You may have thought it was heartwarming that Sen. Rob Portman did an about-face on gay marriage thanks to his gay son, but it was actually a selfish move that signals a "moral failure," writes Jonathan Chait in New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer. "Wanting your children to be happy is the most natural human impulse. But our responsibility as political beings—and the special responsibility of those who hold political power—is to consider issues from a societal perspective," Chait writes. But Portman strolled merrily along, opposing gay rights because the issue didn't impact him personally—and he's only changed his mind because now it does.
Yes, it's possible for a politician to change his mind, but in order for such an about-face not to be selfish, the politician must explain how he learned something new about an issue—as opposed to Portman, who simply wants his son to be able to get married. Portman should be able to understand that, logically speaking, "support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind," Chait writes. Yes, this is all great for the cause, "but why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?" Click for his full column. (Read more Rob Portman stories.)