September 02, 2008
Log Cabin's big McCain mistake
Posted by: Chris
UPDATES embedded and at the end of the post. Be sure to refresh your browser because I've added in quite a lot.
Is political insanity running rampant among Republicans these days?
First, John McCain threw good sense to the wind and tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though she is untested and astonishingly unqualified to be one septuagenarian heartbeat away from the presidency.
Now Log Cabin joins in the fall foolishness by going forward with an endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket without even waiting to ask, much less get answers, about the Alaska governor’s unknown views on a range of issues important to gay Americans. We only learned today, for example, that she opposes hate crime laws.
(UPDATE: LCR told Reuters it is taking "a wait and see approach with Gov. Palin about her views on gay issues." Huh? A bit late for that at this point.)
My understanding is that Mike DuHaime, the McCain campaign's political director, thanked Log Cabin from the podium today at the group's luncheon. That's encouraging, though let's see if there's any acknowledgment from the podium of the convention itself. Then again, why wouldn't the political director say thanks? The LCR nod helps confuse voters into believing McCain is a "compassionate conservative" on social issues, and he had to do next to nothing to get it.
(UPDATE: DuHaime told Congressional Quarterly the Log Cabin endorsement is "very helpful" because McCain is "running an inclusive campaign." I rest my case.)
It’s as if our gay Republican friends forgot the basic politics of the carrot and the stick. Now that McCain and Palin are happily chomping away on the endorsement carrot that Log Cabin could have kept dangling in front of them, all they’re left with is the stick. With apologies to my friends among their number, including my beloved co-blogger Kevin, gay Republicans aren’t exactly known for carrying a big stick.
With the Log Cabin endorsement in hand, the pressure is off Palin to commit either publicly or privately to what some accounts suggest is her “openness to anti-discrimination legislation.” If McCain is elected, inside support from Palin might be the best shot at avoiding a veto of workplace protection, since the “inclusive” senator from Arizona has voted against such legislation multiple times.
Cynics will no doubt see the rushed endorsement as a desperate ploy by Log Cabin to gain entree into the GOP’s “big tent,” a concept that gay and pro-choice Republicans have demonstrated a much greater commitment to than has the rest of the party.
Witness how McCain picked Palin after he was forced to bypass his first two choices, Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman, because social conservatives vowed a floor fight over their selection solely because Lieberman is pro-gay and both favor abortion rights.
This two-issue litmus test gives no credit to the eminent qualification and political advantages of both: Ridge, a former Homeland Security secretary, was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, and Lieberman, a longtime Connecticut senator, was Al Gore’s running mate and has broad appeal among independents, conservative Democrats and Jewish voters.
Yet these same conservatives are ecstatic about Palin despite her obvious weaknesses because she chose not to abort her fifth child after learning he’d be born with Down’s Syndrome. (It also mattered not that this special-needs child is still an infant and requires far greater attention than Palin could give as vice president or president.)
(UPDATE: After reading the early comment train to this post, I officially regret including the above parenthetical about Palin's infant son. Not because I think I was wrong, but because it's a total tangent from the rest of the post.)
Pete Kingma, Log Cabin’s board chair, defended the endorsement by claiming McCain enjoyed “overwhelming support” among members. Listening to the grassroots is a good thing, and no doubt some gay Republicans will conclude that non-gay issues outweigh McCain's opposition to every form of gay rights legislation ever introduced at any level of government. But a record like that ought to preclude official backing from a gay rights group like Log Cabin.
The national board's decision not to endorse President Bush four years ago divided Log Cabin's members and donors, even though he had pushed for a federal marriage amendment. Even so, a rushed decision to satisfy internal critics who insist on a litmus test based on party affiliation is exactly what Log Cabin has for years rightly criticized the Human Rights Campaign and gay Democrats of doing.
Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon insists McCain earned the nod by opposing Bush’s marriage amendment:
Sen. McCain showed courage by bucking his own party’s leadership and the president – twice voting against the amendment. He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans."
Sammon’s statement is most remarkable more for what it leaves out — for one, McCain’s opposition was entirely based on states’ rights, not support for legal recognition of same-sex couples. He even appeared in TV ads backing an amendment to his home state’s constitution that was so extreme – banning gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and even D.P. benefits – that Arizona voters rejected it back in 2006.
Sammon also neglects to mention that for awhile now McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment, and he pledged last month to back an amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
McCain’s motive is transparently political, considering that DOMA itself is profoundly “antithetical” to states’ rights, since it requires the federal government to completely disregard those states that recognize gay relationships, and allows sister states to do likewise.
It’s no surprise, then, that even though McCain controls an overwhelming majority of delegates, he went along with a Republican platform plank saying that to “preserve our children’s future,” the country needs a federal amendment to block marriage and “other arrangements equivalent to it,” meaning civil unions.
