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  • January 14, 2009

    Huckabee the huckster on homosexuality

    Posted by: Chris

    Mikehuckabeebus As much as Mike Huckabee wants voters to believe he is the anti-Mitt Romney -- sticking to his guns rather than shifting with the political winds -- the former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate is all over the map on homosexuality.

    • As a Senate candidate in 1992, Huck said homosexuals "pose a dangerous public health threat" and called for "quarantining" people with AIDS.
    • In a book he wrote in 1998, Huckabee called homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle" linked to "pedophilia, sadomasochism and necrophilia"
    • In a "Meet the Press" interview as a presidential candidate in December 2007, Huckabee backed away from those earlier comments and was even noncommittal on the origins of homosexuality: "I don't know whether people are born that way.  People who are gay say that they're born that way.  But one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice.  We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behavior."
    • In a "Daily Show" appearance last month, Huck seemed to soften his views somewhat, even as he defended his opposition to gay marriage.

    Now in an interview with Esquire, Huckabee offers up a new analogy to explain his views about our lives, and the result will be no less offensive to millions of gay Americans, not to mention those who know and care about us.

    Huckabee says he doesn't know if homosexuality is inborn, but he believes you can control the behavior. He compares homosexuality to obesity or alcoholism: "Some people have a predisposition to alcoholism. Does that mean they're not responsible for getting drunk? No."

    The analogy is ridiculous of course, since love and sex are basic human desires and needs, unlike the desire for alcohol, and he does not advocate that we simply curb our desire for sex, as the obese must do with food. (P.S. Has anyone else noticed that Huck is looking quite a bit chubbier these days?)

    So long as GOP presidential hopefuls like Huckabee continue to peddle backward thinking like this  that has been rejected by the majority of Americans, they are sure to turn off the very moderates they need to return to power.

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    March 01, 2008

    History according to Huckabee

    Posted by: Chris

    Huckabee04_2 This is how former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee explains his support for constitutional amendments banning states from marrying gay couples or protecting a woman's right to choose:

    "It's the logic of the Civil War," Huckabee said, referring to the idea of slavery on Fox News Sunday on Nov. 18 of last year. "If morality is the point here, and if it's right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can't have 50 different versions of what's right and what's wrong."

    So this is a Southern governor's take-away lesson from the "War of Northern Aggression"? The Emancipation Proclamation was the imposition of Northern morality on a resistant South.

    It was not, of course, the federal government insisting on basic equality and individual rights, even in a resistant South that had sought to discriminate on the basis of the regional majority's moral and religious beliefs.

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    February 13, 2008

    Will he or won't he?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Mccainn_2We are at a stage in the Republican nomination process where symbolism, code language, and posturing matter more than almost anything else.  It's a tentative, tension-filled moment where the various constituencies in the GOP begin biting and angling for place and dominance as the ranks begin to consolidate behind a presumptive nominee.

    With any run-of-the-mill GOP nominee-in-waiting, there would be a whole lot of calculated hugging, genuflecting, back-slapping in order to "unite the party".  It can sometimes lead to craven promises, nearly always to the religious right, which morally stain the Republican Party's march forward in the eyes of the rest of us.  The question now remains - with a candidate as unusual as John McCain, who is openly reviled by the core religious right and its fanatical amen-corners on talk radio, and the pressure of an almost suicide-mission campaign from the right by Mike Huckabee in state after state, will John McCain kneel down, too?

    It's usually been a kind of an awful display of politics over principle, one which anyone who seeks a power base of any size in the GOP must angle toward participating in.  It's often said that Republicans are from Mars, and Democrats are from Venus - and when it comes to inter-party politics, that's definitely the case.  The push-pull of this moment in the GOP campaign is classic, and everyone who wants to be a player has to, well, play.

    As a GOP organization, Log Cabin Republicans did so in 1996 and 2000 - two election campaigns in which I played a senior staff role.  The group made a public decision from the outset in both cases to create leverage by positioning itself from the beginning to have some eventual say at this same tentative moment of "party unity" - not to mention a possible role in an eventual administration. 

