Thursday, August 30, 2007

On the Craig Affair:Keeping Up Appearances

I've been really busy at work and I'm getting ready for a wedding, (yes, mine and yes, it's a gay wedding) so I haven't had much time to blog. But of course, having a story develop in your own backyard, especially when it involves a Senator and sex, well, I just had to say SOMETHING.

First off, I feel somewhat sad about Senator Larry Craig. If the rumors are true, then he has lived a side clandestine life, all to keep up appearances. Most gays and lesbians spend some part of their life in the closet, and it is never fun. Life is a hell of a lot better when you are out in the open.

A few days ago, my blogmates Michael van der Galiƫn and Pete Abel had a civil discussion about how the netroots are having a major affect on the Democratic Party. More and more, they are going after anyone that doesn't toe the progressive line. In my mind, it is not unlike what the religious right has done to the GOP; forcing people into ideological straight jackets (pardon the pun).

It's easy to look at people like Larry Craig and Mark Foley before him as hypocrites that deserve the treatment they are getting. But I tend to think that this might be more the sad result of what it means to "play to the base." When politicians are forced to adhere to positions that they themselves don't believe, they are forced to live double lives, forced to hide what they really think and be nothing more than a puppet.

Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota , hit the nail on the head when he said:

What unites these cases is not really hypocrisy. It’s two other things. First, nearly all the gay Republicans working in Washington or elsewhere are to one degree or another closeted. Second, at a personal level, very few Republican officials around them care whether someone is gay.

From the top of the party to the bottom, few Republicans personally and viscerally dislike gay people. President Bush has had friends he knew were gay. So has Vice President Cheney. Even the most prominently and vigorously anti-gay Republican, Sen. Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, had a gay spokesperson whom he defended when his homosexuality became known.

The big, open secret in Republican politics is that everyone knows someone gay these days and very few people – excepting some committed anti-gay activists – really care. It’s one of the things that drives religious conservatives crazy because it makes the party look like it’s not really committed to traditional sexual morality.

So to keep religious conservatives happy the party has done two things. First, it has steadfastly resisted efforts to ease anti-gay discrimination in public policy, even when Republican politicians know better. I can’t tell you how many Republican staffers told me, for example, that their bosses privately opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment but would be voting for it anyway.

Second, to keep the talent it needs and simply to be as humane and decent as politically possible toward particular individuals, the party has come up with its own unwritten common-law code: you can be gay and work here, we don’t care, but don’t talk about it openly and don’t do anything to make it known publicly in the sense that either the media or the party’s religious base might learn of it. It's the GOP's own internal version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

This uneasy mix of the public and the private is not exactly what I’d call hypocrisy. It’s perhaps better described as a form of ideological schizophrenia: private acceptance welded to public rejection. It’s a very unstable alloy.

The Left tends to think that all GOP politicians are bigots who hate gay people, but in reality, that's not totally true. Many of these politicians have friends and family that are gay. Many of them love their gay friends and family members. Vice President Dick Cheney truly loves his daughter Mary, who is a lesbian in a relationship. And yet, he has not said much when it comes to the effort to pass an amendment banning gay marriage. Not because he hates gay people, but because he is beholden to the religious right that really does hate gay people.

But if it is hard for straight, gay friendly Republicans to truly be who they are, then it is shear hell for the closeted gay Republican. Carpenter notes:

For the closeted gay Republican, this alloy means a life of desperation and fear and loneliness, of expressing one's true feelings only in the anonymity of the Internet, of furtive bathroom encounters, of late nights darting in and out of dark bars, hoping not to be seen. It means life without a long-term partner, without real love.

Worst of all, it may mean a life of deceiving a spouse and children. It’s hardly surprising that most of the men caught cruising in parks, bathrooms, and other public places are deeply closeted and often married. They don’t see themselves as having many other options.

Nevertheless, it seems to work until the day you get caught tapping your toe next to a cop. Desperation sets in and you say things that bring everyone much mirth at your expense, like, “I’m not gay, I just have a wide stance.”

Yes, Mark Foley's sleazy web chats with teenage boys was just chilling and Larry Craig's "wide stance" was just pathetic, but in the end this is what happens. A gay GOP politician can't say he is a proud gay man because that means some hateful preacher out there will conduct some slime campaign against him. So, he (or she) has to live out their existence in this poor way.

Carpenter closes his post by saying that if the GOP doesn't want to see anymore scandals like this, then it has to match it's private belief with it's public stance. Of course, with the power that the Religious Right still has on the party, that might be a long time coming.

But maybe all it takes is for one politician or staffer to say they have had enough. Maybe one day, there will be a senator or governor that will just say they are gay and be done with it. Maybe it will be some straight politician that will say they are tired of hearing their gay son or daughter is a sinner bound for hell.

I don't know. I do believe that at some point, some prominent person in the party is going to say "enough." And that voice will be joined by another and another until the religious right no longer has the power to threaten.

As a gay Republican who is out and proud, it's what I hope for.

After all, you have to have your dreams.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A New Resource for Centrist Republicans

I don't know how many people are aware of this, but there is a think tank out there for Centrist Republicans called the Ripon Society. The describe themselves as:
... a Republican public policy advocacy organization representing all Americans through moderate, progressive policy formation that uphold traditional common sense Republican principles of:
  • Limited but effective government;
  • A free enterprise based economy;
  • A strong, well-maintained, national defense;
  • A more equitable tax system;
  • Social tolerance;
  • Conservation of natural resources.
They also have a downloadable magazine called Ripon Forum. It has a lot of wonkish goodies. You can read the June-July and the August-September 2007 issues, as well as any issue dating back to 1965.

