Governor Scott Walker (R-WS) speaks at a Republican organizing meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on March 14, 2015.
Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

‘I didn’t inhale’ for a new generation

A generation ago, presidential candidates could expect to field questions about marijuana use. The entire line of inquiry may seem foolish now, but at the time, the answers were actually characterized as important. (Remember, Douglas Ginsburg’s failed 1987 Supreme Court nomination was a major national story.)
Some candidates would try to add more nuance to the issue than others. In 1992, Bill Clinton responded to the question by saying he tried marijuana, but he “didn’t inhale.”
The jokes, not surprisingly, soon followed, and Clinton’s response quickly became a case study on the perils of adding too much gradation when responding to a simple question.
A generation later, no one much cares whether a presidential candidate tried pot, but Republicans seeking national office are looking for ways to finesse their LGBT views.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has attended a wedding reception for a gay couple, he said Sunday, though the potential 2016 contender still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“That’s certainly a personal issue. For a family member, Tonette and I and our family have already had a family member who’s had a reception. I haven’t been at a wedding,” Walker said when msnbc asked whether he would be willing to attend a gay wedding.
As litmus-test questions go, this is an unexpected one. Marco Rubio said he would go to a wedding for a same-sex couple’s wedding; Rick Santorum said he wouldn’t; and Ted Cruz didn’t want to talk about it.
And then there’s Scott Walker, who opposes marriage equality and backs his state ban on equal-marriage rights, but who’s nevertheless comfortable with a same-sex couple’s reception.
All of this came the same week as Rand Paul tried to thread a similar needle – he says marriage equality “offends” him, but he supports legal “contracts” for same-sex couples – and Marco Rubio struggled to argue that vendors can’t discriminate against customers, but they can discriminate against customers’ events if they find the events morally objectionable.
Speaking of the Florida senator, Rubio was still spinning yesterday, arguing that sexual orientation is not a choice, but he wants to deny same-sex couples equal rights anyway.
“I … don’t believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people. And, In fact, the bottom line is that I believe that sexual preference is something people are born with,” Rubio, a senator from Florida, told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer. […]
“It’s not that I’m against gay marriage,” Rubio said in the interview Sunday. “I believe the definition of the institution of marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
Got that? It’s not that Rubio is against gay marriage; it’s just that he’s against equal marriage rights for gays.
A generation ago, “I didn’t inhale” seemed pretty amusing. More than two decades later, watching Republican presidential candidates wrestle with marriage equality is far less entertaining.