    With Bob Dole in 1996, we were breaking new ground.  And it was quite an adventure from start (a returned campaign check and the resulting international media furor) to finish (a request for our endorsement, a convention free of anti-gay rhetoric, a pledge to maintain non-discrimination policies in federal employment). 

    In 2000, we were courted by the McCain campaign, which had several openly gay Republicans in its leadership doing the wooing along with the candidate himself, and while we took actions to remind Karl Rove that his political dalliances with anti-gay groups who demanded all sorts of promises would not be overlooked by us, and there would be pain inflicted on the Bush campaign if it even whispered anti-gay rhetoric on the stump. 

    McCain's early trouncing of Bush in some primaries opened up that leverage, and we smacked Bush with negative radio ads ahead of the 2000 Super Tuesday to hit back for his behavior in South Carolina.  The result was to force Bush to hold the first-ever meeting with a group of openly-gay Republicans -- albeit ones that Karl Rove chose in order to snub LCR's leadership.  But that didn't matter.  We got our leverage, and we used it.  Other 'firsts' resulted -- the first openly-gay national AIDS director, the first federal prosecution of an anti-gay murder as a hate crime, and the first real global AIDS initiative.  Small potatoes for some, sure.  But progress for the GOP circa 2001-2002.  It was enough to infuriate leading religious right organizations, who in 2001 launched an effort to "expose" the "gay Republican agenda" at work inside the Bush White House (and I was named personally as a conspirator in some reports).

    The point of recalling all this is not to extol the virtues of Bob Dole or George W. Bush by any means; far from it.  It's a very different world in 2008, and as it should be, the bar is far higher for both parties than it was then.  But it's to point out how leverage is the name of the game in politics, and how power is gained or lost inside the GOP through leverage.  And why this is a very tense moment for gay observers of the McCain campaign, because of the leverage trying to be exerted on him now by some of the gay community's biggest enemies in politics.  Will he be different?  Will he fight off the religious right kitchen-sink that is currently flying at his head?

    Chris asked very understandably for someone to explain what the attraction is for John McCain among some gays.  It's not easy to explain in sound bites.  McCain does represent a milestone in the journey that gays have made with the Republican Party, either on the inside or on the outside.  Because he will be the nominee, we will have a presidential contest in which neither candidate supports the Federal Marriage Amendment.  True, neither will support gay marriage; indeed both will have been on record opposing it.  But we should all agree that this is still progress.

    If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she will carry with her some nice rhetoric and very little substance on gay issues.  Obama is a very new product, and the radioactive wattage of his rhetoric is all we really have on him.  McCain has a long record, and it contains both legislative and political memories of all types. 

    He stood with gay Republicans against the ugly tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and the early pandering by the 2000 Bush campaign to anti-gay groups.  He voted against the FMA in the Senate, and spoke against it on the Senate floor, but he also voted for DOMA, against ENDA, supports "don't ask, don't tell" and backed the Arizona anti-gay marriage referendum (but so did John Kerry back such a measure in 2004).   

    He led the fight with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR) in 1996 to repeal the repulsive Dornan Amendment, which sought to create witchhunts to drive soldiers out of the military who tested HIV positive after enlistment and cut off all their benefits.  I remember meeting with him that year in the Senate and seeing the blood in his eyes over how unfair it was as he laid out their strategy for getting the votes to repeal it.  And when I raised "don't ask, don't tell" in the same conversation, and again when it was raised in our meeting with him as a presidential candidate in 2000, he had the same political (almost Hillaryesque) answer: "When General Colin Powell says it's time to repeal it, we can do it."   

    Conviction, politics, bravery, skittishness -- all rolled up in one.  It was good from a conservative Republican in 1996 and 2000; it's frustrating today coming from anyone wanting to be President, even if it's an improvement over the last guy who ran.

