Tuesday, May 30, 2006
by Wayne Besen
The Bush administration is out of gas and nobody can afford it, so the President is priming the pump with the same anti-gay fuel that always runs the GOP's engine: Same-sex marriage. But will the parlor trick work again for an administration clunking by on fumes?
According to the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, Bush will hold a press conference in the Rose Garden on June 5 to reaffirm his support for a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gay people from marrying. The following day, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Amendment.
Of course, this was as predictable as a hot June day in DC. When Karl Rove was put in charge of the GOP's sagging political fortunes in an Election year, you just knew the gay bashing was around the corner. If it were not for guillotining gays, Rove would likely be running school board races in Amarillo or Lubbock.
Rove is often called a political genius, but I have to disagree. True brilliance requires offering people hope for a better tomorrow. In 1992, Bill Clinton stirred the better angels of the nation and people were excited about the future. In the early 80's, Ronald Reagan's political guru, Michael Deaver, displayed the same luminosity. Although Reagan did pander to the Moral Majority, his appeal was primarily built on his sunny optimism.
Bush, under the spell of Rove, has constructed his entire legacy on smearing the opposition and creating a climate of fear among voters. Who can forget when the Bush campaign slimed John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 with underhanded phone calls demeaning the war hero and his family?
And, of course, John Kerry, another decorated Vietnam veteran, was swift boated by Rove's sleaze machine. But always, Rove saves his biggest spit-balls for gay people. Teaming up with conservative organizations in 2004, Rove helped orchestrate eleven referendums on Constitutional marriage amendments. Many were in key presidential battleground states, in an effort to boost conservative turnout.
Smart, for sure, but certainly not brilliant or wise, for it has always been easier to scare than to care. Rendering people blind is simpler than providing a positive vision. To me, Rove is a cheater - the Barry Bonds of politics. Homophobia and hysteria are the steroids and he injects the poison into the body politic at every opportunity.
Like steroids, however, the long term affects of such toxic politics inevitably damage the user. The vice of divisiveness cost America the sympathy of the world after 9-11 and the support of it in our post 9-11 military adventures. Still, Bush is flexing like the muscleman he once was, while he has revealed himself as the biggest 90-pound weakling ever to sit in the Oval Office.
The President's anti-gay Rose Garden press conference is nothing short of a thorny embarrassment. Bush persists on further debasing his legacy by continuing to pander to a base that is largely responsible for him hovering near oblivion.The right wing is equally deluded if they believe that their close ties to Bush are beneficial.
While the rest of American families are suffocating under exorbitant gas prices, the only thing that fuels the right's passion is bashing gay families. While a majority may not be for allowing gay people to marry, they also know that this issue is not a priority.And, if anything, the Bush Administration -- and by extension the right wing -- is being punished in polls for having its priorities backwards.
When Osama was terrorizing, Bush's priority was Saddam. When New Orleans was sinking, Bush was disengaged. With healthcare exploding, the President was preoccupied with dismantling Social Security.
"Instead of addressing the real challenges facing American families, the President will further divide this country and put the far-right extremist's interests ahead of the American people's well-being," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said this week.
In six years, Rove has not changed the game plan and Bush is still stumbling through the motions. Gay bashing has been the one play that has consistently saved Team GOP. But as the clock is ticking and Rove desperately throws one last political Hail Mary in the flowery field, one has to wonder if the bloom has finally come off the rose.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
by Wayne Besen
In the shadow of Mary Cheney's apologist memoir, "Now It's My Turn," comes an apology from former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey in his new book "The Confession." With Mary receiving a mllion dollars for her "tell nothing" and McGreevey receiving a half million for his "tell-all," it has suddenly become quite lucrative to announce one's homosexuality. Perhaps, next year's National Coming Out Day should be held in a bank?
Cynicism aside, McGreevey's book is a tome that hits home with an agonizing and gut-wrenching portrayal of life in the closet. It is an invaluable resource because it vividly points out that living a lie is not only self-destructive, but also ruins the lives of people sucked into the sham. As a result of McGreevey's deception, two wives were left without a husband and two children were left in broken homes. I guess this is another rousing success story for the "family values" crowd that continues to create mixed orientation marriages that are surely doomed to fail.
McGreevey's book is helpful because it underscores that sexuality is not a frivolous lifestyle choice and it also helps dispel the tired myth that people can "overcome" their same-sex attractions though prayer or willpower. Indeed, McGreevey read the script and acted the heterosexual part with the best of them. Like the "ex-gay" ministries of the Christian Right, he practiced behavior modification and role-playing.
"I studied the moves, figured out what worked and what didn't, practiced and perfected my perfect authenticity."
Part of his self-help "therapy" included ogling Playboy centerfolds, prayer, and reading psychology books. When the psychobabble didn't work, McGreevey turned to the "all you need is a good woman approach -- or, in his case, women.
