Equality Matters

Breitbart News, Daily Caller Falsely Claim That Gay Rights Sole Reason Obama Canceled Putin Meeting

August 08, 2013 10:07 am ET - by Luke Brinker

Following the August 7 announcement that differences over core diplomatic issues prompted President Barack Obama to cancel a September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, right-wing media pounced, claiming that Russia's anti-gay policies constituted the sole reason for Obama's decision.

Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak asserted that gay rights "trump[ed] fundamental national security interests," dismissing claims that Russia's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden influenced the decision:

The Wall Street Journal, among others, reports that President Barack Obama has decided to cancel a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia's grant of temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Yet that cannot possibly be the case. A few weeks ago, when Snowden arrived in Russia, Obama brushed the issue aside: he was not "scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," he said.


The only consistent theme in the Obama administration's foreign policy, in fact, is a fervent desire to be perceived as the opposite of George W. Bush. That was the purpose of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's absurd "reset" gaffe in 2009, in which she implied that Bush was solely to blame for the difficulty in U.S.-Russian relations, and signaled Obama's appeasement on missile defense and nuclear disarmament.

As recently as last year, Obama promised the Russian government more "flexibility" after the 2012 election on missile defense, and--together with the mainstream media--mocked Republican rival Mitt Romney's insistence that Russia was America's greatest geopolitical foe. Say what you will about the accuracy of Romney's claim: at least it put national security first on the list of American foreign policy priorities.

Not so with President Obama. On June 19, speaking in Berlin, Obama promised even more aggressive cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a unilateral concession to Russia. That came more than a week after Putin had already signaled his willingness to offer Snowden asylum. Gay rights, not security, are the cause for Obama's new "anti-reset"--but even they are not the fundamental principles for a foreign policy that lacks any.

Pollak's characterization of the Obama administration's stance on Snowden is wildly inaccurate. Well before the Russian government granted Snowden asylum for one year, administration officials like Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia of the severe consequences such an action would incur.

Daily Caller White House correspondent Neil Munro joined Pollak in ignoring the administration's clearly stated stance on Snowden. In an August 7 article, Munro lamented that Obama seemed to care more about gay rights in Russia than that country's decision to grant Snowden asylum:

President Barack Obama lashed out at Russia's treatment of its sexual minorities on Tuesday, but he downplayed the massive intelligence victory over the United States that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin won by helping engineer Edward Snowden's defection.

During an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show," Obama told host Jay Leno said he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."


"I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently — they're athletes" he said. "If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it," he said.

However, there's no indication from Russia that the new rules would change the grading system for downhill skiing and other other [sic] events.

But while Obama used strong language over a domestic matter only affecting the citizens of Russia, he downplayed the dispute over national-security leaks by Snowdon [sic] — a government contractor who disclosed secret data about U.S. electronic surveillance programs — by saying the crisis would not prompt him to boycott the G-20 Summit.

Like Pollak, Munro failed to note that the Obama administration had indicated that Snowden's asylum was likely to damage relations with Russia. Not only did officials warn against granting asylum before the Russian government decided to do so, but immediately following the decision, the White House stated that it was rethinking Obama's attendance at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Despite Pollak and Munro's over inflation of gay rights as the primary reason for Obama's cancelation, reports indicate that Russia's crackdown on gays played a role in the ultimate decision to cancel the Obama-Putin meeting among many other factors, including, according to a White House statement, "lack of progress on ... missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society."


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