    He would certainly appoint openly gay people in a McCain Administration, and probably in some senior positions should the right people come along.  I have no doubt about that.  And he would get his back up and defend them against even a whisper of anger from the (shrinking) GOP minority in the Congress over their qualifications.  But I don't know if he'll ever be with us on ENDA.  I'd like to think he will be.  But that's not enough for most people to make a decision in November, if that's their big issue. 

    He'll never be with us on marriage, though.  There aren't enough years left in life for that kind of conversion, I'm afraid, as much as I like him personally.  At least he'll never lie to us in the face about it, like many Democrats.  But how good is that a reason to vote for him?  I guess it depends on his opponent, who will also oppose gay marriage.  Here's where it gets muddy, yet again.

    So, in that melange of answers and ruminations, you see where McCain fits into the bigger picture for some gays.  And you also see how tenuous this moment is for those who hope he will continue to be "different", albeit imperfect, in terms of Republican nominees.  He already went to Liberty University a long time ago, and much like he did at CPAC last week, he didn't give them anything other than very polite attention and a restatement that he is who he is, take him or leave him. 

    If McCain faces down the pressure of Huckabee's challenge and the ravings of the talk radio set, and refuses to kneel in any way to that pressure, then we shift our focus to the GOP convention in St. Paul and beyond, and begin to wonder what a Clinton or Obama challenge would bring out in John McCain next fall.  And if he wins the presidency, whether we voted for him or not, what will it mean for the Republican Party that a tough man stood up to our community's biggest political enemies, told them to go to hell, won the nomination, led the party to victory and never regretted it for a moment? It could finally embolden gay rights supporters in the GOP to get off their asses, come out of hiding (and the closet) and do the right thing in abundance once and for all.

    For many of us who look at the U.S. political spectrum far beyond the meetings of a few gay Democratic clubs in a handful of major cities, it would be a gigantic step forward for the United States.  And there would be a duty for Log Cabin Republicans to build leverage over the McCain Administration and to use it for the right ends -- legislative and policy outcomes that we want as a community, and progress that we can measure and hold up to the next president and the next.

    If you don't get it, well, sorry.  That's just the way it is on Mars.

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    February 01, 2008

    For gay GOPers - now what?

    Posted by: Kevin

    070517_lincoln_memorial_hmed_3phm_3 With the exit of Rudy Giuliani, who by any reasonable account was the biggest gay rights supporter to ever have a decent shot at the GOP nomination for president, a lot of air has come out of the balloon for gay Republicans this cycle.  What comes next is still a very open question.

    Some things are very clear.  The vast majority of gay Republicans I know were either declared or undeclared Giuliani supporters, many of them registered on his delegate slates to the GOP convention.  That was logical.  He was a Republican worth fighting for in the gay community for many years.  I backed his mayoral campaigns in 1993 and 1997, and I was lucky enough to speak with him a few times during my time on staff at Log Cabin Republicans.  At an event after the 1997 election, I saw him get booed at a high school in Queens because he had proposed an expansive domestic partnership law for same-sex couples after the election.  He didn't blink, and he lectured the hecklers about respect for people who are different, and why it made not only New York a great city, but America a great country.   I marched with him down Fifth Avenue on many a Gay Pride Day.  I never dreamed he'd run for president.  And just from the level of vitriol and attacks the partisan New York gay Democratic hacks stirred up from the moment he announced (if you understand New York City politics at all), you can be sure Rudy was indeed a stand-out Republican on our issues.

    Right off, as the campaign got serious, he started hedging on some important things.  It was very disappointing.  And it wasn't excusable.  Had his primary election strategy succeeded (i.e. had John McCain vanished early), he would have had to answer to the gay community, not the least of whom his many, many gay supporters, for his equivocations.  I was betting that he would come clean and be with us forthrightly before November.  But that's in the what-if category now.

    The other sure thing is that Mitt Romney must be stopped.  He is, embodied in one man, everything that is reprehensible and destructive inside the Republican Party of which I am a member.  Romney's lies and flip-flops on gay issues run the gamut so widely that he literally should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most heinous backtracking on more gay issues than any other politician in history.  But it goes beyond our community.  Mitt Romney has shown that he is not only incompetent as a potential commander-in-chief (see his laughable answers in the last debate),  but he is willing to say or do anything to get ahead politically, and the combination of the two at this moment in time could lead to the worst imaginable consequences for the world.  Romney in the White House is just a dangerous, frightening concept to imagine.

