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  • February 25, 2010

    Focus-group tested and approved

    Posted by: Chris

    Say what you want about Chris Matthews -- and his choice today of former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown to discuss health care reform was pretty darn mystifying -- but I continue to enjoy the way "Hardball" cuts through the spin. Just check out the montage they produced on the Republican and Democrat talking points at today's health care summit.

    The GOP hit list -- "scrap the bill," "let's start over" with "a clean sheet of paper" and go "step by step" -- runs from 1:00 to 2:00.  The Democratic strategy, to strike a bipartisan tone and emphasize about how the two sides aren't so far apart, begins at 3:30.

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    All in all, the overscripting of the Republican talking points makes a mockery of any claim that they showed up today with an eye toward anything other than the cameras there recording the festivities. It's one thing to set a tone or advance a general strategy, but it's quite another when speaker after speaker "extemporaneously" hits the exact same notes, even using the exact same words. What has become of the party of ideas?

    The worst of the worst, of course, was John McCain, who has either become so bitter about losing the election or so paranoid about his primary challenger from the right, that he has become an "angry old man" caricature. This small man now bears absolutely no resemblance to the energetic, centrist, independent John McCain who impressed me and so many others when he first ran for president just one decade ago.

    At this point, President Obama has done everything reasonably expected of him with regard to bipartisan effort. I have my own doubts and concerns about the size of "Obamacare" and its effect on the deficit, but it's also clear that the loyal opposition isn't loyal enough to the process to be a real bargaining partner. The Democrats should do exactly what reports suggest they will: The House will pass the Senate bill, thereby passing through Congress (with 60 votes in the Senate), the health care reform bill, and will then use reconciliation to push through with a simple majority vote the "fixes" to the Senate bill that House Democrats need to get on board and to excise Ben Nelson's "Cornhusker Kickback."

    All I can say is it's about. damn. time.

    P.S. Did Willie Brown always have RuPaul eyebrows or did this "San Francisco Democrat" get a drag queen makeover?

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    Filed in: McCain

    February 03, 2010

    A policy that's working? Really?

    Posted by: Chris

    Lt col victor fehrenbach gay aviator dont ask dont tell
    That seems to be the Republican party line on Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the discharge of some 13,500 service members, at a cost of millions in training and impaired military readiness, since the policy was adopted in 1993. Here is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach reacting on last night's Rachel Maddow show to John McCain's cynical defense of Don't Ask Don't Tell:

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    We could not have better spokespeople on this issue, and you can add Dan Choi's passionate advocacy to the list.  Also I strongly recommend a post over at Pam's House Blend by Justin Elzie, a "Marine of the Year" discharged in the early days of Don't Ask Don't Tell, who I had the honor to represent as a young lawyer at the D.C. firm of Covington & Burling.

    Justin elzie marine of the year gay dont ask dont tellElzie reminds all of us that civil rights movements are really fought at the margins of change. The question isn't whether we will be allowed to serve openly in the military and marry legally. The question is when:

    Right now there are some that are willing to stay with the status quo of gradualism and compromise.  For instance, in our own community this week one person said on CNN that an option worth exploring would be allowing the Department of Defense to retain the flexibility to implement repeal along a moderate timeline of months.

    The truth is that if DADT was lifted tomorrow, we would wake up the next day and the military would still go on with no detriment to morale.  For someone in our community to suggest and support a delay and sensitivity to the military leadership's privacy concerns only helps validate this erroneous argument that gays would be detrimental to the military in closed quarters. The naked truth of a delayed implementation plan is that it is an accommodation for the straight male's uncomfortability with gays in the military.  It doesn't make sense to have a ramp up or a go-slow approach implementation plan when thousands of LGBT personnel are already there.  If we waited until every person in the military was comfortable with gays, repeal of DADT wouldn't happen.  Gradualism emboldens our opponents.

    Gradualism for accommodation is a problem in that there will always be an excuse.  In 1993, a compromise was hatched and gave us DADT and it has reigned for 17 years now.  We have waited too long and it is time for it to be over.

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    DADT: Cards on the Table, Everyone...

    Posted by: Kevin


    When Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, said under oath before a Senate committee that they were absolutely in agreement with President Barack Obama's pledge to end the ban on gay Americans serving honestly in the military, it was the ultimate "call" in a nearly 20 year long game of political poker.

    And it was when everyone's cards were put on the table.  What we saw in each player's hand was perhaps the most dramatic political moment for us since the Democrats returned to power in Congress in 2006, and added the White House to their column in 2008.

    First off, the unassailable position of Admiral Mullen, and his obvious lack of discomfort or reluctance to speak in favor of lifting the ban, is a testament to the long, intense, patient and capable work of Professor Aaron Belkin of the Palm Center, a think-tank at the University of California at Santa Barbara which had put out reams and reams of peer-reviewed research for the better part of a decade dismantling every aspect of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy's effectiveness, and maneuvering among the military scholar community and the highly influential constituencies of current and retired generals and officers.  This transformational moment (even more neat in how it was captured on Admiral Mullen's Twitter account, to drive the point of modernization even further home) would not have happened without Belkin and the Palm Center.  (Full disclosure: I had the Palm Center as a consulting client from 2002 to 2006, serving as their Washington representative.  But Belkin and his band of brilliant scholars, like Dr. Nathaniel Frank, author of "Unfriendly Fire", the definitive book on the policy, were the ones who did all the real work.)  I'm not saying that Belkin was directly responsible for Mullen's position, but the work that he did all these years had a great deal to do with the atmosphere among military leaders that resulted in Mullen's position before the Senate.

    It also showed the very strong hand of President Obama himself.  I have raised a great deal of criticism of this president, from the moment he was elected, and I know that before this week happened I was not alone among many, many gay Americans of every political persuasion.  I was simply demanding results from the promises we got.  Well, in that moment in the Senate, we got results.  This would not be happening were it not for the determination and the seriousness of President Obama and his White House to deliver on this promise, even though he cannot deliver on it alone.  He deserves credit and praise for that, and our support in moving it forward.

    It also gave retired General Colin Powell the chance to lay his cards on the table.  He was quick to join in supporting Mullen, Gates and President Obama in this effort.  "[A]ttitudes and circumstances have changed," Powell said in a statement.  “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”  This from the man who was Joint Chiefs chairman when the policy was enacted.  Yet another score in our favor, perhaps later than it should have been, but Powell also deserves praise for speaking out after years of silence when all private reports in GOP circles was that he has felt this way for a long time.

    Finally, another set of cards were laid on the table, and they were infuriating and heart-breaking.  Senator John McCain, who told me to my face and to a group of other Log Cabin leaders in his office in 1999, that "the day Colin Powell comes up here and says it's time to change the policy, that's the day we should change the policy" basically showed himself to be a liar.  Instead of absorbing the reality of Gates' and Mullen's testimony, and what it represents in terms of active military brass and their desire to move forward, he chided them about usurping Congress' role in the matterWTF? That's something you'd expect from a haughty, disrespectful cow like Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), not from a war veteran and a man I have always seen as highly honorable.  It was a surreal moment for many of us who'd backed and loved John McCain over the years, and it was perhaps the most discouraging and sickening moments I've ever experienced in politics.

    However, this was just the first serious round of poker in this effort.  A lot of other hands must now be forced, almost entirely within the Democratic ranks of the House and Senate -- the people who will decide whether this policy stays or goes before they lose their majorities (whenever that happens).  And that is where all the scholarly work, all the patience of convincing military leaders, where all the lobbying of the White House must take a back seat to the pure, activist politics of holding the feet of Congress to the fire.  That means Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  It means the senior Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee:  Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, Solomon Ortiz of Texas and Gene Taylor of Mississippi (all of whom have been in the basement of the Human Rights Campaign's ratings system for a long time).  It also means Carl Levin, who has been a friend before, but also former Klansman Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who has not been one.  That's the next gang of characters that must be frontally engaged with every bit of leverage, persuasion, pressure, carrots and sticks alike, by the so-called gay and lesbian leaders at HRC and other elements of the gay Democratic establishment who have been promising and promising and promising and promising in fundraising letter after fundraising letter after fundraising letter for decades now that THEY will be the smartest, the strongest, the "most muscular" lobby imaginable to deliver when the time comes.

    Indeed.  We'll see.

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    February 02, 2010

    Switching sides on gays in military

    Posted by: Chris

    Defense secretary robert gates mike mullen dont ask dont tell
    I wrote my first column about gay rights back in 1996 -- now buried somewhere in the archives of Southern Voice newspaper -- about the glaring contraditions in the life and accomplishments of Colin Powell. It seemed irreconciable to me that someone who had benefited so much from President Truman's courageous order to integrate the U.S. armed forces along racial lines, Gen. Powell nonetheless stood in the proverbial schoolhouse door as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and blocked President Clinton in 1993 from ending the ban on gays in the military.

    Colin powell bill clinton dont ask dont tell The occasion then was Powell's 1996 autobiography, "An American Journey," and even then the first African American to serve in the nation's top uniformed military post hinted he knew that he would ultimately wind up on the wrong side of history on this issue. It didn't take that long for history to prove him correct.

    Today in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Mike Mullen, the current Joint Chiefs chairman, threw his full support behind President Obama's pledge to repeal the infamous Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise and allow gays to serve openly in the military:

    “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

    This wasn't just a military man and his civilian boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, following marching orders from the president. Their testimony would have looked very different, focusing entirely on the logistics of removing the ban on servive by openly gay soldiers and sailors.

    John mccain robert gates dont ask dont tell gays in the military Instead, conservatives in Congress who slammed Clinton for not listening to the Pentagon on this issue were forced like John McCain today to switch sides themselves and whine about how the military brass was acting like it knew better than the politicians.

    “I’m deeply disappointed with your statement, Secretary Gates,” McCain said. … “Your statement obviously is one that is clearly biased without the view of Congress being taken into consideration. … I’m happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States to repeal 'don’t ask don’t tell,' despite your efforts to repeal it in many respects by fiat.”

    This was the same John McCain, just four years ago, promising to defer to the military brass:

    [T]he day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.

    If congressional Democrats can summon a minimum of backbone, still something of an open question, than McCain and his ilk will be consigned to the same dustbin of bigotry as those who opposed racial integration of the military.

    (Does anyone in politics today more personify the angry old man grousing at anyone and everyone, already on the wrong side of history even within their own lifetime? If the current leadership of Log Cabin wishes to maintain even a modicum of self-respect among the rest of us, they need to redeem their endorsement of McCain for president by bringing a full court press against Susan Collins and other moderate Republicans to overcome the inevitable GOP filibuster.)

