President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Obamas to break ground Tuesday on presidential center in Chicago A simple fix can bring revolutionary change to health spending MORE publicly opposed same-sex marriages for political gain during the 2008 presidential campaign, his former political strategist says in a new book.
David AxelrodDavid AxelrodThe Memo: Democrats vent frustration with Biden on Afghanistan Psaki dismisses Axelrod's criticism of Biden on Afghanistan Axelrod says Biden should have 'embraced' failures of Afghanistan exit MORE said that he and other political strategists advised him to say that he only supported civil unions, not full gay marriage rights, according to excerpts of his new book obtained by Time magazine.
“Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.
Obama apparently struggled with the task, complaining to Axelrod that he was “just not very good at bullshitting” after a campaign event where he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he would not "disagree or quibble" with Axelrod's account of events.
But Earnest also said Obama had chosen to take tough political stands on the issue of gay rights, including announcing his support for gay marriage before the 2012 election.
"When the president made his first public comments indicating his support for gay couples to marry, that was viewed as a pretty controversial political stand," Earnest said. He added that the moment was "at the beginning of a broader change that we saw all across the country."
Last year, a book by journalist Jo Becker reported that the decision in 2012 over how, if and when to roll out an announcement by Obama in favor of gay marriage was extensively debated among top political strategists.
But David Plouffe, the president's 2008 campaign manager and a former senior adviser at the White House, later said the notion that the decision was dominated by campaign advisers was “decidedly inaccurate.”
“Once he made the decisions, it was a settled debate. All we did was help think through the timing and some of the questions that would arise from his statement,” Plouffe said in an interview with the Daily Dish.
Plouffe said there were “no guarantees this would not cost us votes in some of the battleground states” and that the president pushed forward despite the political “risk associated with it.”
Axelrod’s book suggests that Obama had “fully evolved” on the issue months before Vice President Biden stated his support during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The president was champing at the bit to announce his support for the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed — and having watched him struggle with this issue for years, I was ready, too,” Axelrod said.
This story was updated at 3:07 p.m.