    Mike Huckabee is already a footnote in the race, and given the fact that he depended on a lot of rabidly anti-gay supporters to even peak his head out in this election it would be ridiculous to think we could count on him to be rational on gay issues.  His last minute, pre-Mega Tuesday fumbling to sound tolerant in San Francisco is more a sign of him being lost on the road to oblivion than anything else.

    And then there is John McCain.  He's a man I also supported very strongly in 2000 before he was knocked out of the race.  I also got to talk to him on occasion in my old career, and the balls he showed to Karl Rove, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell alone in the 2000 campaign will always make me proud to call him a friend.  The fact that many on the anti-gay right have said they hate him so much they'd vote for Hillary instead of him, frankly, is because his contempt for their politics is real.  But it isn't 2000 anymore.  And McCain is not with us on a lot of issues, even if he's with us gay Republicans on the fight against a common enemy.  In the end, the enemy-of-my-enemy adage just doesn't cut it anymore.  It's not good for HRC's boot-licking of the Democratic Party, or to let the Clinton Borg hack-o-rama off the hook for their uselessness.  So it can't be the reason for voting for McCain for president in November either.  He's going to have to do more.

    It's only February, yes.  But stay tuned.  If you haven't noticed, gay Republicans don't fit neatly into any box, despite the relentless trashing that we get from a few trolling gay lefties on the internet.  We're also not represented by a wide measure by friends of mine like Bruce Carroll, founder of GayPatriot, who despite my strong affection for him as a longtime friend, sometimes scares me with the intensity of his devotion to leaders who are unmistakably and unabashedly unreachable on whether gays should have any equality under the law now or ever.

    The 2008 election has the chance of being a real party-bender of major proportions, depending on who emerges from the ashes of the primaries.  With the gays, too.  I'm not close to deciding who'd I'd want in November myself.  But if the gay blogosphere is any indicator, don't be surprised if a surprising number of other gay Republicans decide to make history and get behind a man who (I must confess) has inspired many of us more profoundly than we expected, and has us all considering our options more widely than we'd ever considered before. 

    And I'm not talking about Mike Bloomberg.

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    Huckabee the gay rights moderate?

    Posted by: Chris

    Huckabee Wasn't it Mike Huckabee who advocated quarantining people with AIDS and keeping gays out of the military because homosexuality presents a "dangerous threat to public health"? That Huckabee was certainly not on display campaigning in San Francisco this week, according to the New York Sun.

    At a news conference, Mr. Huckabee said he opposed discrimination against gays in the workplace. "I don't think people should be hired or fired on that basis. There are people who have worked in the governor's office for me who were gay, and it was never an issue," he said.

    However, when asked whether he would support a federal law to ban discrimination against homosexuals, the former Arkansas governor equivocated. "I'd have to study that to find out, are there instances where people are being fired for that express reason? If there is, then that would have to be, certainly, examined," he said.

    That's better than John McCain, who has said that opposes discrimination against gays is "un-American" and yet also opposes any civil rights laws that would actually protect against it. Mitt Romney favored workplace discrimination laws in the past but it's unlikely he does now, after being born again as an anti-gay evangelical.