    You don't have to be a bigot to back Don't Ask Don't Tell, certainly, but you do have to cater to the bigotry of those who would only serve alongside a gay service member if they don't know their sexual orientation.

    "Unit cohesion" has always been the dressed up name for such cowardly conduct, which Admiral Mullen confirmed again today is unbecoming of our military.

    (Photo of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen via Washington Post)

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    January 28, 2010

    Al Qaeda's anti-gay tool John McCain

    Posted by: Chris

    John mccain terrorist
    At the same time that craven and immoral statement by Log Cabin Republicans slammed President Obama for the mortal sin of committing in his State of the Union address to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell this year, we still await remarks by the gay GOP group in response to the very public pronouncements in favor of the policy by the man they endorsed for president in 2008:

    “In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.
    “This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels.  We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars.  At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

    If, as Log Cabin ludicrously suggests, President Obama favors the rights of foreign terrorists over hard-working, life-sacrificing gay Americans, then by that measure John McCain must himself be a member of Al Qaeda, targetting flag-waving queers for all sort of murder and mayhem.

    Yes, that analogy is completely over the top, offensive, and ridiculous, but no more so than Log Cabin's shameful attack on the president.

    P.S. It goes without saying that McCain is flat wrong in his assertion that Don't Ask Don't Tell, which requires gay soldiers and sailors to lie to their comrades, their superiors and their families and friends about who they are, is "predominantly supported by our military at all levels."

    A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being “comfortable … in the presence of gays,” and only 37 percent opposed repealing DADT.  In July 2008, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that even 50 percent of veterans supported open service by lesbians and gays.

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    A new Log Cabin Republican low

    Posted by: Chris

    Log cabin republicans dont ask dont tell
    The initial reaction from Gay Rights Inc. are in to the president calling on Congress to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in the State of the Union address. Not surprisingly, most groups (including the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) give Congress a complete pass, acting as if Obama alone can repeal DADT. The Human Rights Campaign mentions Congress but only in passing.

    And then there's this despicable statement from Log Cabin Republicans, a group I have defended for years but don't even recognize anymore:

    “President Obama is more concerned about protecting the rights of terrorists than he is about the rights of gay and lesbian Americans who are putting their lives on the line every day fighting to preserve peace and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and operate small businesses that are the backbone of the American economy.”  — Charles Moran, a spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans

    Never in more than a decade of covering the gay rights movement have I seen a public pronouncement by a gay political group that is more offensive, more over the top and more worthy of universal condemnation.

    Put aside, for the moment, the conflating of gays in the military with the completely unrelated decision by Attorney General Eric Holder (independent of President Obama) to try some Guantanamo prisoners in Article III courts (as the Bush administration did) rather than in front of military commissions. Put aside even, the gay Republican group's indefensible silence in response to condemnation of the president's promise by leading Republicans, especially sore loser John McCain.

    This president favors the entire range of gay rights legislation put forward by our movement, up to and including civil unions if not marriage in terms of relationship recognition. He is more supportive by far than any previous president and is a complete and total foil for both McCain and the last Republican president, who favored federal or state constitutional amendments making those same gay Americans second-class citizens.

    I don't know who is running Log Cabin these days, and why they are even trying to outflank the GOP apologists over at the oxymornic GOProud, but outrageous and offensive statements like this one convince no one of the rightness of our cause, including the anti-gay Republican leadership, which Log Cabin so cravenly seeks to ingratiate.

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    January 26, 2010

    My man (and daddy) the H8-monger

    Posted by: Chris

    Cindy mccain meghan mccain

    What other message can we take from the participation of Cindy and Meghan McCain in the NOH8 campaign to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage in California? Even before John McCain ran to the right for the Republican presidential nomination, he filmed TV ads backing Arizona's Prop 107, which was far more draconian than Prop 8 ever dreamed of being.

    Whereas Prop 8 banned same-sex couples from legally marrying, it nonetheless preserved domestic partnerships, a brand of California civil unions that is pretty much marriage except for the name. McCain-backed Prop 107, on the other hand, banned not just marriage, but also civil unions, domestic partnerships and other forms of legal recognition for gay couples, including even DP benefits for state and local government employees.

    John McCain also "strongly supported" Proposition 8 itself during the 2008 campaign:

    If Cindy and Meghan agree that Prop 8 was motivated by "H8" then what must they think of John McCain's motivation for backing Propositions 8 and 107? H8-baiting political opportunism at its worst.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy when a prominent heterosexual, especially one with Republican ties, backs marriage equality. But it's supremely ironic to see these two ladies with duct tape over their mouths, "symbolizing their voices not being heard," according to the NOH8 website. Where were those voices during the 2008 campaign, when Proposition 8 was actually on the ballot, backed by Daddy/Hubby McCain?

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    December 26, 2009

    Scrooge McCain's stocking stuffer

    Posted by: Chris

    Scrooge john mccain
    This little ditty from John McCain's flight home after voting on Christmas eve against expanding access to health care for the uninsured:

    After voting against the Senate's health-care bill Thursday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) caught a commercial flight bound for the Valley of the Sun, and along the way home, he was peppered by fellow passengers with a host of health-care-related questions.

    McCain, sitting in a first-class aisle seat, was greeted by Phoenix-bound passengers on the US Airways flight who jokingly asked if he got what he wanted for Christmas. (The answer was no.)

    One passenger asked if, as his Christmas gift, McCain could help legalize same-sex marriage. The senator laughed it off.

    Ho, ho, ho, Senator McCain. Hope this marriage traditionalist remembered on Christmas to call his first wife -- the one he dumped after she was disfigured in a traffic accident while waiting for his return from Vietnam.

    Along those lines, something McCain ought to file under "elections have consequences" -- it's an oldie but goodie:

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    January 20, 2009

    From transition to clean break

    Posted by: Chris


    CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin sounded a sour note a few hours ago on Barack Obama's inaugural address, criticizing it for lacking a coherent theme or any memorable phrase or idea. I would actually agree.

    The speech surprised by being less memorable or powerful than his race speech, his acceptance speech in Denver or on election night in Chicago -- not to mention his 2004 keynote at the Democratic convention. Though with four warm-ups like that and all the world attention, it was probably impossible for Obama to live up to expectations today.

    If a central goal of his presidency -- and the inauguration -- is to u nify the country, the speech itself probably hit a sour note. I can only imagine how President Bush and Republicans reacted to hearing about "a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable." We usually hear these sorts of broadsides from Republicans after Democratic control in Washington. Can't you imagine Ronald Reagan saying the same thing after four years of Jimmy Carner?

    Not to mention how John McCain and his supporters probably felt about Obama proclaiming, "We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," or "or that in national defense, "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

    I agree on each and every point, but that's not my point. I wonder whether such direct attacks on Bush and the GOP, especially on such a day, will undermine the goodwill Obama has built and set the country on a more divisive course.

    On the other hand, polls show Americans overwhelmingly agree that the Bush presidency was a failure and the nation is headed in the wrong direction. Even arch-conservative Bill Bennett called the speech "muscular," and though he was talking about its few chest-thumping passage, he is right. Obama set a clear new course for the country.

    Forget talk of a transition, this was a clean break. This was change. That's what the people want, after all.

    (Photo via Washington Post)

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    Filed in: Bush , McCain , Obama

    November 07, 2008

    Log Cabin's fuzzy math: gay exit polls

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Log Cabin has responded to this post, defending its claim that 20% of GLB voters backed Bush-Cheney in 2004 by citing a Los Angeles Times exit poll that shows the GOP ticket receiving only 17% of the gay vote. Huh?

    LCR's Scott Tucker explains that the gay GOP group averaged that 17% along with the Voter News Service exit polls that showed 23% gay vote. Talk about your fuzzy logic, especially considering that Log Cabin originally represented that 20% statistic as taken direct from the exit polls, not the result of some "poll of polls" averaging.

    Tucker is right that in one section of my original post below, I misquoted VNS as showing 24% support for Bush in '04. That was actually the result from back in 2000 -- although CNN's site actually shows 25% of the GLB vote went for Bush in '00.

    The L.A. Times poll from 2004 relied upon by Log Cabin is particularly suspect, since it was based on interviews with 5,154 voters, 65% of whom were from California alone. Considering California's population is only about 12% of the U.S. total, the results of the L.A. Times poll exaggerated the state's GLB vote, which I think we would all agree was likely less supportive of Bush than gays nationwide.

    At the very least, the wide range of results from these various exit polls -- along with the inherent variable of which GLB voters would be willing to self-identify to pollsters -- ought to give us all pause in reaching substantive conclusions from these numbers.

    Johnmccainellendegeneres CORRECTED ORIGINAL POST: Log Cabin Republicans are doing their best to put lipstick on the pig that was John McCain's landslide defeat on Tuesday. In a post on Blog Cabin, Scott Tucker observed:

    Exit polls show John McCain received 27% of the gay vote. That is up from 20% four years ago. That equals 1.3 million votes -- the most any Republican candidate for President has received.

    Tucker's math is off considerably, even if his general point about greater gay support for McCain holds true. He is correct that national exit polls showed McCain-Palin receiving support from 27% of those who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

    But he's off the mark on how Bush-Cheney did four years ago -- in fact, the Voter News Service exit poll showed President Bush received 24% 23% of the GLB vote, despite his support for a federal marriage amendment -- which in turn led to a snub from Log Cabin.

    In fact, McCain's GLB support registers higher than the GOP nominee has received in any presidential election since pollsters asked the question:

    • 1996: Dole-Kemp: 23%
    • 2000: Bush-Cheney: 23% 25%
    • 2004: Bush-Cheney: 24% 23%
    • 2008: McCain-Palin: 27%

    On the Democratic side, meanwhile, the Obama-Biden ticket under-performed previous tallies:

    • 1996: Clinton-Gore: 66%
    • 2000: Gore-Lieberman: 70%
    • 2004: Kerry-Edwards: 77%
    • 2008: Obama-Biden: 70%

    ObamahrcforumObama's support from self-identified GLB voters is especially weak considering that the comparable totals in 1996 and 2000 were in presidential races with significant third-party candidates. Here are the complete totals, which I compiled from articles I edited in my years with the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspapers:

    • 1996
      Voter News Service
      GLB (5% overall): Clinton (66%). Dole (23%). Perot (7%).

    • 2000
      ABC News:
      GLB: Gore (70%). Bush (23%). Nader (3%). Buchanan (1%).

      Voter News Service
      GLB (4% overall): Gore (70%). Bush (25%). Nader (4%). Buchanan (0%).
    • 2004
      Voter News Service
      GLB (4% overall):  Kerry (77%). Bush (23%).

      Los Angeles Times
      GLB (4% overall): Kerry (81%). Bush (17%).
    • 2008
      Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International
      GLB (4% overall):  Obama (70%). McCain (27%).