When McCain completes his inevitable, slow motion flip-flop, he will actually be worse on gay issues than President Bush.
(UPDATE: Sammon told Reuters that "Sen. McCain is no George Bush when it comes to gay issues. We are much more optimistic and enthusiastic about Sen. McCain." Why is that? President Bush has never said how he feels about non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. Despite veto threats from his staff, there was some indication he might have signed ENDA or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill if they had passed the Democratic Congress after certain limiting amendments.)
Log Cabin has made a big deal of its “productive” relationship with the GOP nominee's campaign, which they hope will translate into White House access if McCain is elected. Declining to endorse might risk that door slamming shut, but going along to get along sends the more dangerous signal that opposition on the issues doesn’t matter so long as Republicans answer the phone when Log Cabin calls.
NOTE: Sammon offered one other justification that's worth noting, praising McCain as "a different kind of Republican" from those who "use divisive social issues in an effort to win elections." That whopper is deserving of its own post, so stay tuned for that…
UPDATES: Sammon exaggerated McCain's record even more in an interview with CNN:
He’s a very inclusive Republican, a different type of Republican. At the same time we have honest disagreements on some issues.
"Very inclusive"? "Some issues"?! Does Sammon qualify as a "partisan hack" at this point, Kevin? ;)
And this in the same CNN report from Log Cabin member David Valkema, a director of a fine arts foundation in Chicago:
Exactly where does Valkema see that in McCain's decades-long record of opposing every form of gay rights legislation?
Have these good folks forgotten entirely how they gave George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt back in 2000 and got royally burned as a result? Do they realize how much more they are giving to McCain than he has or will give back to them?
Shame on Reuters, by the way, for reporting Sammon's praise for McCain "not inflaming passions around the issue of gay marriage," then noting "proposals to ban same-sex unions will be on the ballot … in California and Florida" and failing to mention McCain gave his public support for the California measure.
I've also yet to see a single MSM press report that notes how McCain has backed away from his opposition to the federal marriage amendment.
This from Roll Call:
The nod is significant not just because it allows the party a semblance of unity between its socially conservative and moderate wings but also because Log Cabin is announcing its decision earlier than it has in any recent presidential election. … Four years ago, the group made its non-endorsement [of Bush] by the end of September. In 2000 and 1996, the group endorsed Bush and former Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), respectively, after the GOP conventions.
With this history in mind, Log Cabin's early nod this time around is even less defensible -- especially since Sammon says they're taking "a wait and see" attitude toward Palin.
This important nugget courtesy of Marc Armbinder:
A CBS News / New York Times poll finds that 48% of Republican delegates support either gay marriage or civil unions for gay people.
With very encouraging numbers like that, Log Cabin ought to have raised the bar on what it takes to win their backing, especially considering McCain opposes absolutely any form of recognition, including largely symbolic domestic partnership registries by local governments and not-so-symbolic D.P. benefits by any level of government or public universities and the like.
Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for the Log Cabin Republicans, told Reuters yesterday in the video interview below that Sarah Palin's "priorities are our priorities," and "if being anti-gay was a priority for her, we would know about it."
This is the problem with rushing to endorse, Jimmy, since Palin actually indicated in a 2006 questionnaire to the conservative Eagle Forum that her No. 2 priority as governor would be "preserving the definition of 'marriage' as defined in our constitution." That definition, of course, was established by a 1998 ballot measure that amended the constitution to overturn a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court that excluding gay couples from marriage violated equal protection.
LaSilvia also credited Palin (in a mainstream press interview, no less) for her D.P. benefits veto without any mention of her reluctance to do so, her opposition to any benefits for same-sex couples or her support for yet another constitutional amendment to accomplish what the bill she vetoed legally could not.
Alas, the "fall foolishness" continues unabated…
Another video interview, this time Patrick Sammon on CNN. It's actully less bad than the other MSM interviews Log Cabin has done, but that's not saying much. Sammon corrects anchor Soledad O'Brien's suggestion that McCain supports a federal marriage amendment but (a) never answers her central question about why the nominee who controls the delegates allowed a platform plank to contradict his supposedly fervent opposition, and (b) never acknowledges how McCain has backed away from his opposition on the issue.
The big problem here, of course, is that Sammon does a huge disservice to gay rights by misrepresents McCain as a "much different Republican" than President Bush, when in fact he is worse than the president on issues besides the amendment (i.e., non-discrimination and hate crime laws, and Bush has spoken somewhat approvingly of civil unions, which McCain would ban, along with domestic partnerships and D.P. benefits by public entities). Hat tip: Rebecca Armendariz/Blade Blog
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