June 27, 2008
A place at McCain's table
Posted by: Chris
The recent "education" efforts by Log Cabin Republicans about John McCain's gay rights record appear to have paid off -- our friends over at Gay Patriot reported yesterday that LCR president Patrick Sammon recently met personally with the presumptive GOP nominee. The private meeting wasn't on McCain's public calendar -- much like a secret meeting he had with Hispanic Republicans -- but Sammon has confirmed it:
We’ve had a series of productive meetings with the campaign since Sen. McCain won the nomination—including a recent meeting with the Senator. We expect to have more conversations with the campaign as we head toward November.
It would be very easy to overplay the significance of this get-together. Bruce (Gay Patriot) portrays it as historic -- the first time since Bob Dole reversed himself and decided to accept a contribution from Log Cabin back during his 1996 run for the White House.
On the one hand, having a gay rights group with "a place at the table" in the McCain campaign is a good thing, so long as they don't give away the store just to be in the room. (That's three mixed metaphors in one sentence, for those of you counting at home.) With McCain's recent backpedaling on a federal marriage amendment -- the one gay-friendly position he's taken in decades of public life -- it's important for someone with access to help him hold steady in the face of pressure from social conservatives.
On the other hand, within the 24 hours after news of the meeting had leaked, the McCain folks were showing their true colors. First they told Politico's Ben Smith that it was pure coincidence that McCain and Sammon even shook hands:
A McCain aide emails that the Log Cabin Republicans that the meeting, about two weeks ago, wasn't a formal one. "They were in the office for a meeting with staff and Sen. McCain dropped by. It wouldn't have been on the schedule anyway."
Then later they "corrected" that impression:
The same McCain aide corrects: "The meeting with Log Cabin Republicans a few weeks ago was scheduled as a meeting with the senator. Our mistake. Like Sen. Obama, every single campaign-related meeting he has isn’t alerted to the press."
The immediate effect on the campaign appears minimal as well. Yesterday, the same day the meeting went public, proponents of the ballot measure that would amend California's constitution to overturn the landmark gay marriage ruling were bragging they'd received an email in support from the Arizona senator:
The ProtectMarriage.com campaign says it received an e-mail from McCain Thursday in which the Arizona senator expressed his support for the group's efforts "to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman."
McCain's position on the amendment isn't that surprising, given that he recorded TV ads in support of a much more draconian amendment in Arizona that would have banned gays from marrying, entering civil unions or domestic partnerships, and even prohibited public agencies, hospitals and universities in his home state from extending health and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
(That Arizona measure is the only gay marriage ban ever defeated at the ballot box; a more limited marriage amendment stalled this week in the Arizona Senate.)
Even still, McCain's willingness to reach out on the California ballot measure greatly undermines (some would say blows a nuclear-sized hole in) the effort by Log Cabin to use Republican Gov. Arnold Scwarzenegger as some sort of stand-in for McCain on the issue. Here's how LCR put it in their McCain education package:
When the California Supreme Court affirmed the state legislature in May 2008 and paved the way for marriage equality in the Golden State, Sen. McCain issued a statement saying that the people of California should decide the issue.
Sen. McCain's strongest California supporter, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), issued a statement immediately following the California Supreme Court's ruling saying: "I respect the Court's decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
It appears Rovian-Melhman politics hold greater sway at McCain campaign headquarters than the typical desire of presidential nominees to move to the political center once they've wrested their party's backing. That's not good news for Log Cabin's leaderships, which appears willing to stake its reputation on an "inside" relationship with McCain.
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