    There are plenty of reasons to view this exit poll data about GLB voters with skepticism. Pollsters depend entirely on voters self-identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual -- a factor that signficantly undercounts the actual GLB totals and how they voted. In addition, Voter News Service followed a practice of only asking the GLB question of voters in places like New York and California, where they knew the percentage saying yes would have statistical significance.

    All that said, it's not surprising that gay, lesbian and bisexual voters would be a bit more willing, on the margins, to vote for John McCain this time around, given his opposition to the same federal marriage amendment that was championed by George W. Bush.

    There is also a word of warning for President-Elect Obama in these numbers. Bill Clinton received the lowest percentage of GLB support in 1996 -- although still two-thirds -- after he caved to Republicans and conservative Democrats on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. A more sophisticated and empowered GLB electorate is likely to be much less forgiving if "thrown under the bus" by President Obama, who starts off with a slightly smaller level of GLB support.

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    November 05, 2008

    A first look at the exit polls

    Posted by: Chris

    Glb_pres_vote CNN has posted the exit polls with an extraordinary degree of detail. For lots of reasons, exit polling of GLB voters can be suspect, especially on a nationwide scale, but these numbers suggest about the same split between Barack Obama and John McCain as there was four years ago between Democrat John Kerry and Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

    Here are some nuggets I found during my initial look-see:

    Presidential race:

    • Openly GLB voters (4% of all voters): Obama (70%). McCain (27%).
    • Straight voters (96% of all voters): Obama (53%). McCain (45%).

    Calif. Prop 8 (overturning state supreme court's gay marriage ruling):

    • Prop_8_regionOverall: Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • Obama voters (61% overall): Yes (32%). No (68%).
    • McCain voters (36% overall): Yes (82%). No (18%).
    • Male voters (46% of all voters) Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Female voters (54% of all voters) Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • White (63% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%)
    • African-American (10% overall): Yes (70%). No (30%).
    • Latino (19% overall): Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Asian (6% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%).
    • Age 18-29 (20% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Age 30-44 (28% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 45-64 (36% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 65 and older (16% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Democrats (43% overall): Yes (35%). No. (65%).
    • Republicans (28% overall): Yes (81%). No (19%).
    • Independent (29% overall): Yes (44%). No (56%).
    • Married (62% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Unmarried (38% overall): Yes (36%). No (64%).
    • Children under 18 (40 % overall): Yes (63%). No (37%).
    • No children under 18 (60% overall): Yes (42%). No (58%).
    • Clinton Democrats (16% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Obama Democrats (23% overall): Yes (31%). No (69%).
    • Straight voters (95% overall): Yes (52%). No (48%).

    Arkansas Initiative 1 (ban on unmarried/gay couples as foster/adoptive parents):

    • Male voters (45% overall): Yes (61%). No (39%).
    • Female voters (55% overall): Yes (54%). No (46%).
    • Obama voters (38% overall): Yes (45%). No (55%).
    • McCain voters (58% overall): Yes (66%). No (34%).
    • Age 18-29 (17% overall): Yes (46%). No (54%).
    • Age 30-44 (27% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • Age 45-64 (38% overall): Yes (58%). No (42%).
    • Age 65 and older (19% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Democrats (36% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).
    • Republicans (32% overall): Yes (67%). No (33%).
    • Independents (32% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • White evangelical/born again (55% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Other than white evangelical/born again (45% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).
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    November 03, 2008

    McCain-Obama role reversal

    Posted by: Andoni

    This evening on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," Keith Olbermann made a special comment addressing the numerous gaffs and errors Senator John McCain has made during this campaign. He wonders what would have happened if Senator Barack Obama had been the one to make these rather serious errors instead of McCain and then provides edited video clips to give us an idea of how it would have sounded.

    Does anyone doubt that had Obama been the one to make these errors, he would have been out of the race long ago?

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    Filed in: McCain , Obama

    October 27, 2008

    "I've been tested." Bullshit!

    Posted by: Andoni

    Mccain_final"I want to tell you one thing, my friends, I've been tested. I've been tested."

    Am I the only person in the world who hears these words and wonders what the hell he's talking about?

    McCain's claim came up most recently after Senator Joseph Biden told a group of supporters that a President Obama would be tested by our adversaries in the first 6 months of his administration, just as President Kennedy had been tested by the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    McCain jumped on this statement and said he would not have to be tested in this manner. He claimed that he was already tested because he was there during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was already tested. What McCain is referring to, and what none of the corporate media has examined or questioned, is that he was merely a navy pilot during that crisis. He was based on an aircraft carrier, that carrier was sent to the waters near Cuba, and he was ready with his plane to attack Cuba. Is this equivalent to the test the leader of the free world faces in a major crisis? When the leader of the free world is confronted by crisis such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, he must analyze the options, and then make a decision that affects the entire country, if not the world. Is that how McCain was tested when he was sitting in his plane on that aircraft carrier? I think not! McCain was merely following orders.

    There is not equivalence here. McCain was in the navy on his aircraft carrier, his aircraft carrier was ordered by the president to the waters near Cuba, and McCain was ordered to be ready. McCain did not have to make any decisions. All he had to do was follow orders, as any good soldier does. Is it being tested when you follow the orders of your superior? To do anything else, he would have been court-martialed. So, I don't see how this scenario relates in any way to a new commander in chief being tested by a foreign adversary. McCain was not in charge, McCain made no decisions. His claim on this is bullshit.

    So when was McCain tested? During his 5 and 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi? Sure that was tough, but that test was one of personal survival skills, not a test of the administrative, intellectual and decision making skills that a president must have. And if you want to get technical, did McCain pass that test with flying colors? I would argue not really. During his time there he signed many confessions and participated in propaganda films against the United States. I would have probably done the same. However, there is no correlation between surviving in a POW camp for 5 years and the administrative, judgment and intellectual skills needed to be a good president.

    You might argue that McCain refusing to accept early release because his father was an admiral was a test and he passed that. Maybe so, but I would counter that "first in, first out" is a Commandment in the military and McCain knew very well that if he went afoul of that, he would never make admiral, something that he still aspired to at that time. But most importantly, again, that type of test (following an established, routine military Commandment) is nothing like the test that a president must face when a never seen before or experienced before crisis arises.

    "I've been tested" rings even more hollow when you consider McCain's conduct during this presidential campaign. His has been a campaign with no direction, no backbone, and complete disorder. He failed the test when he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. He really wanted Senator Joe Lieberman because he felt Lieberman was the best choice for the country. However, he did not go to bat for Lieberman and instead, allowed himself to be bowled over by the right wing religious base of his party. On this test that is more relevant to the decisions a president makes, he was tested ........and failed!

    Also, in the recent economic crisis, McCain did not measure up as a tested leader. He lurched from position to position and could not chart a clear direction for his campaign, his party or the country. Again, this was a test more analogous to what presidents need to do in crises.......and once again, he failed!

    McCain's statement, "I've been tested" is all bullshit. In the early years it had nothing to do with skills needed to be commander in chief. And most importantly, in recent months in situations that do have relevance to being president, McCain failed miserably.

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    October 15, 2008

    Live-blogging the last debate

    Posted by: Chris

    Another UPDATE: At least one post-debate poll shows a much closer judgment by voters about the encounter that the early snap polls did last night. The Politico/Insider Advantage poll found voters gave the debate to Obama, 49% to 46%, but independent voters scored McCain the winner, 51% to 42%.

    UPDATE at the end of the post:

    Obamamccainpostdebate Here we are for the third and last debate, unless John McCain decides a gimmicky challenge to more of them in hopes of reviving his sinking fortunes. With three debates (counting the veeps) come and gone sans any real fireworks, now would be McCain's last, best chance to shake things up.

    9:02 p.m.: The warmest pre-debate welcome yet; no eye-dodge by McCain.

    9:05 p.m.: McCain offers more detail on his $300 billion buyout of struggling home mortgages. How odd to see a conservative Republican pinning his presidential hopes on massive government spending and interference in the private sector. Meanwhile, the liberal Democrat Barack Obama replies with tax credits and tax cuts.

    Artmccainap A style point: McCain looks at the moderator; Obama looks at the camera. I've been surprised no one has used that technique so far in the debates. It may be jarring for thos in the hall, but it comes off to the vast majority watching on TV as much more direct. Oops -- as soon as i write that, McCain looks directly at the camera, and then at Obama -- definitely more effective.

    Another style point: Is that a U.S. flag pin on Barack Obama's lapel? Where is John McCain's? Oh that's right -- only non-conservatives are required to prove (and prove again, and prove again) their basic patriotism.

    9:17 p.m.: Neither candidate is particularly effective in explaining how their policies are fiscally responsible. Obama stays very vague, going "line by line" in the budget eliminateing wasteful programs. How many election cycles have we been hearing presidential candidates -- from both parties -- promising this? McCain, meanwhile, just spent half his answer re-trumpeting his $300 billion home mortgage buyout, and the second half decrying growing government spending. Huh?

    9:20 p.m.: The first pre-fab line from McCain: "Senator Obama, I'm not President Bush." Obama ought to reply, "I don't know George Bush personally, George Bush is not a friend of mine, but Senator McCain, your policies are four more years of George Bush." Obama is far more cool and calm in his reply, of course. It works for him since his the frontrunner but in a closer election, a more vigorous response would have been more effective.

    Artobamagi 9:27 p.m.: An effective question from Bob Schieffer. Rather than ask the candidates to promise not to be negative, he challenges them to say directly to their opponent that their campaigns have been saying. McCain was very effective, I thought, pushing Obama on his reversal on accepting public financing. Obama looked somewhat rattled and didn't address it in his reply. This has been McCain's best question in any debate, and it's incredibly ironic considering the angry lies coming from McCain-Palin rallies (more Palin's than McCain's).

    9:35 p.m.: John McCain's anger looks about to boil over. I can't imagine this works to his benefit. Obama's reply on Ayers and ACORN are also very effective. These are not the kind of issues that will sway many voters.

    9:40 p.m.: Oh my -- a running-mate question. Talk about your softballs to Obama! Once again, McCain does a decent job of turning a defect -- Palin vs. Biden -- to an advantage by attacking Biden much more effectively than Obama does Palin. Obama's decision to adopt a prevent defense is understandable, given his huge advantage in the polls, but it is risky.

    9:55 p.m.: Is it enough for Obama to smile when McCain says he wants to restrict trade and raise taxes? Maybe.

    10:00 p.m.: Two-thirds into a debate on domestic issues and not a single question on civil rights -- i.e., gay rights, abortion. Are these issues really less important that free trade with Colombia and Bill Ayers and ACORN?