    The Sun story otherwise documents how most gay Republicans, who favored gay rights moderate Rudy Giuliani, are now expected to flock to McCain. That's likely, but McCain is deserving only if measured by the low bar set by George Bush, since the only practical difference is McCain's federalism-based opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    While it's safe to say that almost no disillusioned gay Giuliani backers are giving Hillary Clinton a second look, I've heard more than a few gay Republians say that Barack Obama, rather than McCain, was their likely second choice.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 For related stories and breaking news, click or bookmark: 


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    January 22, 2008

    Somebody cue Mike Huckabee

    Posted by: Chris

    Mikehuckabeebeforeafterpic Check out the level of cynicism in a new statement from Matt Barber and the anti-gay group Concerned Women for America, gleefully piggybacking on the media hysteria surrounding MRSA staph infections:

    Because Concerned Women for America (CWA) cares deeply for the health and well being of all Americans, CWA is sending letters inviting the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD and Lambda Legal to put aside profound ideological differences with CWA — for the sake of the lives and health of their members — and to call for commonsense steps to help curb the spread of a potentially deadly strain of Staph infection. …

    "We're asking HRC and other groups to denounce, through word and deed, 'sex with multiple partners,' 'group sex [parties]' and to actively promote the notion that it is never okay to 'use methamphetamine and other illicit drugs,'" said Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues.

    This is, of course, the same Matt Barber who just days ago issued a statement about MRSA that took an entirely different tone:

    The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease. In recent years we have seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves ‘gay.’…

    Well, now the dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population. It’s not only frightening, it’s infuriating.

    Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, ‘No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.’

    Never mind that MRSA can be spread through any kind of direct skin contact, not simply sexual contact (gay or otherwise), and never mind that this drug-resistant strain of staph had already infected women, children and heterosexual males in hospitals, sports facilities and other environments before it was ever reported among gay men.

    It's easy to dismiss Barber and the CWA since their patronizing, cynical tone ultimately does their cause more harm than good. But the media ought to at least be asking GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee what he thinks about what Barber and the CWA are saying.

    It was Huckabee, after all, who called in 1992 for gay men to be quarantined because they presented a "dangerous public health threat," even though it was broadly accepted years earlier that HIV/AIDS couldn't be spread through casual contact. Now an organization from within the bowls of his evangelical base is once again perpetrating the myth that we are infectious and dangerous and the infection can, in fact, be spread through non-sexual contact.

    What does Huckabee think we should do now?


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    Economic Panic: Good or Bad for Gays?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Panic6tf_2 This morning, there is a palpable sense of panic across all the world's financial markets.  It can't be ignored by anyone.  Certainly, if you're an investor, a homeowner or you own a business, it's likely you're already hurting.  But from a purely political sense, is the economic crisis good or bad for gay issues in this election season?  Does it factor in at all?

    Strangely enough, at first glance seems that economic downturns have been good for gays in recent election campaigns, while booming economic times have been largely bad.

    It's conventional wisdom that when people are worried about their jobs or their pocketbooks, they don't really want to hear about homosexuals, abortions or the ACLU.  Blaming gays or abortionists for the loss of one's job just doesn't wash, but someone who comes across as the one who cares the most about your job loss will get room to be nice to other people, even the gays.  In boom times, when the average voter is content and fairly disinterested in voting, both sides tend to throw cultural bombs to turn out their bases in a zero-sum game.  That's when the pitchforks tend to come out for us.

    The 1992 presidential campaign was seminal for gay rights as a national campaign issue, at least where gays were at once condemned and courted.  The U.S. economy was lurching into a recession as the primaries began that year, which launched the populist campaign of Pat Buchanan through his crushing defeat of incumbent President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire.  Polling showed that Buchanan's harsh, angry economic message pitched to those most harmed by the economic downturn helped fuel his victory there, and built a national sense of resentment against Bush.  However, when that message expanded into lurid far right cultural attacks on gays, 'feminists', immigrants and pro-choice voters, it ran out of steam with the general public.  The momentum of Buchanan's insurgency culminated at the horrendously anti-gay 1992 Republican National Convention, which the GOP never recovered from. 

    As the economy worsened, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot seized the middle ground and captured the public's concern with economic visions for change.  Clinton ultimately connected with the middle on their economic fears ("it's the economy, stupid"), which gave him room to make an unprecedented play for gays, making a list of promises unheard of by a leading presidential candidate in history.  By all accounts, Clinton won that election on the basis of earning the trust of a nation worried about its wallet.  The gays, in political terms, won along with him.