"As the years went on," McGreevey wrote, "I became as avid a womanizer as anybody else on the New Jersey political scene. But my attraction was largely artificial, my sexual performance a triumph of mind over matter."
Sadly, right wing groups spend millions of dollars to trap people in false and empty existences. The "ex-gay" group Exodus International, for example, has twelve full-time employees who share the goal of reprogramming people to live duplicitous lives, much like McGreevey's. They even have seminars to train people how to walk, talk and act so they can appear heterosexual.
The problem is, even if a person changes outward behavior, it does not change who they are inside. The dissonance created by what is in one's heart and the nonsense that these groups funnel into one's heads can lead to pathological behavior. In great detail, McGreevey discusses how his efforts to change led to a seedy double life.
"As glorious and meaningful as it would have been to have a loving and sound sexual experience with another man, I knew I'd have to undo my happiness step-by-step as I began chasing my dream of a public career and the kind of 'acceptable' life that went with it. So, instead, I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops - a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory."
McGreevey underscores how conservatives are largely responsible for the very existence of the "gay lifestyle" they disingenuously claim they abhor. But, just as their efforts to ban contraception cause more abortions, the right's efforts to turn gay people straight has kept the adult bookstores in business. In essence, Focus on the Family indirectly subsidizes gay porn palaces and bathhouses.
On Amazon.com, "The Confession" is coupled with "Brokeback Mountain," offering a one-two punch to the closet. Taken together, no thoughtful person could conclude that it is healthy or desirable to pressure people into mixed orientation marriages.
It would have been preferable if James McGreevey had come out without a cloud of scandal hanging over his head. It is still unfathomable that he appointed his one-time boyfriend Golan Cipal to a job that dealt with national security following 9-11.
Still, in a counter-intuitive way, the dishonor of McGreevey's resignation was helpful in revealing the full ugliness of the closet and the sick ways repression manifests itself. With "The Confession" McGreevey is getting a second chance to show that living in his own truth offers a personal power that surpasses even that of sitting in the governor's mansion.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
by Wayne Besen
Like her father's misbegotten war in Iraq, Mary Cheney's book is backfiring. Just as Dick thought the Iraqis would throw flowers at our troops and greet them as liberators, Mary imagined her tome would liberate her from being perceived as a lesbian lackey. But instead of roses, people are roiled and "Now It's My Turn" makes Mary appear more sycophantic than sympathetic.
Time and again, Mary is confronted with opportunities to educate America and voice her opposition to President Bush's promotion of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Like clockwork, each possibility is squandered with aplomb and justified with solipsistic rationalizations.
For example, at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York, right wing activist Alan Keyes called Mary Cheney a selfish hedonist. At the same time, George W. Bush was stumping for the Federal Marriage Amendment. During this whole gay bashing debacle, Mary Cheney was completely silent.
In her book, she justifies not responding to Keyes by claiming that she was more "baffled" by his statement than "offended." This reaction was odd, because in the Vice Presidential debate, John Edwards merely said she was a lesbian, and Mary looked right at him and mouthed the unmentionable.
Implausibly, Mary dismisses Keyes as a "fringe player in Republican politics" and says she chose to remain muffled because, "Everyone already knows it was a completely bizarre and inappropriate comment for him to make."
This must have been news to Rev. Jerry Falwell and the legions of Federal Marriage Amendment supporters that packed the Madison Square Garden convention hall. What she insouciantly called "bizarre," Karl Rove cynically refers to as "the base" and he exploited and rode people who hold such views to victory.
At this incredibly tense moment, the GLBT community desperately needed Mary and her partner Heather Poe to say something -- anything. Instead, they chose not to go onstage following Dick's acceptance speech. The entire family was there -- except the lesbian couple. Clearly, it gave the appearance that Keyes' statement, combined with intensified efforts to energize the right, had kept the lesbians out of the limelight.
In her book, Mary claims it was her choice to stay off the stage and she tries to brush off critics by lamely saying, "I was happier and more comfortable staying behind the scenes."
Give me a break. In the history of presidential politics, there have certainly been shy family members who dreaded mugging in front of the national media. However, only the diffident duo of Mary and Heather failed to actually take to the stage, thus sending a terrible message to the rest of America: Gays are not part of the family.
One of the more telling moments of her book comes right after President Bush announced his support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Following a brief tantrum, Mary considered quitting her father's reelection campaign. She ultimately decided to stay because she "loves her father" and presumably all the Halliburton money that is only a heartbeat away.
Remarkably, in the midst of the most anti-gay campaign in memory, Mary writes, "in the days and weeks afterward, many campaign staffers, including members of the senior staff, came into my office, shut the door, and told me that they disagreed with the President on this issue...They were troubled by the amendment."
And this attitude is why Mary Cheney and the Republican Party trouble me. In order to gain and maintain power, they will use and abuse, goad and scapegoat gay people and other minorities. Instead of telling the truth about this ugly constitutional Amendment, they will cheer it in public and condemn it in private -- always locked behind a closed door.