    Sarah_palin_wink 10:03 p.m.: Taking a cue from his running mate, John McCain just winked at the camera while Obama was discussing McCain's health care plan. Did NRO's Rich Lowry feel any "little starbursts" bounce around his living room?

    10:07 p.m.: Finally, a civil rights question, about whether Roe vs. Wade is a litmus test for nominees to the Supreme Court. McCain just tied himself into knots saying he wouldn't apply a litmus test on abortion, and yet he would never appoint a justice who has publicly supported Roe. Obama's answer isn't anymore convincing, although he at least admits as much by saying that the Roe precedent "hangs in the balance" in the election. Maybe.

    10:14 p.m.: McCain's willingness to demagogue on abortion by claiming Obama actually opposes providing live-saving medical treatment for infants outside the womb during an abortion procedure is a new low. To me, this represents as clearly as anything else that McCain represents the past -- demagoguing and bumper-stickering divisive issues like abortion rather than trying to find common ground and adopting reasonable legislation.

    10:16 p.m.: The last question is on education; there will be nothing on gay marriage, even though the Connecticut Supreme Court and the ballot measures in California and Florida have put the issue front and center.

    Final thoughts: All in all, I thought McCain was more effective tonight than in either of the first two debates, and Obama's decision to stick to a prevent defense is a risky one. As a result, McCain actually managed to take two questions that should have been naturals for Obama -- personal attacks in the campaign and relative qualifications of their running mates -- and turned them to his advantage. On the other hand, the way McCain let his anger boil over on a couple of occasions was downright scary.

    Also, John McCain once again came off as arrogant as in the first debate, saying Obama "didn't understand" foreign policy issues. Tonight it was smirks and laughter and interrupting Obama, as well as never acknowledging the way Obama did that the tough issues before them were ones on which reasonable minds may differ.

    Debates rarely have the impact on elections that the pundits say they do, and this one is very unlikely to fundamentally change his fortunes. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the post-debate polls show a much closer breakdown on "who won" the debate, perhaps even showing McCain won -- at least among undecided voters.


    Initial polling from CBS/Knowledge Networks suggests I was too generous to McCain. The undecided voters agreed by more than two to one (53% to 22%), giving the third and final debate to the Democrat.

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    October 07, 2008

    Live-blogging 2nd presidential debate

    Posted by: Chris

    T1landhandshakecnn Once again live-blogging the debate here. Please chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section!

    Tonight's debate is in Nashville, Tenn., a city I know very well, having grown up just a few hours down the road in Memphis and later spent my college years at Vanderbilt University -- located just blocks away from Belmont Univ., the Baptist college where tonight's debate is being held.

    By the way, check out this debate precursor from Cindy McCain, making the jaw-dropping accusation that Barack Obama has "waged the dirtiest campaign in American history." Considering the McCains were convinced that George W. Bush spread the rumor that their adopted child was actually the illegit daughter of McCain and a black woman, that's absolutely incredible.

    9:03 p.m.: This time John McCain actually looked Barack Obama in the eye during the handshake!

    9:07 p.m.: McCain is clearly in "Mr. Nice" mode, referring to Obama directly. The townhall format works well for him, and he already seems more effective. Already cutting jokes with Tom Brokaw. Will he give us a Sarah Palin wink before the night is over?

    9:12 p.m.: How long did NBC have to look to find a black voter who is actually undecided?

    9:16 p.m.: Both candidates are effectivly advocating responses to the crisis, but Obama does not seem as sharp as in the first debate, and McCain seems more comfortable with the format.

    9:20 p.m.: Obama definitely hits his stride when going after President Bush. There wasn't enough of that in the first debate; there may well be more tonight. McCain's response? "Washington is broken," so elect him even though he's been there for more than a quarter-century.

    9:23 p.m.: McCain hits Obama on spending, but his figures are so inflated that he's not credible -- $800 billion in new spending. (FYI his campaign just today claimed the figure was $1 trillion.) McCain is more effective tonight but his energy level is still sagging a bit.

    9:27 p.m.: At least judging by CNN's undecided voter "squiggly lines," Obama scores much better talking positively about his plan than McCain did going on attack. That's a real quandary for McCain, who needs to do something to change the dynamics of the race.

    9:35 p.m.: Good Obama reply to McCain's "across the board" spending freeze; using a hatchet vs. using a scalpel. McCain replies with a harsh attack on Obama on taxes. At this point, most voters know that the tax increase will only hit the wealthiest Americans.

    9:40 p.m.: Obama mostly dodged the question but took the time to make a very effective rebuttal to McCain on taxes. For the third or fourth time, McCain says "we know what to do" without ever saying what to do. And then finally, on Medicare, says, "We need a commission." That's a solution?

    9:44 p.m.: McCain is definitely more animated, engaged and comfortable in this debate. The charge against Obama's thin record is his best, of course, but so so weakened by McCain's own selection of running mates. Obama's reply slamming McCain's long record of opposition to incentives for alternative fuels sticks pretty well, as well.

    9:54: p.m.: McCain's health care response got completely jumbled in the numbers. Fuzzy math anyone? And I hardly think most voters have a problem with small businesses being fined for failing to provide health insurance for employees.

    9:56 p.m.: Great question on health care: a responsibility vs. a right. McCain's answer was telling and no doubt appeals to libertarian types. It's a "responsilbiity" but there's no fine or other government mechanism; just wishful thinking, for small businesses to live up to that responsibility. It strikes me as very similar to McCain's view on workplace protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He's opposed to discrimination but not in favor of any law that says so.

    10:01 p.m.: Clearly the Obama camp was ready to reply on the "Obama doesn't understand" line about foreign policy.

    10:07 p.m.: McCain says we need "a cool hand" as commander in chief. Barack Obama or John McCain -- who is the "cool hand" and who is the "hothead"?

    10:11 p.m.: Who do we think talks softly and who do we think carries the bigger stick? (Stop your snickering.) McCain has boxed himself in on Pakistan and Al Qaeda, so much so that even his rookie running mate gets that he's wrong.

    10:14 p.m.: There's your biggest debate moment for Obama -- nailing McCain on "bomb bomb bomb, Iran," "annihilating North Korea," and "next up Baghdad." McCain says he was "joking an old military friend" about bombing Iran when anyone who has seen the video knows that it was on stage in front of an entire room.

    10:28 p.m.: The CNN "squiggly lines" are running very contrary to my own view that McCain is much better tonight and Obama started off, at least, slightly off his game. Obama has scored much, much stronger on almost every answer than McCain. I'll be very curious to see if it's repeated in the post-debate numbers.

    Strange that the candidates didn't shake hands afterward -- though Obama did shake Cindy McCain's hand. I wonder if he knew about her pre-debate quote (mentioned above). Although I am more disposed toward Obama based on policy and as candidates generally, I believe Obama was more effective than McCain tonight. Not by the same margin as the first debate; McCain was definitely better than the first time around.

    Obama's "bomb Iran" reply will get the most comment around the water cooler; and for McCain it was referring to Obama as "that one," which undid a lot of his efforts to appear more warm toward his opponent than the first time around -- making eye contact, being looser, etc.

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    October 06, 2008

    Obamamania and McCainiacs in Brazil

    Posted by: Chris

    Claudiohenriquebarackobamadabaixada The U.S. presidential election isn't just making news headlines here in Brazil; it's producing its own sideline stories. For instance, there were eight "Barack Obamas" on last weekend's municipal election ballot. How's that?

    Due to a quirk in Brazilian electoral law, candidates can put any name they want on the ballot, as long as it isn't offensive. At least eight candidates have chosen to be known as "Barack Obama" in the Oct. 5 elections.

    The Illinois senator is hugely popular in Brazil. The prospect of a black U.S. president has generated enthusiasm across the country, where more people call themselves black than anywhere except Nigeria.

    A variety of Brazilian candidates are hoping they can ride his distant coattails into office.

    Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, who's running for mayor of Belford Roxo on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, took the name "Barack Obama de Belford Roxo" and said he's gone from third place in the polls to a tie.

    Unfortunately for the Brazilian Obamas, the soaring fortunes of their American namesake didn't exactly rub-off:

    At least eight "Barack Obamas" who borrowed the Democratic presidential candidate's name to run in Brazilian local elections lost.

    The defeat of the so-called Obamas came in municipal elections on Sunday that selected mayors and council members in more than 5,000 cities across the nation — and saw the ruling Workers Party and allies of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva make gains across the nation.

    Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, the Belford Roxo mayoral candidate, swears the name "opened doors" for him, though the official tally shows he did not receive a single vote.

    Amd_extra145x260 Maybe he should have tried "John McCain." The GOP presidential nominee also has his Brazilian fans, none more rapturous than Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus, who describes the 72-year-old senator as "tasty, loving and romantic."

    She should know, the 77-year-old former model had a brief affair with McCain back in 1957 when his ship was stationed in Rio De Janeiro. McCain briefly recounted their torrid romance in his book "Faith of our Fathers," and the Brazilian media tracked her down last month.

    Then last week, taking a page out of Sarah Palin's "You Can See Russia From Here" handbook, McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Richard Fontaine, claimed McCain's affair with Gracinda more than a half-century ago was actually evidence of his interest in Latin America:

    In fact, I saw, I guess it was last week, that his old girlfriend in Brazil has been found from his early days when he was in the Navy and was interviewed. She's a somewhat older woman now than she was then, but it sorta speaks to the long experience he has had in the region -- in the most positive terms.

    By that measure, I should be a leading candidate to be McCain's ambassador to Brazil.

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    October 01, 2008

    Sarah Palin on Roe vs. Wade

    Posted by: Chris

    CBS News has finally released the videoclip of Sarah Palin stumbling through her view of how the Supreme Court has handled constitutional questions throughout American history.

    Watch CBS Videos Online

    The questions begin easily enough, focusing on Roe vs. Wade, although Palin remarkably says she agrees there is an unenumerated "right of privacy" in the Constitution -- a position directly at odds with basic conservative legal theory challenging not only Roe but also the sodomy decision (Lawrence vs. Texas) and going back four decades to Griswold vs. Connecticut, which threw out state prohibitions against contraception sales.

    Palin's support for the right to privacy would be newsworthy except for the fact that it's clear from the context of the interview that she has no clue what that right actually means or how it plays out in abortion or any other controversial legal issue.

    Then, of course, there is her stammer/filibuster over what opinions besides Roe she disagrees with. Considering conservative opposition to much of the Supreme Court's modern constitutional jurisprudence, her non-answer not only underlines her lack of preparedness, but can't make conservatives too happy.