Check it out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Giuliani's Middle East Plan

I have not hitched my star to any GOP candidate at this point, but I have liked Rudy Giuliani because of his socially liberal/fiscal conservative views. My doubts have been his take on the war on terror and his foreign policy. And now, his views on probably the biggest foreign policy issue has me taking pause.

Joe Gandleman
reports that the former NYC mayor is breaking with President Bush's policy of a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. Giuliani thinks creating a Palestinian state at this time is a bad idea:

“It is not in the interests of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism,” Giuliani wrote.

“Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel.”

Now, Joe sees this as an apparent distancing from President Bush. I don't agree. Yes, the President has said he supports a two-state solution, but about all he has really done is provide lip service to the idea. Unlike Bill Clinton and his own father, Bush has expended little political capital playing hardball with both sides to solve the situation. In my view, Giuliani is only saying what Bush and many neoconservatives are already thinking.

I think this is not a smart policy. Yes, it will please the hard core base, but it won't make us safer. For whatever reason, the Islamic terrorists use the Palestinian situation as an excuse for their hatred and because of our close relationship with Israel, we are guilty by association. I'm not a foreign policy expert, but I tend to believe that one of the ways we can fight terrorism is by "draining the swamp," or eliminating a reason for fanatics to drive planes into buildings.

Are the Palestinians innocent? No. But neither are the Israelis. This is the Middle East, where there is very little black and white and a whole lot of gray. We have to broker some deal that allows the Palestinians some sense of self-determination, and give the Israelis some sense of security. The United States has the power to bring these two sides together and work on some agreement.

The other thing that is troubling is Giuliani's lumping of the Palestinian issue with the War on Terror. He is partially right that the jihadists use the issue to justify their hate, but that doesn't mean that the two are arm in arm. It seems just as Bush wanted to lump Iraq into the wider War on Terror, Giuliani is doing the same.

Bush's policy has been all about might and Giuliani might give more of the same. Of course I want a president that is willing to call in the Marines and kick some butt if need be. However, I also want a President that has a policy that is smart as much as it is strong. I want a President that has all the military power behind them, but seeks ways to get things done without resorting to military action. (And when they do use the military, use it in a way that is smart)

It's high time for Republicans to develop a smart and strong policy on Terror and on this particular issue. We have had too much of dumb and strong.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

News Flash: Some Republicans Actually Like Gays

A story that aired on National Public Radio's All Things Considered a few days ago, got me steamed.

The story was about the first-ever presidential candidate forum that was focused on issues affecting the gay community. Most of the Democratic candidates and none of the GOP candidates came to the event. Now, I think it is sad that some of the candidates like John McCain or Rudy Giuliani didn't bother to come and chat, but that was not what made me mad. What made me mad is that the reporter talked about how the Dems were so gay friendly, while the GOP was not, ignoring some obvious exceptions to the rule.

Now, I am not here to defend the GOP record on gay rights - I think it has been attrocious and has probably lost the GOP some votes that they will regret down the road. But I get tired of the mainstream media not focusing on those Republicans who do take stands for equality.

Recently, Log Cabin Republicans, the GLBT Republican group, held an event where several current and former GOP office holders spoke. Let's see what a few of them said, shall we?

Here is what Oregon Senator Gordon Smith said about pending hate-crime legislation:

Senator Gordon Smith, who is leading the fight in the U.S. Senate for hate crimes legislation, spoke about the importance of the bill. "We've got to stop talking about hate crimes [legislation] and pass it," he said. "This issue isn't going away and it's growing more important all the time."
And here is what Ohio Congresswomen Deb Price said about the Employee Nondiscrimination Act:

Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, chief Republican co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will come before a vote in the U.S. House this summer, said the bill "is going to pass." She said, "To allow discrimination in the workplace is antithetical to what Republicans are as a Party." ENDA would expand current law banning workplace discrimination to include sexual orientation.
Now, you'd think a Republican co-sponsor to a bill friendly to gays would make news. Oh well. Here is what Flordia Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell:"

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen highlighted the importance of ending the "Don't ask, Don't tell" law. "We've got to make sure the military has the personnel it needs." Ros-Lehtinen urged passage of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act so that thousands of gay and lesbian service members with valuable skills are able to serve openly and honestly. "America is suffering from a shortage of linguists," she told the Log Cabin crowd.
Hmmm, a Republican that is more concerned about terrorists than some guy holding another guys hand. Shocking!

(Oh, and here is another Republican that is pressing for an end to this ban.)

The fact is, there is a small, but strong body of Republicans who are standing up to the bigotry of the Religious Right, but it seems that for the most part, the media tends to ignore that.


I can only guess there is a certain amount of laziness among journalists, in that they create scripts for certain people or certain groups of people. Anyone that doesn't fit that script is ignored. I tend to believe the media has tagged Republicans as a bunch of backward Bible-thumpers and that is the story they stick with. I'm not saying there aren't people like that, but I think that since that is the group that yells the most, that is the one that gets the attention and sets the view of what a Republican is supposed to be.

I think that's sad. I'm not saying that the media should ignore the bigots, they need to shown for what they truly are. But when someone is taking a stand for justice, well, they should be noticed as well for their stand.

Sometimes, though, the media gets it right. There is an article about Rudy Giuliani that shows a man who took a stand:

As the Justice Department's number three official in 1982, Giuliani authorized the hiring of the first openly gay lawyer for a prosecutor post requiring a security clearance, according to records and interviews.

That precedent-setting but little-known action, combined with his successful push as mayor for domestic partnership and hate crime laws in New York, make Giuliani an anomaly: a front-runner for the GOP nomination who is a top champion of gay rights.
I'm thankful that Newsday was willing to write about this. I hope it shows that while there are Republicans who go after gays, there are others who truly live up to the spirit of Lincoln and strive for equality. I just wish the media would do more of these stories.