January 14, 2008
Sully didn't know Lyndon Johnson…
Posted by: Chris
Are [the Clintons] really today's version of LBJ? In fact, unlike most others in this race, we have some direct evidence of how the Clintons, given the power of the White House, responded to the civil rights movement of their own time.
In the 1990s, we saw a burst of grass-roots activism, protest and rhetoric in defense of gay and lesbian equality. Out of the ashes of the AIDS epidemic, the gay rights movement rose like a phoenix. And the Clintons, seeing a fund-raising opportunity, reached out to some in the movement to finance their own campaign. Those donors trusted them. I wrote the TNR endorsement. But as soon as the gays had performed their role - financing the Clintons in power and supporting their campaign - the Clintons turned on us.
They dropped their promise to end the military's ban instantaneously and then presided over a doubling of the discharges of gay service members under the hideous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. They then used the other emerging civil rights issue - marriage equality - to triangulate against gay couples. They ran ads on Christian radio stations bragging about the Defense of Marriage Act that president Clinton eagerly signed.
And the only gay people they embraced were those willing to continue to trade money for access - and loyalty to the Clintons. Who helped them devise this anti-gay strategy? Dick Morris. Who recommended hiring him in the first place? Hillary Clinton.
Johnson risked his entire coalition on the issue of civil rights - a heroic act that still reverberates today. The Clintons wouldn't risk a smidgen of a percentage point in a Mark Penn poll for the duration of a news cycle. That's the difference.
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