    I do not count myself among those who believe Palin is stupid or even poorly educated, but she is very clearly way out of her league, and not nearly prepared to be one (septuagenarian) heartbeat away from the presidency.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    McCain speaks to gay America

    Posted by: Kevin

    The Washington Blade, which Chris used to run, has published an interview with Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

    It will probably not change a single gay Democratic vote, and frankly that doesn't matter.  (And the partisan vipers who will do all they can to shout down the meaning of this interview might as well save their breath.)  It will, however, energize the gay GOP vote and maybe some who are in the middle.  His openness to a change in "don't ask, don't tell" is a very welcome public statement of something he's been saying in private for at least ten years.  His support for Proposition 8 in California, even in the context of his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, is as disappointing as John Kerry's support for a similar measure in Missouri in 2004. 

    But the historical importance of this interview as a whole - the milestones it still contains - goes far beyond this election, one in which (to be honest) the gay vote will probably not be a factor at all.

    This interview is real progress.  Compare it with the Republican campaigns of 2004, 2000, 1996 and especially 1992, and it is unmistakable that our nation has once again taken a step forward.  The bar is higher for the GOP going forward.  And it would never have been possible without the steadfast, unbending tenacity of Log Cabin Republicans to ignore all the caterwauling and keep pushing forward.

    More later.

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    September 26, 2008

    Live-blogging the presidential debate

    Posted by: Chris

    Artsenatorspool After a relatively quiet week here on the blog, I'm going to live-blog the first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss. I'll be adding a bit of armchair commentary from Steve Koval, my former co-blogger at the Washington Blade, who is visiting Rio along with his husband Manapat.

    As the candidates are introduced, Mr. Koval notes that John McCain looks particularly old alongside Barack Obama.

    9:05 p.m.: On the Wall Street bailout, of course, and surprisingly it is Obama who is more detailed while McCain immerses himself on inside-the-Beltway talk about House Republicans. Staying vague won't cut it for either of them, in my view. Obama was also effective pointing the finger at the Bush administration and Republicans like McCain for the role deregulation played in getting us into this mess.

    9:11 p.m.: Both avoid saying how they'll vote on the package but McCain is more evasive, switching the subject to a story about Eisenhower. Huh?

    [We could do without Jim Lehrer's gimmicky attempt to get the candidates to talk directly to each other. He already stepped all over Obama's attempt to call McCain out for saying "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."]

    9:14 p.m.: McCain hits Obama on earmarks, but cites as an example the study of bear DNA in Montana, even though my friend Koval says that Sarah Palin pushed for a similar earmark for Alaska. Obama does a good job of putting earmarks into perspective, but McCain presses on.

    [Lehrer won't give up on getting the candidates to talk directly to each other. What's up with that?]

    McCain suggest an effective argument on business taxes, rather effectively rebutted by Obama. Why doesn't Obama jump on McCain's definition of "rich"?

    9:26 p.m.: Obama ducks a question about what government won't be able to do in order to pay for the $700 billion bailout. Fiscal conservatism is a weakness of his, to be sure.

    McCain ducks as well, hitting Obama on his "liberal" voting record. Surely that dog no longer hunts. I guess we'll see.

    Artdebatewidegi 9:32 p.m.: McCain pushes a spending freeze, which is a political lead balloon. Not surprisingly, Obama isn't going for it. McCain's old saw about cutting foreign spending is a winner among xenophobic Republicans, but is a prime example of why I no longer recognize my former party.

    9:38 p.m.: Finally a direct blow from Obama to McCain on Bush and the Republican control of Congress and voting with Bush on budgets, etc. Long overdue. McCain's response is weak: "maverick" and not "Miss Congeniality." That's the best he's got?

    9:40 p.m.: Switching to foreign policy, McCain's lesson from Iraq is "don't have failed strategies"? Nothing about the dangers of pre-emptive action? Nothing?

    Obama's response is much more direct: We should never have fought this war, and took our eye off the ball in Afganistan.

    Wow, McCain actually scares me when he says, "The next president of the United States won't have to decide whether we should have invaded Iraq." Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. By contrast, Obama hits McCain square between the eyes on his failed judgment on Iraq. In response, McCain is patronizing and then ducks every point that Obama raised.

    9:50 p.m.: Afghanistan: Obama becomes a bit bogged down but makes the central point about how the war in Iraq has siphoned away the forces in Afghanistan actually fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. McCain repeats his belief that the Iraqi surge strategy will work in Afghanistan as well, making a big deal about Obama should never had said "out loud" that he was willing to strike inside Pakistan's borders.

    9:57 p.m.: Again McCain is patronizing toward Obama: "I don't think Senator Obama understands that Pakistan was a failed state" when Musharraf took power. McCain's story about wearing a soldier's bracelet is particularly telling: So if our troops die in war, we are committed to fighting and fighting, no matter whether the war is just and winable, simply because we have already lost troops.

    I love Obama's counter, which says that American troops never die in vain, regardless of whether America pulls out of a conflict.

    How on earth can McCain keep hitting on Obama for not having traveled as much to the region when McCain selected a running mate who only got a passport last year!

    10:03 p.m.: McCain suggests a League of Democracies, but does he stop for a second to imagine what a democratically elected government of Iran would look like? Does he think it would be appreciably friendlier toward Israel or the U.S.? What happened, after all, when the Palestinians held elections -- we got Hamas, a terrorist organization, as the official government entity.

    10:09 p.m.: Obama hits McCain squarely on how Henry Kissinger and four other former secretaries of state agree that the U.S. president should sit down with our enemies without preconditions. Surely Americans are tired after eight years of failed isolationism as a strategy for countering Iran, Cuba, North Korea and the like.

    I love the line about the prime minister of Spain from Obama, and McCain's inside-baseball line about not yet having a seal won't fly. Again he patronizing with "what Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand..." I fundamentally don't get why it "legitimizes" the outrageous rhetoric of Iranian president by sitting down with him.

    10:15 p.m.: The question is Russia, but my general reaction is being very impressed with Obama's command of these foreign policy questions. At the very minimum, he is competing with McCain as equals on this debate stage -- and given the difference in experience levels between the two, that's a big victory.

    McCain's repetitive patronization of Obama really works my nerves and judging by CNN's "audience reaction" graph, I'm not alone.

    10:30: p.m.: Obama's rhetoric about restoring America's standing in the world is optimistic and forward-looking, even as it criticizes the direction of the last eight years. In response, McCain is once again patronizing about what Obama "doesn't understand."

    Clearly this was a debate strategy by the McCain camp to portray Obama as a naive rookie, over his head on foreign policy issues. Given Obama's command of the issues, not to mention his foreign tour this summer, that won't fly. And it can't help but raise questions about McCain's own veep pick.

    10:34 p.m.: McCain makes his broader case against Obama, that he's inexperienced and naive. So that's where he's going. And of course it rings incredibly hollow given Sarah Palin.

    My partisan pal Koval says McCain did better than he expected, while my reaction was that Obama did better than I expected. My conclusion draws not just to my own preferences (thanks for the comment, Kevin) but also because Obama seemed at least an equal on foreign policy with McCain -- which was his critical objective.

    Also, McCain's patronizing attitude toward Obama reminded me of every know-it-all elder who suggested those of my generation don't know what we are talking about despite all their very clear failures on the very issues they're talking about.

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    September 18, 2008

    You decide

    Posted by: Andoni

    Map_of_spain UPDATE AT END OF POST.

    I've done a series of posts called McCain's Neuron's here and here. I'm not going to bias you by calling this McCain's neuron's III, but this is truly bizarre at best.

    In an interview  with a Spanish newspaper from Spain, John McCain answered the questions of whether he would meet with Prime Minister Zapatero as though he was discussing a left wing anti-American leader in Latin America. He did not seem to recognize the name of the leader of Spain or even that Spain was in Europe. The reporter sensed McCain was misunderstanding, and twice clarified that she was talking about Spain, in Europe, but McCain couldn't take the hint here and continued to speak as if Spain was not a friend and ally of the United States, but rather a revolutionary country in South America.

    I will ask you guys to come up with explanations of what the hell happened here. My theory is that McCain heard the word "Spanish" and his neural switches went immediately to Latin America. They then were not nimble enough to switch back to any other possibilities of Spanish speaking countries, even when the reporter tried to guide him there.

    I would be interested if any of you can put a positive spin on this.

    UPDATE: Some of the comments below make reference to translation and spin of the Spanish press. The interview with McCain was conducted in English, so you can listen to it and judge for yourself. Here is the Washington Post take on the interview along with an audio of the interview -- all in English. The smoking gun for me is when McCain says he has "a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere...." when the reporter was asking about the Prime Minister of Spain. Last time I checked when our leaders say "the hemisphere" they mean our hemisphere (North and South America) and not Europe.

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    September 17, 2008

    A plague on both their candidates?

    Posted by: Chris

    Not buying into the Log Cabin schtick that John McCain and Sarah Palin are “a different kind of Republican”? Convinced you are settling if you back Barack Obama despite his opposition to gay marriage?

    There’s always “a third way.” Or in the case of this presidential cycle, a third and a fourth way. The Greens and the Libertarians have nominated their own White House hopefuls, and both parties adopted platforms that back full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

    That single fact alone means their nominees merit a look-see from GLBT voters, but do they really offer meaningful alternatives to the Big Two?

    IMckinneyclementeblogt’s a weird twist of fate this year that both the Green and Libertarian nominees for president hail from metropolitan Atlanta, long a gay mecca in the wilderness of the Bible Belt. But Cynthia McKinney, the Green candidate, and Bob Barr, the Libertarian, have decidedly mixed histories on GLBT issues and gay voters.

    McKinney amassed one of the strongest GLBT records in Congress during her six terms representing DeKalb County, an area long popular with white and black gay Atlantans. Even so, her stubborn association with some ardent gay rights foes earned the ire of many constituents.

    First and foremost there’s her own father, Billy McKinney, who introduced legislation and even sued to block domestic partner benefits, although he conveniently saw the light later when gay supporters were among the few white voters who stood by Cynthia McKinney when redistricting practically booted her from office.

    It was Congresswoman McKinney’s cozy relationship with Fidel Castro and a whole host of Islamic despots, despite their horrendous treatment of gays, that ultimately drove a wedge with many gay (and straight) locals. Father and daughter both blamed white gay voters, along with Jews, for her defeat in 2002. She won her seat back two years later, but the Human Rights Campaign took the unusual step of backing her challenger, out lesbian Cathy Woolard, in the 2006 Democratic primary. Both McKinney and Woolard would ultimately lose.

    The Green Party has long supported full marriage equality, and did so again in their 2008 platform. But I haven’t seen any evidence that McKinney has publicly embraced that view as her own.

