• Gay BlogAds

  • Gay News Watch

  • Chris Tweets

  • « HRC's 'historic' presidential forum | Main | Eternally-bitter, combative me »

    July 12, 2007

    Hopeful signs for HRC's 'forum'

    Posted by: Chris

    01mikegravel74003258_10 Signs of hope have emerged concerning the Democratic presidential candidates' "forum" co-sponored by Logo and the Human Rights Campaign.  In response to criticism, here and elsewhere, that the candidates were to "engage in conversation" with non-journalists Melissa Etheridge and HRC's Joe Solmonese, the debate sponsors are now on the hunt for a more legitimate moderators.

    According to Chris Johnson at HRC's Back Story blog:

    In addition to Joe Solmonese and Melissa Etheridge, there will be a moderator at the event.  We've got asks in to several top-tier journalists to serve as moderator and we'll have more updates on this as soon as possible.

    Four years ago, HRC brought in Sam Donaldson from ABC News to quiz seven of nine Democrats then running for president. Lou Chibbaro's report for the Washington Blade gives a taste for how important Donaldson was to the success of  the July 2003 event:

    Sam Donaldson, the ABC News senior correspondent and moderator of the forum,   set the tone when he opened the questioning by asking presidential candidate   and U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), “You support civil unions but   you do not support gay marriage. Why not?”

    Kerry responded by saying he supports the full legal and economic rights   and benefits of marriage for same-sex couples. He appeared to struggle with   an     explanation of why he believes civil unions would be on par with marriage   when Donaldson interrupted him.

    “If you’re implying there’s no distinction between civil   unions and marriage, then why not support marriage?” Donaldson said. “What’s   the distinction, senator?”

    “The distinction is in the body of America that culturally, historically   and religiously views marriage very differently,” Kerry said. “Marriage   is viewed as a union between men and women, and that is a historical and cultural   view that I believe. And that’s my position.”

    Kerry’s response was greeted with loud hisses from many in the audience

    Sam_donaldson_jpg Can anyone imagine a lesbian rocker (Etheridge) or Democratic political hack (Solmonese) similarly pressing Hillary and company? In fact, Donaldson made marriage the focus of the event:

    Donaldson said he decided to devote his questioning to just two issues: gay   marriage versus civil unions and gays in the military. He noted that, based   on his review of the candidates’ positions, he saw essentially no significant   difference among them on their support for gay civil rights. Marriage was the   one area, Donaldson said, where disagreement existed.

    This year's moderator ought to take a similar approach, honing in on federal government recognition for gay relationships, because that's the only area where the Democrats really differ. A free-flowing debate on that issue, rather even than marriage, would serve far greater ends than an endless regurgitation of support on ENDA and hate crimes.

    Of course, even a discussion on those bills would be useful if it focused on what each candidate what do as president to actually enact the legislation, which have languished for more than a decade despite bipartisan majority support in and out of Congress, during times of Democratic and Republican control on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    More good news is that we're up to four confirmed candidates (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards) and one rumored confirmation (Chris Dodd, who was originally reported to have a conflict). No word yet on Biden or, much more importantly, Bill Richardson, who has gone a bit underground since my site Gay News Watch reported on Tuesday about his "maricón" moment a year ago on the Don Imus show.

    As I've written before, Richardson has the strongest gay rights record and should reach out to the HRC-Logo event as an opportunity to (better) explain the Imus slip and to distinguish his record of results vs. rhetoric from the other candidates in the race.

    One Democrat who won't be part of the debate is former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who wasn't invited. As he is on most topics, Gravel is steaming mad in his best grumpy-old-man style: 

    Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn't invite me is that I'm too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians. HRC simply bowed to the star factor.

    It certainly wouldn't be the first time HRC put protecting Hillary and Democrats generally at a higher priority than advancing the gay rights movement.  Still, HRC insists Gravel wasn't singled out:

    Candidates we invited had to have raised $100,000.  … We wanted to make sure that with the limited time we had to present this forum, our community got to hear from candidates who could actually be president.

    Of course, HRC and Logo knew at the time they came up with the $100,000 cutoff that only Gravel of the eight Democrats wouldn't qualify. And if the standard is really to limit the "forum" to "candidates who could actually be president," then what in heaven's name is Dennis Kucinich doing on the invite list?

    The same standard would have knocked Kucinich, Carol Moseley-Braun and Rev. Al Sharpton out of the 2003 forum sponsored by HRC, but they were all there. Of course excluding them would have been unthinkable because (a) they were the only three candidates who supported gay marriage and (b) excluding Braun and Sharpton would have meant an all-white debate.

    Even given all this hypocrisy, I'm not bothered by the decision to exclude Gravel. Having to hear from him and Kucinich has been a distraction during the Democratic debates to date. They lack support in dollars and the polls, and they haven't mounted legitimate candidacies.

    Still, given how much HRC is governed by money, I was amused by one Netroots response. The bitter queens over at Queerty, apparently starstruck that Gravel returns their phone calls, have suggested their fellow angry queens donate to Gravel's campaign in the hope of helping him over the $100k limit. I somehow doubt the average salary at Starbucks or The Gap salary leaves enough pocket change to do the trick.

    Click here for a complete news summary of the presidential race, compiled by Gay News Watch.



    TrackBack URL for this entry:


    1. Tim C on Jul 13, 2007 2:26:14 PM:

      I hope Richardson is there. I wonder if they bothered to invite him. In spite of the little slip on Imus, I still support him over Obama or Hillary. I prefer to look at his career than one 10 minute radio show appearance.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 13, 2007 2:40:34 PM:

      I hope he accepts as well, and I hope someone asks him about the Imus exchange if he does (no guarantee the way it's set up). For me, it's not the Imus appearance that bothers so much as his response, which is only getting worse. In an AP interview yesterday, he said the remark was "playful" while repeating he's sorry "if he offended anybody." Well he's known for more than a year that he did, so why still use the dismissive qualifier?

      Worse yet, he once again suggested, directly, that rival campaigns were responsible for the story. That's a lie and he knows that it is. If he's willing to dissemble and shoot the messenger on something like this, how would he respond as president on bigger issues of war and peace and civil rights.

      At this point, I question his judgment and fitness.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

    © Citizen Crain - All Rights Reserved | Design by E.Webscapes Design Studio | Powered by: TypePad