Another shining moment in her book comes when a closeted GOP donor frantically calls Mary to say that he is about to be outed by gay activists, and this could lead to him losing his job. Mary tells her father who admirably replies that if this man gets hassled he will "take care of it."
However, there is no introspection by Mary on the anti-gay climate created by the GOP that helps put people like her friend in a precarious situation. She offers no such sympathy, understanding or remedy for the rest of us who simply can't call on the VP if our boss is a homophobe.
The final insult comes when the President relays that he understands if Mary makes a public statement denouncing his decision to back the Federal Marriage Amendment. And, of course, she makes the ultimate statement -- stony silence. "I didn't think it was appropriate for me as a campaign staffer to issue a statement."
Yeah, right, just a lowly staffer -- who happened to get a million dollar book deal.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
by Wayne Besen
For six long years, Mary Cheney backpedaled from speaking out against Republican attempts to write her out of the Constitution, yet emerged from the musty closet just in time to peddle
her new book, which hits stores this week. Cowed Mary now wants to be Proud Mary, but it's too late, for she has already sold us down the river.
From the comfortable confines of the VP mansion, Mary watched the GLBT community get bashed a million times. Yet, she remained a veritable Pet Rock until she received a $1 million dollar advance to pry open her mouth.
Cheney unveiled a major public
relations blitz for "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life," but the PR should stand for Pitiful Rationalizations. Instead of garnering sympathy, she has gathered contempt for her meek attempt to justify her silence. She and her family had a unique opportunity to use the bully pulpit to educate Americans, and they failed miserably.
For example, in the 2000 campaign, Lynne Cheney bitterly replied to a question about her daughter's sexual orientation with a sneering denial, "Mary has never declared such a thing."
Of course, maybe it was technically true that Mary had not "declared" she was gay, as few people actually stand on a mountain top and make such a decree. But Mary had come out to her parents and worked for Coors as a gay liaison, which included traveling with Mr. Leather.
Interestingly, Mr. Leather was omitted from her book. I'm sure he was crushed when his index search came up blank. I can picture him standing in Borders wearing assless chaps franticly flipping though the end pages: "Milosevic...Missing WMD...Morning After Pill…Hmm, maybe it's under 'L?'" I guess there is no need to mention the S&amp;M king when the White House bound, gagged and harnessed Mary better than he ever could.
Dick Cheney was as disloyal as Lynne. During a Bush State of the Union address, he clapped as the president expressed support for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex unions. Talk about family values!
The ultimate slap in the face, however, came during the vice presidential debate when the democratic nominee John Edwards mentioned that Mary Cheney was a lesbian. According to Mary, she mouthed an expletive at Edwards from the front row of the audience seating, while her mother and sister maturely stuck out their tongues at him.
Soon after, in a presidential debate, John Kerry also said that Mary was a lesbian. The response was swift and vociferous, with Lynne Cheney accusing Kerry of a "tawdry" political trick.
Apparently, Lynne thinks her daughter is "tawdry" simply for being a lesbian. The shame, disgust and embarrassment were evident by her choice of words and in the disdainful manner in which she uttered them.
The appropriate response to a candidate calling an open lesbian a lesbian is to yawn as if it is no big deal. Why exactly were the Cheney's so hot and bothered over the truth?
Most reprehensible was Mary's bafflingly defiant reaction, accusing the Democrats of using the issue for political gain. Perhaps, she was correct, but Kerry and Edwards were actually trying to offer Mary and her partner relative equality under the law.
Was it not for the sake of political gain when her father and Bush cynically pushed for a federal Constitutional Amendment and also spearheaded 11 divisive anti-marriage state Amendments to bolster their reelection bid in 2004? Did Mary mouth expletives at Dick and George when they won reelection on the backs of her and her life partner?
To the contrary, the dutiful daughter worked tirelessly to reelect the terrible twosome and now we face another vote on a federal Constitutional Amendment this summer. Thanks Mary!
Predictably, sycophants are coming out of the woodwork to cheer her on and snag her for fundraisers, as if Mary is a hero instead of a zero.
"Log Cabin Republicans applaud Mary Cheney for sharing her personal and family story," groveled Log Cabin President Patrick Guerriero.
The most gripping part of Mary's story is when she admits that she was so distraught over a break-up with her girlfriend that she crashed her car and came out to her parents. Unfortunately, many young adults are not as lucky when they engage in self-destructive behavior often associated with coming out in a homophobic society. Mary knew from experience that she could have helped put the breaks on such suicidal conduct. Instead, she let today's youth crash and burn.
I never thought I'd say this, but I agree with Alan Keyes when he said Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist." It took a big fat book advance before she stepped out to ostensibly advance gay rights. While I can understand family loyalty, she also had an obligation to defend her GLBT family and she let us down.