    From March 2000 to October 2002, the dot-com crash shook the world economy.  It didn't have the same impact on average Americans the way the '92 recession did (or the current mortgage meltdown has), but it hit dynamic tech sectors very hard and raised fears about the long-term solvency of Social Security as the baby boom generation began to age.  There was a budget surplus and plenty of room for the nation to maneuver.  In the end, both sides were faced with making the argument as to who was better at making those maneuvers against the looming end to good economic times. 

    It boiled down to "who do you trust?" and "who is the better leader?", factors that see-sawed all year between the two.  And it devolved into a war over the favor of independent voters.  This meant both Al Gore and George W. Bush had to blur and bland-out anything that independents would view as "sharp edges." 

    Gore boldly chose conservative (then-) Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate.  Bush, the "compassionate conservative", took hits nationally for going too far to the right in South Carolina in his struggle to eliminate insurgent Senator John McCain; weeks later, Bush met with gay Republicans and said he was "a better person" for it.  Both parties had openly gay speakers at their conventions in prime time (Elizabeth Birch for the Democrats, Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) for the GOP).  Meanwhile, an anti-gay third-party campaign by a diminished Pat Buchanan fell completely flat.

    Critics will argue that neither the 1992 or 2000 elections resulted in a sea-change of positive federal legislation for gay Americans.  In fact, the Clinton presidency brought openly gay appointments, the first White House gay liaison (who was straight), pride day proclamations and favorable speeches, but it also brought "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.  Bush's presidency brought the first (two) openly gay national AIDS directors at the White House, a historic global program to fight HIV/AIDS, the first federal anti-gay hate crimes prosecution case (which was later dropped for lack of evidence), as well as its own smaller list of gay appointees.   But Bush's presidency also launched the Federal Marriage Amendment to the top of the agenda, creating a cataclysmic split with gay Republicans and setting off an ugly campaign of "outing" closeted gays that (so far has) ended the political careers of two Members of Congress and soon a U.S. Senator.  Both presidents also lost majorities in Congress they enjoyed early in their terms.

    So what might the current economic crisis do for gays?  Follow the jump for more…

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    January 11, 2008

    Those over-compensating Republicans

    Posted by: Chris

    Gopdebatesc Gloria Steinem was right about one thing. The Republicans running for president, like the one who's already got the job, seem obsessed with proving their masculinity. Take these cartoonish examples of bravado from last night's GOP debate in South Carolina, made during discussion over the recent confrontation between U.S. and Iranian naval vessels:

    I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing."

    -- Fred Thompson

    "I think we need to make it very clear, not just to the Iranians, but to anybody, that if you think you’re going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle. Be prepared, first, to put your sights on the American vessel. And then be prepared that the next things you see will be the gates of Hell, because that is exactly what you will see after that."

    -- Mike Huckabee

    Thompson's remark is at least clever, but it's also completely inappropriate for the context and promises a presidency that would be a boon for Islamic extremists while finishing off what remaining credibility we have with moderates and our friends.

    I never thought I would see the day when Democrats almost uniformly give greater comfort and security than Republicans on international relations and war. Congratulations, neo-conservatives. It's an impressive feat.

    (Photo by via Washington Post/Mary Ann Chastain/AP)

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    January 07, 2008

    Huckabee gets the Borat treatment

    Posted by: Chris

    Only it was at the hands of a queer Canadian…

    Making the rounds on the Net is a vintage video of Mike Huckabee when, as governor of Arkansas, he was duped by gay Canadian broadcaster Rick Mercer into congratulating our neighbors to the north on their "national igloo."

    Via Towleroad.

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    Electing a president, not a preacher

    Posted by: Chris

    Huckabeepoints Mike Huckabee surprised everyone by winning in Iowa so convincingly last week. The Southern Baptist preacher turned out evangelical Christians and gave a shellacking to the buttoned-down businessman and the GOP’s establishment candidates.

    If nothing else, the former Arkansas governor and his choir of evangelical caucus-goers sent a clear message that the social conservative wing of the Republican Party was alive and well and not happy with the national frontrunners -- who are either too moderate or converted too late for their liking.