    Barr_rootblog Bob Barr, the Libertarian pick, has an even more twisted gay rights history. Barr was arguably Enemy No. 1 of the movement in his four terms as a congressman from Cobb County, which made headlines itself after being shunned by the 1996 Olympic torch relay because of a resolution saying folks of “the gay lifestyle” weren’t welcome.

    That same year, Barr authored the federal Defense of Marriage Act, easily the most notorious anti-gay law ever adopted by Congress. Passed amidst panic over the possibility that Hawaii might marry same-sex couples, DOMA prohibits the U.S. government from recognizing gay marriages. It also says that, despite a constitutional provision to the contrary, no state has to recognize marriage licenses issued to gay couples by other states.

    Barr wound up losing his seat in 2002 due to a changing demographic and redistricting, and subsequently raised eyebrows by reinventing himself as a civil libertarian, even signing on as a consultant for the ACLU. The new and improved Bob Barr has even disassociated himself from his most famous piece of legislation.

    “Standing before you, looking you in the eye, the Defense of Marriage Act, insofar as it provided the federal government a club to club down the rights of law-abiding, American citizens, has been abused, misused and should be repealed,” Barr said in his speech accepting the Libertarian nomination.

    Bob_barr Barr’s “defense of marriage” was always a bizarre contradiction, considering he was twice-divorced and on his third marriage back when he wrote the law. His newfound opposition to his own handiwork is a head-scratcher, too. How exactly was DOMA “abused and misused,” considering its impact was pretty much exactly as foreseen?

    The new Bob Barr still oppose gay marriage mind you, despite the Libertarian Party platform, although he agrees with John McCain htat states should be left to decide the question for themselves. Barr also still supports the half of DOMA that allows states to ignore marriage licenses issues to gay couples by other states.

    Throw in the Libertarian Party’s long-held (if principled) opposition to hate crime laws, workplace protection and other private sector non-discrimination statutes, and Barr lines up on gay rights somewhere just north of McCain – and that’s not saying much.

    There are lots of good reasons that GLBT groups warn us not to throw away our votes on third-party candidates and independent types, but this time around the temptation should be particularly easy to resist.


    The gay donor group eQuality Giving has compiled a very helpful side-by-side comparison of the Green and Libertarian Party platforms on gay rights.

    Southern Voice also has an excellent story comparing the gay rights records of McKinney and Barr.

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    September 15, 2008

    Obama and McCain on the financial crisis: hello?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Panic6tfUPDATES at end of this post, regarding the detailed candidate speeches delivered on this issue on September 16, and subsequent rally speeches.

    The newest test of the two presidential candidates, after the Russian invasion and land grab in Georgia, is upon us.  The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in the world, and the feverishly rapid buyout of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America have brought new signs of financial panic in the U.S. markets, and the impact on the broader economy will be substantial, albeit undefined right now.

    It is another test of both men's judgment as well as policy directions.  So far, it seems that the culture wars and the silly positioning are still distracting both campaigns a bit too much.  The events on Wall Street over the past 48 hours are far more important to the vast majority of Americans than the Looney Tunes short features on whether Obama backed a sex-education program for babies, or if Sarah Palin wants gays to be gassed in death camps.

    Out of the chute, both candidates pointed at the correct issue at the heart of the crisis today: poor regulation.  There has been a serious lack of proper regulation and oversight as the derivative markets flowered uncontrollably, to the point where instruments tied to hyperinflated assets were so complex that traders themselves couldn't figure out how they worked and interacted across the medium or broad scale of the markets.  Plus, these derivatives, along with interest rates held too low for too long at a critical moment, fueled the enormous price bubble in the housing market, which has burst like an infected sore.  These are the common threads woven through the whole crisis.  It is a pox not only on the Bush Administration and the Congress (under both sets of party majorities), but also an indictment of the major financial players themselves.  Everything spiraled out of control from the beginning despite years of warnings from respected corners.

    Credit goes to both McCain and Obama for recognizing what the problem was, and they both called for deposits to be shielded as a priority above the interests of the executives at the crashing companies.  Obama, of course, tried to tie it all polemically to the Republicans, as he should.  But Obama has no experience at all in leading broad-scale institutional reforms, and no record of tackling issues as big and far-reaching as this crisis.  I give him a complete pass on mixing partisan rhetoric into his statements on this crisis today, assuming he wouldn't do the same if he presides over a one-party government next year.  But I have no clue what Obama will do to solve this problem, and after poring over his website and googling the subject, I still can't find the details.  He's got some old bits out there about cracking down on predatory mortgage practices, but that is about two years behind on where the crisis sits today.  I know he will simply appoint a Treasury Secretary and an economic adviser who will be accountable for whatever broad plan he'd try to implement (not to mention having to deal with vested and polemical hams on Capitol Hill).  But we need more than rhetoric about "change" and some easy political shots to be assured that he will know what he's doing on this gigantic issue that has gone far beyond the sub-prime mortgage bubble that burst long ago in this unfolding story.

    McCain has never been a defender of the investment banks in this issue and once again criticized the lack of proper regulation and said he will eagerly re-regulate if elected.  With his many years of experience as a Senate Commerce Committee chairman, especially taking on the tobacco industry (which ran a $40 million campaign against his efforts), his leadership on a number of reform efforts that were enacted, and his vote against the GOP private securities tort reform law in 1995, I don't personally doubt that he could ably lead an effort at reforming the regulatory institutions in this case.  And to his credit, in his statement today and for a while, he linked the current crisis to the broader lacks of control on Wall Street.  His Senate service through the savings and loan meltdown in the late 1980s reinforced his view, he has said, that "government intervention can have unintended consequences."  Good instincts.  I also like to see that he sees the lack of proper regulation as a "handicap" on our end of the global market, and threatens our financial position against other markets.  This is a recognition that there are reasons behind the collapse of the dollar, the decline in confidence in Wall Street around the world, and the worrying shift away from what the U.S. economy does best -- and these reasons are rooted in bad policy.  (I still wonder if Obama shares this philosophy.  I hope he does.)  But I want to hear a lot more about exactly what reforms are needed to get us back on track, and have them be openly graded by market analysts and the financial press.  The details will be a better barometer on his judgment about what must be corrected in the markets, how it needs to be implemented and when.  If he doesn't produce credible details, then the charge that he is out of touch, or no longer "the real McCain", will stick and concern will rise, not lessen.

    Let's see if we can have a serious discussion between the two campaigns on this issue, not a stupid Punch-and-Judy show about whose ex-wife or fifth child or former pastor or plaigarized speech from 20 years ago is a symbol for why the financial crisis is simply a convenient moment to prove that God is on one or the other side in this campaign.

    UPDATE #1 (live-blogging the Sept 16th detailed stump speeches by McCain, Obama, on this issue):

    (Tuesday, Sept 16th - 12:09pm) McCain is delivering a tough speech in Tampa right now, with much more detailed analysis of the financial crisis.  He zeroed in directly on derivatives and other complex instruments that he said (I think correctly) were used to "hide" unsustainable risk by too many in the markets.  He also pointed the finger at Congress and, apparently, the Bush Administration, for being far too influenced by lobbyists from the financial institutions (again, he's said this for years).  He is promising wide-scale reform, with some detail around how he will drill-down and toughen enforcement not only mortgage lenders but the financial operators in the system that multiplied the damage and exposure of the financial system on top of inflated assets.  He clearly knows the lay of the land of the government agencies, and so his tack has credibility.  He's on fire.  He seems to be channeling the "old McCain", so dubbed by his media critics.

    12:19pm (ET): Now, he's moved on to broader economic and enegy policy, segueing comfortably.  He's not stammering.  His cadence is confident, never getting too wonky before this huge crowd, but getting into the details of every policy issue.  (He's on nuclear power now, and the capacity for power storage and partnerships with foreign partners.  Stuff I'll be damned if I understand.  The crowd is on its feet, strangely.  McCain is not reading this speech.  He's ad-libbing most of it.)

    12:27pm (ET): The speech ended with a flourish about Iraq.  Not once have I noticed him mentioning either Obama, or the Democrats.  Sounds like he's fighting against a much broader swath.  Very effective. 

    Now, we've shifted to Obama, speaking in Golden, Colorado.  Obama is speaking non-stop about McCain, saying his philosophy (apparently rooted in Bush's) is responsible for "incompetence" in the management of the markets.

    12:30pm (ET): Obama now, on grading McCain's response to the current financial situation, says he "will provide leadership, John McCain won't, and that is the choice in this election."  He said McCain offered "the oldest Washington stunt in the book" by apparently calling for a commission as part of a reform effort.  "This isn't 9/11 - we know how we got into this mess."  Strange reference. 

    12:32pm (ET): He then says he wants to offer a "bold new opportunity agenda."  It is, he says, a $60 billion "emergency" program which sounds like an infusion of money into schools and into state coffers.  (What exactly would that do to grow the economy?  And how will he pay for it?)  He is talking now about raising penalties for predatory lending.  (OK - the horse is out of the barn, though.  What about Wall Street?)  He's now talking about expansive aid packages for individuals with defaulted mortgages.  (Again - how will this reform the market?)  Now he's talking class war -- bankruptcy law protects the rich too much, etc.  (Ibid.)

    12:36pm (ET): Now he's finally getting around to the markets.  He rightly says that trust must be restored to the markets, and that will come with better oversight.  (Amen.)  He lays out core principles for reform: all qualified borrowers should be subject to requisite oversight (reasonable enough, but who will do the oversight?  Under what rules?); overhaul regulations on financial instruments and transactions - lots of detail, most of it around transparency regarding risk (very good); agencies must be streamlined (again, very good); jurisdictions must be clear and they must be carried out (no brainer); lastly, more regulators (duh).  Obama is very closely reading off the teleprompter, more haltingly than he normally does.  At least he's getting many points right.

    12:39pm (ET): Now he talks about anticipating risk before they overwhelm the scenario, "and that's what I'll do when I'm President of the United States."  I doubt he'll be his own Treasury Secretary, but its reassuring to know he'll keep an eye out.  I worry, though, that the tone of all of this sounds far more interventionist than the government should be.  Would he bail out companies that should be left to crash, simply because of the state they're in or the "workers" they affect (vs., I guess, the "fat cats" who work as analysts, traders and secretaries on Wall Street).

    12:42pm (ET): Now he's talking about taking on special interests.  This is all very welcome.  We now have very strong rhetoric from both sides on this, with some above average credibility compared previous elections.  But Obama is now going back to saying "lobbyists don't run my campaign" as a shot at McCain.  (I know several of these so-called "lobbyists" running McCain's campaign, and to compare them with the shameles lobbyists in the driver's seat among Democrats is beyond laughable.)

