March 05, 2007
Learning from the last Clinton
Posted by: Chris
If you've heard of Bob (pictured in the center above in this recent photo from the Duplex Diner in D.C.), it's probably due to his ground-breaking speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1992. At a time when both AIDS and gay issues remained mostly in the closet, he gave them a very public voice.
But he played an even more pivotal role, along with that other gay Friend of Bill's David Mixner, placing gay folks in jobs throughout the new Clinton administration. This from my good friend William Waybourn, who was executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund back in 1993:
After the 1992 elections, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and other groups created Coalition ’93 to promote openly lesbian and gay candidates for the incoming Clinton Administration. In anticipation of jobs needing people, we compiled a pool of resumes from more than 1,200 qualified and diverse individuals from around the country with various backgrounds and experiences.
As David Mixner and Bob Hattoy were two of the more outspoken gay men in the campaign, they got calls from the various transition committees to deliver potential appointees.
Bob treated us as if we were a carry-out delicatessen: “I need two persons with aeronautical backgrounds for NASA, one military type for the Department of Defense, and three with medical and public health service for Health & Human Services. Hold the feather boas on the DOD one.” Twice a day or more, Bob and I would confer on possible openings, and I would pull the appropriate resumes and deliver them to him. Bob then forwarded them to the committees for placement.
After so many years of Reagan/Bush, the competition for these jobs was fierce, and almost every group had scores of potential appointees lined up. But many of our applicants got there first because Bob took upon himself to track down committee members to promote each applicant. Of the more 100 individuals placed with the incoming Administration in those early months, almost all were shepherded by Bob.
Just weeks after Clinton took office, the gays in the military debate flared and the man from Hope, Ark., systematically walked away from his commitments to gay people. But Bob and David both held firm, as Andrew Sullivan remembered in a funny and spot-on tribute posted today:
[Bob] refused to sell "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," refused to lie and spin, and so got shunted off to an Interior Department job and muzzled. "They thought I'd be dead in a few months, that's why they gave me the White House job," he once said to me, bursting into laughter.
I wish he'd written his book about life as a gay man in the Clinton administration. One working title — among many — was "It's The Economy, Faggot," which was roughly the attitude of most senior Clintonites to the gays who worked for them.
After the gays in the military debacle, Clinton backed the Defense of Marriage Act and was too busy triangulating to deliver on even basic gay rights legislation. Eight years later, Clinton apologists were still pointing to all those openly gay personnel as the administration's big gay accomplishment.
It's a point worth remembering, all these years later, as Bob passes on and another Clinton runs for the White House. Just this weekend, Hillary paid an undisclosed visit to the Human Rights Campaign, where she spoke to the group's assembled national board of directors and board of governors.
Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for again pointing out how "the fix is in" already for HRC the candidate over at HRC the organization — a match made in initials that Clinton herself alluded to repeatedly in her speech:
Here's Senator Clinton's speech to Human Rights Campaign volunteers yesterday. Money quote on HRC's talk to HRC: "I love the fact that it's my initials. Have you ever noticed that?"
There was no press coverage of this speech, and HRC kept it very hush-hush, which is weird, defensive, suspicious — but that's HRC, sucking money out of gay pockets to finance an insider, velvet-rope elite of D.C. hacks. But the speech is significant in one respect, it seems to me. HRC, the organization, is now fully integrated into HRC, the campaign. It is the Clinton campaign. Clinton calls HRC's executive director, Joe Solmonese a "colleague." She talks of a future "relationship" with HRC in a Clinton administration: "You will have an open door to the White House." Among HRC's victories, she cites the 2006 election turn-out campaign ... for the Democrats.
Hattoy's passing should remind us how such "access" means little when it doesn't result in real policy changes. Clinton did make a number of commitments in her HRC speech, from the usual bromides about workplace discrimination and hate crimes, to some meatier rhetoric on civil unions, Social Security benefits and gay adoption. Still missing was a solid commitment to federal civil union legislation or even the existing bill (the Uniting American Families Act) to extend immigration rights to gay Americans.
Unfortunately, a growing number of observers have little confidence that HRC and Solmonese will actually pressure Clinton and other leading Dems into actually expending political capital toward these policy gains, especially when they're too busy imagining themselves as political appointees in an HRC White House.
Here's the full video of HRC's chat with HRC and the fawning introduction from Solmonese that preceded it:
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