    It’s easy for to dismiss Huckabee with a chuckle as a fringe candidate, what with his outrageous views on quarantining AIDS patients and the “dangerous public health threat” of homosexuality. Even his more recent pronouncements, comparing gay people to thieves and worse and condemning our “aberrant lifestyle,” sound like the type of political sermonizing that died off years before Jerry Falwell finally kicked the bucket.

    The actual threat represented by Huckabee isn’t that great, since the condensed primary calendar favors candidates with more money and a broader base of support. Even if somehow he won the Republican nomination, polls show any of the leading Democrats would wipe the floor with him in the general election.

    Still his appeal is notable, not just for what it says about the state of things in the Republican Party, but also for how lesbian and gay voters react to it in response.

    Are we as bad as those evangelical Iowans, expecting our own politicians to act like our generals in the Culture War? Does that mean we’re still fighting on the terms dictated to us by the “religious right”? Or are we confident enough finally to refuse to sink to their level?

    Last year, President Bush’s Joint Chiefs chairman said that gays shouldn’t serve openly in the military because homosexuality is “immoral.” Gay Americans were infuriated with Peter Pace, the Army general, but we were also furious when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama initially declined to say whether they agreed with Pace’s position on our moral status.

    When both Democrats backtracked, they were essential sinking to Pace’s level – albeit on our side of the divide – and figuratively patted us on our heads, reassuring us that our relationships are moral in their eyes. Why do we still need to hear that, especially when it suggests our supposed “morality” is actually relevant in deciding whether gays belong serving openly in the armed forces?

    Hillary Clinton, in particular, fell right into Pace’s trap – insisting we should rely on the Uniform Code of Military Justice to determine “immoral conduct” from our soldiers and sailors. But the UCMJ still outlaws sodomy, years after the Supreme Court struck down similar state laws. It’s really not the government’s business who we sleep with, and that includes our soldiers, unless it has a direct and measurable impact on combat readiness.

    A similar morality play unfolded last fall when Obama caught flak for not rescinding an invitation his campaign extended to several black Gospel acts, including Grammy winner Donnie McClurkin, who claims the Lord delivered him from homosexuality.

    Obama’s refusal enraged gay bloggers and activists, who demanded that he exclude from any public role in his campaign anyone who views us as immoral or our “lifestyle” as something to be delivered from. But considering Obama’s gay rights record is practically perfect, why do we care that his message of “unity” actually convinces some of our cultural enemies to support him for president?

    If anything, our complaint should have been with Obama’s use of gospel acts at all to promote his candidacy, considering it’s the kind of tactic we would rightly deride when the Huckabees of the world employ it.

    Much of the problem stems from our understandable desire to expect tit from friends when we get tat from our foes. Underneath that, however, we’re no doubt still looking for that approval from society we didn’t get at home, at school and certainly at church.

    If we could only resist the temptation to fight the right on their own terms, and instead insist that their argument has no place at all in politics, we would demonstrate a remarkable level of maturity as a movement. We would also be reaching out to Americans still in the “mushy middle” on the morality of homosexuality but who can relate to being judged by a finger-pointing preacher – especially one running for president.

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    January 03, 2008

    The best and the worst in Iowa

    Posted by: Chris

    Obama What a night in Iowa! From a gay voter's perspective, it couldn't have gone better. Barack Obama, the best candidate for gay rights won the Democratic caucus vote, and by a larger-than-expected margin.

    On the Republican side, the worst candidate on gay rights issues, Mike Huckabee, pulled out his own surprise victory by a surprisingly large margin. Why is that good for gays? For one thing, his victory was a crushing blow to Mitt Romney, who jettisoned a moderate record on gay and abortion rights to reinvent himself as a social conservative. If Romney had been successful, it would only further seduce moderate Republicans -- like nominal national frontrunner Rudy Giuliani -- to follow him to the right.