    12:44pm (ET): Now we're summing up, and he's layering in his rhetoric about punishing companies that "ship jobs overseas" (ugh.), etc.  Now, coverage is cutting away for a commercial.

    In short, both promised a lot of regulation.  I agree that regulation needs to come into the system, especially on ensuring new instruments and derivatives.  But it does seem like the two speeches reflect the gigantic shift in the political dynamic. 

    McCain laid out an agenda that seemed genuinely in touch with his personality and his core political identity (at least, the one I've known for the last 16 years), and didn't mention his opponent.  He also wove the current crisis deftly into broader economic policy that focuses on growth and on energy (very, very well, as I agree that they are all inter-related).

    Obama spent much of his speech attacking and blaming McCain for the current problems, and went into much more specific detail on specific reforms that McCain, which shows he is now on the defensive.  He offered some well thought-out proposals, others that were not exactly original, and I don't buy that he came up with all of them himself as he has next to no experience on these issues.  I also worry they might sprout from a philosophy that is too heterodox and too interventionist - he should back off the class-war and reassure the middle he gets what markets mean to our economy.  That would increase his credibility with people like me.

    To be continued...

    UPDATE #2: The media seems divided in reacting to the Obama and McCain prescriptions for the financial crisis.  The New York Times has predictably, and fairly shamelessly, sided with Obama in its political coverage.  But a series of accompanying articles take the pulse of the broader body politic and indicate a number of solutions floating around -- all of them serious, some of them radical -- and deserving of consideration and debate (and, in my view, bolstering the concept of a blue-ribbon commission).  The Wall Street Journal gave a more balanced look, tilting toward the belief within the McCain camp that there isn't a "magic solution" to the problem and that McCain's proposals and rhetoric are "tougher-than-usual".

    But Jeff Zelny of the Times captured the larger political truth behind this week's push and pull.  Obama sees this as his moment to recapture momentum from the surging McCain.  He is carrying himself with tremendous self confidence in saying he is making solid proposals while McCain is "passing the buck" to a commission.  It is a risky strategy for someone with no experience, but it seems to be playing well with Obama's base, which is also eating up the class-war rhetoric coming with it.  Thomas Frank in the Wall Street Journal is celebrating, and wants more of it.  It seems that if Obama veers off into this vein, he has a shot at peeling some of the Hillary voters back from McCain-Palin over the coming weeks.  But it will guarantee that the race will grow nastier, more lurid and more negative, and not less so.  That will turn a lot of undecideds and independents off, and one has to wonder what the net gain will be for either side.

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    Filed in: McCain , Obama

    Financial Times to Dems: You're in a hole. Stop digging.

    Posted by: Kevin

    Ftdems_inholeClive Crook, of the Financial Times of London, joins in urging the Democrats to stop digging themselves deeper in the hole their in:

    For Mr McCain to win the election against the odds that faced him pre-Palin – with the economy in the tank and the incumbent Republican president setting records for unpopularity – would be sensational enough. For this to happen because of his vice-presidential pick, a decision that is usually of next to no consequence, beggars belief. The Democrats had to bring all their resources to getting themselves into this fix. They proved equal to the task. ...

    Certainly, the Democrats can see they are in a hole. Somehow, though, the word has gone out: “Keep digging.” Mr Obama is also urged to be less cool and lose his temper. Voters adore an angry candidate, you see. “Dig faster, and be more angry,” is the advice coming down from the political geniuses who decided it was a fine idea to laugh at Ms Palin in the first place. A recurring television image in the past few days has been the split-screen contrast between a serenely smiling Republican operative and a fulminating red-faced Democrat about to have a stroke.

    Efforts to smear the governor proceed at a frantic pace. ... Of course, they will find things. They may even find something important. But the sheer swarming zeal for trivial malfeasance and family embarrassments is rapidly raising the bar for impropriety. I think that many voters – and not just committed Republicans – find this whole spectacle disgusting, so on top of everything else Ms Palin is now getting a sympathy vote.

    Democrats will deny it, but they opened this new front in the culture war by their response to the Palin nomination. The mess they are in is their own fault. They still seem intent on driving significant numbers of women and moderates over to the other side and Mr McCain’s political instinct is doubtless to help this rift in the electorate widen further. It could be a winning strategy. But good politics is not the same thing as responsible leadership. I intend it as a compliment to Mr McCain when I say that if his means to victory in this election is to divide the country, it is a victory he should not want.

    Read the whole piece.  Crook is not a GOP fan at all, but a very incisive British observer in Washington.  I'm still undecided in this election.  And I think that unless things change direction in the Obama camp, this will indeed be another 1988 and not another 1980, no matter how I vote.  Frankly, Crook is speaking for me when he says many voters find the current spectacle disgusting.  I'd hoped this would be an unprecedentedly issues-driven, honorable race.  Now, I'm tuning out.

    If you're an Obama fanatic, it does your cause no good to continue operating in a fog of denial.  Pull yourselves together, people.  You're blowing this election.

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    Filed in: McCain , Obama , Palin

    September 10, 2008

    Party on the verge of a nervous breakdown

    Posted by: Kevin

    Women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breThere is no question that Barack Obama and his senior aides ran an astounding primary campaign, right through to the nomination acceptance speech at the end of their triumphant convention in Denver.  Obama broke out of the pack early on, raised a gigantic amount of money, and took on the Clinton machine head-to-head.  He fought off endless efforts to smear him, both on the internet and in the media, and didn't relent.  Even in his announcement speech, he upstaged the establishment and dominated the scene whether he'd won or lost that day.  Against the odds, he made history on several fronts, not the least of which being the first African American nominated for President of the United States.

    I celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton, and all that her cynical, soulless borg came to represent.  To me, a Hillary victory would mean the Democratic Party would be "assimilated" into a cynical enterprise meant to serve the Clintons and their Ideology of Me, weakening the party at a time when gays are dangerously - perhaps fatally - dependent on its flagging interest in delivering on our issues.  I agreed fully with the heart and the spirit of the very first notable YouTube fan video for Obama, which portrayed his primary challenge as nothing less than a one-person revolution against a cowed and brainless mass, sitting agape upon having the thin TV screen of their droning and predictable psychodrama (starring Herself) shattered and destroyed.  Hope was alive.

    Obama's Denver acceptance speech was hands down the most electric and ballsy feat of political drama since the day in 1912 in Milwaukee when Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in on the campaign stump and went on to give a thundering 90 minute speech anyway.  Obama will be remembered for the 80,000 cheering fans, the fireworks shooting into the sky, the stagecraft, the music and the iron confidence he showed in himself, despite being the insurgent.  And every African American alive today and for the next hundred years will be able to say that the glorious history of that moment was fully honored and fully inhaled by the nation for time and memorial.  It was, in all sincerity, spectacular.

    But I sat down and read Obama's speech without the fanfare, putting aside the history around his race and the stirring artistry of the scenery.  It was, as the Associated Press rightly pointed out, very light on specifics, despite promises that it would have many.  Most people I know who watched the speech can't remember a single line from it today.  Obama needed to unite his party, yes.  That was definitely achieved.  But he also had to make his case to the vast number of undecided or skeptical voters who, like me, would put aside the historic and visual implications and pay attention to what he actually said and stood for.  Was he really so different?  Was he really bringing "change" that was more than skin deep?

    He didn't break out for me in Denver.  On foreign policy, it was all meringue and no candor or recognizable philosophy.  On education, it was essentially no-child-left-behind-plus-Americorps.  On energy, it was embarrassingly light on comprehension and almost identical to the current policies of George W. Bush (who is pouring money into R&D on biofuels, campaigned on clean coal technology as early as 2000, and is protecting the corn ethanol industry like Obama wants to do).  On taxes, it was about raising them.  And on the issue of gay equality, there were a couple of placating words but, in terms of policy, only a vague reference to hospital visitation rights.  (Noted lesbian reporter Karen Ocamb noticed, and raised an alarm on this.)  Ironically, McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said about as much to a placated room full of Log Cabin activists in Minneapolis as Obama said in that stadium to the nation.

    To me, this points to a larger weakness in the campaign's central strategy.  Obama is still campaigning as the insurgent despite being the nominee and the presumed President-to-be, given the horrendous approval ratings of the Republican lame-duck.  This is a mistake.  He hasn't yet made the vitally important leap to statesman and "presidential", not in my mind and not in the mind of many undecided Americans. 

    He seems to have thought he'd just shift his insurgent campaign against Hillary to an insurgent campaign against George W. Bush, and simply win the election.  It was exciting in the primaries, at least for us non-Democrats or for new voters, and not for any cynical reason.  I truly like Barack Obama.  I admire his communication skills and his flair for the emotional, the dramatic, the inspirational -- all of which is sorely lacking in honorable U.S. politicians.  I envy his charisma.  To be honest, there were moments a few months ago when I really wanted to be in his corner all the way.  But I was waiting for him to close the deal.  It didn't happen.  And with the ever growing scale of his production values, I grow more doubtful that a deal-closer is there behind the curtain.  (Still time to prove me wrong.)

    Then I looked at the Denver performance again on my DVR and realized I was seeing something interesting.  The agape faces of the Democrats.  The happy, satiated activists.  They had a new psychodrama to latch onto, a new giant jumboscreen to watch.  So what that it was now starring the man who demolished their last one?  They were in their seats again.  Mouths open.  That's what they always wanted.  They didn't need to hear specifics.  They just needed the right lyrics to go with the music.

    I need more than that if you're going to ask me to toss aside nearly everything I believe on every issue besides gay rights and vote the way you say I must.  In the words of Madonna, I've heard it all before.

    And then, the unexpected game-changer.  Sarah Palin happened to Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Aside from what it actually meant in reality, in terms of the Democratic psychodrama it was a sudden, horrifying, Hurricane Katrina of a different sort.  Something suddenly went awry inside their heads.  (Indeed, speaking of hurricanes and kookiness, several noted Democrats publicly likened the arrival of Hurricane Gustav to God's punishment of the GOP that weekend.  Jerry Falwell would be proud of them for that - and it was surreal to hear it coming from their lips.)  And rather than spend the next week sitting back, confident that their man was more than up to this pitiful challenge to him, it seems that much of the party's activist wing began to quickly descend towards a nervous breakdown as independents began to break hard for the McCain-Palin ticket in most polls.

