Adam Nagourney's Friday "news analysis" tackled the question of whether the California Supreme Court's imposition of legalized "gay marriage" in the state would affect the presidential election. In general, the liberal media seems nervous about the political implications, so it sounds like it's trying to reassure itself that it won't really change the tidal wave they want. The Times did not wonder if the most important question would be if the "gay marriage" is put on the ballot again (as it was in 2000), and it's rejected again by a wide margin, what does that say about unelected judges in California trying to overrule the public?
Nagourney tries to have it both ways in his analysis. He begins by stating the three remaining contenders "are pretty much in agreement" on the issue, but then winds up at the end suggesting there are "differences in nuance" that "could have resonance with socially conservative voters."
But aren't Obama and Clinton strenuously competing to see who's more acceptable to gay-left activists? This underscores Nagourney's most obvious tic in his analysis. Nowhere in it is there a "liberal" label. He quotes Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, but simply calls it a "gay rights organization." But he used the word "conservative" six times in his analysis. For example:
Republicans did use the issue in 2004 in an effort to get conservative voters to help President Bush win Ohio.
This year, the decision in California could at the very least have resonance with socially conservative voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even if Mr. McCain does not wield it as part of his fall campaign - and his political associates said he almost certainly would not - history suggests that independent conservative advocacy groups would seize on the ruling to try to define Mr. Obama and his party as culturally out-of-step.
And later, another burst:
Yet there are differences of nuance in how the Democratic and Republican candidates talk about the issue that could have resonance with socially conservative voters. For example, Mr. Obama's campaign explicitly said that he "has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions."
In California, Mr. Brown is leading an effort to force a voter initiative that would overturn the court decision. If Mr. McCain decides to back such an initiative, it could provide a point of contrast that conservatives could use to hurt Mr. Obama. And an initiative could bring out more conservative voters at a time when Mr. McCain's advisers see a small hope of putting California in play.
Nagourney does use the word "moderates" twice to describe McCain or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spurning conservatives and lurching for the center, but there is no L-word.
No one in Nagourney's analysis thinks that the California judges have made it harder for liberals to get elected. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is merely used to declare that the judges put the issue on the table for the candidates. Solmonese makes the usual tactical conclusion that no one (besides his hard core of activists) really cares, that it's not a national priority.
Nagourney also uses Republican strategist Matthew Dowd, who completely agrees with the liberal view:
"At best, it doesn't move voters, and at worst for Republicans, it moves them against them," said Matthew Dowd, who was chief strategist for Mr. Bush's campaign in 2004. "Not so much on the issue, but it becomes, 'Why are we having a discussion on this issue when we should talking about things that matter, like the economy, or health care, or the war?'"
Times readers should not buy that gay-left activists like Solmonese really believe this issue is not a "thing that matters." It's also obviously a "thing that matters" to gay-activist reporters like Adam Nagourney, who in 1999 wrote a history of the gay-rights movement in America called "Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America." Nagourney and co-author Dudley Clendinen (a former New York Times reporter) tracked what they describe as "the last great struggle for equal rights in American history." No one should expect the Times to be neutral on such a glorious battle.