    Huckabee's victory at Romney's expense most benefits Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, since Huckabee isn't competitive in New Hampshire and isn't given much of a chance outside the evangelical strongholds of the Midwest and South. As noted, Giuliani has wavered on his own past gay rights support, declaring now isn't the time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and civil unions are too close to marriage -- to mention just two issues. But he is still historically far superior on gay rights than any previous Republican with a solid shot at the GOP nomination.

    The same can't be said for McCain, who has been consistently on the wrong side of every major gay rights issue, although he did endear himself to gays when he called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" during his fight against George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination eight years ago. That independence -- putting aside his late butt-kissing of the late Rev. Falwell -- along with his opposition to a federal marriage amendment, make him better than most of the rest of the GOP.

    But the big victory of the night goes to Obama, who now heads to New Hampshire already in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, and with a massive wave of momentum from a victory that will be a huge international story for the next week. Hillary may have given her Iowa concession speech at a podium labeled "Ready for Change," but Iowa voters -- in unprecedented numbers -- saw her as more of the same.

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    December 13, 2007

    Huckabee doesn't heart gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Huckabeearkansas Mike Huckabee's surge to the top of GOP polls in Iowa and nationwide has brought the expected scrutiny of his record and, ironically for a candidate courting social conservatives, it is on those same issues that he is withering a bit in the spotlight.

    First came Huckabee's outrageous statement from his 1992 campaign for U.S. Senate in support of quarantining people with AIDS.

    "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague," Huckabee wrote.

    "It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

    Advocating quarantine would have been outlandish enough in 1982, when HIV first emerged, but it was flat-earth territory to do so a full decade later -- six years after Surgeon General C. Everett Koop confirmed the already accepted view that casual contact could not spread the virus.

    Huckabee's citation to the Kimberly Bergalis drama is a red herring; even if health care workers with HIV posed a risk, and it turns out they did not if they followed simple protocol, his support for "isolating plague carriers" was not limited to those in medicine.

    Given the opportunity last week to distance himself from those views, Huckabee made clear that he's more concerned with being seen as a Mitt Romney flip-flopper than with alienating moderates. At a news conference, he said:

    “The one thing I feel like is important to note is that you stick by what you said,” said Huckabee. “I’m not going to go around changing my opinion on everything.” …

    Contesting those who say it was “common knowledge” in 1992 that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact, Huckabee said the nation was in “real panic” after the case of a patient contracted the disease from a dentist.

    What's most striking is that Huckabee acknowledges the "panic" surrounding the AIDS virus but rather than clarifying how he didn't fall victim to it, he essentially advocates it as valid justification for public policy, even when the science was clearly to the contrary.

    There's also no question, of course, that Huckabee's ridiculously harsh view about AIDS was informed by general animus toward gays, since he also said in that 1992 questionnaire, "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

    As off-the-wall as Huckabee's views may sound, they were within the mainstream among Arkansas conservatives at the time. I know because I come from a family of conservative Arkansas Republicans. Born and raised in Little Rock and just across the river in Memphis, I regularly debated a very intelligent uncle over whether AIDS could be spread by mosquitoes and whether it was, as Billy Graham had said, God's retribution against homosexuals. I was no bleeding heart, but my views were nonetheless seconded by no one.

    Huckabee's refusal to budge from his 1992 views on AIDS, while endearing him to hard-core conservatives like my kin, risks alienating not just moderates but Republicans who want to nominate someone who is electable. Worse yet, in avoiding at all costs appearing like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, who have flip-flopped the other direction on social issues, Huckabee invites an even more damaging comparison: to the current occupant of the White House.

    Whatever currency he gains with conservatives by rewriting the science of AIDS and sticking to inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric, he undermines his credibility with Americans -- including many Republicans -- who want a president who will unite the country and not stick stubbornly to views even when all evidence is to the contrary.

    We've seen what happens when a president buys into public panic -- in Bush's case about terrorism and "weapons of mass destruction" -- ignoring the data and the qualifiers put on the most dire warnings from experts. The last thing Americans want -- or need -- is another president like that.

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