level. Hell, McCain is so far out there, he’d even remove well-trained U.S. troops from the military — in the midst of two wars, when the Armed Forces are severely stretched — if they’re gay, calling them an “intolerable risk.”
But to say that a child would be better off in an orphanage than a stable household with gay parents is surprisingly callous. It’s not even premised on reality — McCain said “we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family.” It’s not clear who “we” are, but the evidence actually points in the opposite direction.
Today, the McCain campaign reversed course, arguing that McCain didn’t mean what he said.
Jill Hazelbaker, McCain’s director of communications, emailed Andrew Sullivan directly:
“McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue, just as he made it clear in the interview that marriage is a state issue. He was not endorsing any federal legislation.
“McCain’s expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible. However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, and he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative.”
Well, yes, I suppose McCain “could have been clearer,” given that what he said, and what Hazelbaker described as his policy, are completely different.
In reality, my suspicion is that McCain simply doesn’t know what he thinks. The Times brought up a topic that he doesn’t frequently consider, heard the word “gay,” and reflexively expressed his opposition.
I’m glad McCain’s position on July 15 is better than McCain’s position on July 13, but I’d be even happier if he could get the basics right the first time.