    Obama's faulty strategy hasn't helped him.  He had to leave the stadium and lightshows behind and close the deal, but he's flailing now.  The ridiculous boomlet over his "lipstick" remark was notable not for whether he intended to liken Palin to a pig (I say he didn't), but for the speed in which so many fell for the agile McCain reaction and recoiled.  That was a red warning light that needs to be heeded.  It was one of those bizarre moments where Obama pulled a Bill Clinton -- he said something really stupid (perhaps too candid about his true feelings of contempt?  I hope not) and seemed to almost know it a moment later.  Then he added a metaphor about a stinking fish, and maybe compounded the error.  That this was the only line of his stump speech that got attention that day is a glaring reflection of his failure to move with the shifting direction of this campaign (and he blamed the media for it), and how there is much more going on in the body politic for which repetitive doses of "hope" and "change" rhetoric aren't enough.  If Obama doesn't change strategic direction soon, a whiff of Dukakis will be in the air.

    And the crack-ups going on among the activist base, on glaring display across the internet in the last two weeks, is a troubling sign of the Democratic Party's deeper institutional hollowness that Obama's victory has not addressed.  This party is not ready for prime time if this is all they've got coming out of Denver.  And intelligent people of high note on the blogosphere seemed to go loco and wallow in the lowest depths of conspiracy theories and smears.  The alarm among cooler heads was such that Andrew Sullivan, for instance, had to post a note to readers acknowledging their "concern" and to say that he is "absolutely fine".  It was only days after seeming to demand that Palin submit to a maternity test to prove that her youngest child was her own (he has since backed off such crazy talk).

    Camile Paglia, a partisan Democrat herself, said it best:

    The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.

    Some of the charges, exaggerations and pure inventions about Sarah Palin were so loud, numerous and deafening that they seem to have backfired egregiously.  The waters are so muddy and polluted now that undecideds are refusing to believe almost anything being said about her, and any rightful critiques or discrepencies in her record or statements are being painted with the same broad brush of mistrust as the crazy talk.  For a party that has long -- and rightly -- denounced such campaigning to turn so ferociously, chaotically and ineptly to the same tactics was a jolt in the face of Obama's sunny and uplifting style.  And it leaves the undecided voter cold and cynical about whether there is anything about them that has "changed."

    And the fact that simply by writing all this, I will probably be subject to a volley of truly hateful comments says even more about what is going wrong with Obama's quest.  There is still far too much window-dressing and preaching to the choir, mixed with a really shocking level of sleaze from the activists that must be driving Obama crazy.  Perhaps it's because he knows that so long as it continues, voters like me (the ones who will decide this election) will see no difference between him and the Republicans, and when the artistry and emotion is wiped away, he is dead even with John McCain -- and maybe won't hold up.

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    Filed in: DNC , McCain , Obama , Palin

    September 08, 2008

    Log Cabin's McCain mistake revisited

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnmccainsketch Just as I expected, Kevin has made by far the strongest argument I've seen anywhere in favor of the Log Cabin endorsement of McCain-Palin. His general point is that the decision was necessary for Log Cabin to retain any influence within the Republican Party, and to preserve access in a McCain White House.

    Fair enough. I certainly understand that motivation and guessed as much before they announced the endorsement. Also, I will defer to Kevin's far superior knowledge about the control (or lack thereof) that GOP presidential nominees have over the platform process.

    Still, before I respond to Kevin's argument, a word about motives. Kevin says he "can only speculate as to why [I've] been on such a tear" about the Log Cabin endorsement, although he believes I was motivated by "truly want[ing] more progress in the GOP" because I know he knows "as absolute fact that [I don't] want Log Cabin to fail."

    Of course he's right on both counts -- I believei that I recognize more than most gay non-Republicans how critical support from the GOP will be to hastening our full equality under the law. I regularly defend Log Cabin in part because I know how critical they will be to bringing the GOP around. In fact, that's precisely why I went on "such a tear": because I see Log Cabin mishandling what should be an enormous opportunity, not just to its own detriment but to the movement's as a whole.

    Kevin agrees with me that Log Cabin needs to raise the bar each election cycle, and yet he somehow misses that in reality LCR set the bar in roughly the same place as 2004 and only infinitesimally higher than way back in 2000.

    Eight years ago, Kevin reminds us, "Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to an agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, [but] he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week." Kevin doesn't let us in on what "items" Rove agreed to, and we've got no indication what "items" McCain's camp signed off on -- so comparison there is rather difficult.

    The only visible difference we can see between eight years ago and now is the brief public appearance made by two McCain campaign officials at Log Cabin meetings during the convention, as well as the official credentials LCR received in St. Paul. Do those differences really amount to raising the bar -- commensurate with the growth in support for gay rights in general, and among Republicans in particular? It certainly doesn't to me.

    Kevin portrays these mini-advances as achievements made in spite of the non-endorsement four years ago, bu I would argue that's got the politics backwards. The LCR refusal in 2004 served notice that an endorsement this time around was no sure thing, and the McCain camp had to worry about a repeat, along with a series of press appearances that to distract from wooing moderates and independents.

    Most disappointing for me, however, was Kevin's failure in almost 1,800 words to say anything at all about how McCain in reality failed to chin even the meager bar that he says Log Cabin set for presidential candidates this cycle: opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    To make their case, Log Cabin and Kevin are still reaching back before this campaign season to a time when McCain fervently opposed an amendment as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." That's ancient history, as they know far too well. A fair and objective assessment is that McCain is at best "conditionally opposed" or, I would argue, "conditionally in favor" of amending the nation's founding document to ban states from marrying same-sex couples.

    As I've written until blue in the fingertips, McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment throughout this campaign season, just as he backed away from condemning the Pat Robertsons of the party as "agents of intolerance." McCain's slow-motion flip-flop climaxed last month in pledge to support a federal marriage amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    My issue with the Log Cabin endorsement isn't just the way it papers over what is supposed to be its line in the sand. I think those inside the Log Cabin bubble -- and those who spent years there -- underestimate their own potential to influence the party and the debate. Kevin would measure LCR's political power by the size of membership rolls orby the number of gay Republican voters.

    They're forgetting the percentage of committed party activists -- like Republican delegates -- and GOP-leaning who are sympathetic to gay rights.  Not to mention those who see scapegoating the gays as a sign of Republican intolerance and judgmentalism, however they feel about gay rights itself.

    If Log Cabin were to play it's P.R. cards more effectively, it could play a major role in defining whether Republican candidates -- at whatever level -- are perceived as hard core conservatives or those of the "compassionate" variety.

    That's why I think Kevin is off base in imagining Log Cabin would have been "declared finished" if it had "endorsed McCain by press release and gone home" to fight Proposition 8 in California. To the contrary, if Log Cabin had withheld its endorsement and done the media rounds to explain why, the media would have eaten it up -- just look at the press the hardcore Hillaryites got. The message would be clear thata candidate like McCain will pay a serious price for opposing every form of gay rights protection ever proposed, and backing away even from opposition to a federal amendment.

    Instead, I'm afraid, the take-away message for GOP politicians and operatives is the one I took last week: opposing our equality doesn't really matter, even if like McCain the record is grossly out of touch with Republicans generally, so long as they say a few placating words.

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    September 06, 2008

    Some great ad ideas for Obama

    Posted by: Andoni

    I'm usually in bed by 11, so I TIVO the Daily Show with Jon Stewart every night and watch it the next day. Last night was their wrap up of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and it was brilliant. If anyone from the Obama campaign was watching, there are at least two TV ads ready to go from the material Stewart put together last night.

    The first potential ad is right along the same lines they have been using -- linking Senator John McCain to President George W. Bush. It shows highlights of the acceptance speeches of each person, and makes them look like twins......word for work. Very powerful. The material for the potential ad begins at 4:25 into the clip and finishes at 6:00.

    The second clip has a lot of material and may be harder to boil down to a 30 second spot. However, it does nail the fact that McCain was one person in 2000 when he ran for president, but from 2006 to now, he morphed into an entirely different person. The real political meat begins at 3:15. Take a look.

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    Filed in: McCain , Obama

    September 05, 2008

    What the Log Cabin endorsement means this time

    Posted by: Kevin

    Schmidtx240 DuhaimeAlthough Chris will slather the criticism on like layers of icing on a New Jersey Italian wedding cake, he gets credit for doling out the praise when it's due.  (Well, a bit more was due for the Log Cabin Romney ads, but I digress.)

    His post calling Log Cabin's endorsement of John McCain this week a "big mistake" was one of the longest he's ever posted, I think, and I can only speculate as to why he's been on such a tear about something that most observers saw coming far in advance.  (I would speculate that it was for good reasons, that Chris truly wanted more progress in the GOP, because I know as absolute fact that he doesn't want Log Cabin to fail.)  But I think Chris didn't have the context, the history and the real significance of Log Cabin's 2008 decision completely right, and that's where he missed the story.

    As he's now reported, the endorsement was warmly accepted by the campaign, which dispatched two of its very senior leaders in person -- and before the media -- to say so.  Mike DuHaime (l), the political director (and a Giuliani campaign alum) attended the announcement of the endorsement on Tuesday and gave remarks from the podium saying it was proof that McCain is running an inclusive campaign.  Then, senior strategist Steve Schmidt (r), the man seen as the driving force behind McCain's general election campaign, attended an event Thursday and was more personal, effusive and explicit in what he saw as the meaning of Log Cabin's endorsement, and of the broader issues facing gay people, as someone who knows about it first hand as the brother of a lesbian.  Schmidt called for Log Cabin to "keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come."   The video is here.

    As Chris has already pointed out, this is very positive news.  And I'll add that the endorsement was woven into it completely.  Chris was right to say that the "bar must be lifted" on a consistent basis each election cycle, but he failed to grasp the context of where the bar actually was going into this election, and where it is now after the events in Minneapolis.

    Log Cabin is an organization that represents, at best, 800,000 to 1 million votes, or a fraction of a percent of the turnout in the last presidential election.  It is also the one group inside the GOP that grates more upon the better organized and more numerous Christian right than any other.  And this is a group that publicly and bitterly broke with its party's nominee in the last election four years ago, leaving its access and political capital highly depleted for the second Bush term. 

    The political price Log Cabin paid for its correct stand in 2004 against George W. Bush may have been the highest of any of its decisions in its history.  Already a target of extreme (and unceasing) attacks from the gay left, it was now cast out of the national GOP fold.  All the more an indicator of great bravery for a group so small in the big picture.  (Does anyone remember anything remotely similar contemplated in 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and then bragged about it through campaign ads on Christian radio stations in Colorado, despite being miles ahead in opinion polls?) Measuring where "the bar" would be for Log Cabin as the campaign began last year, therefore, was where I think Chris started to get things wrong.

    As they set out with great hopes - despite having no ability to control events -- to fight their way back into the game in 2008, Log Cabin set a couple of basic bottom lines.  Support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was a non-starter, and Mitt Romney - for his 180-degree turn away from Log Cabin and supporting gay rights - would have to be punished and stopped from becoming the nominee.  And from that basis, they would seek every opportunity to build upward.

    By the time they pulled into Minneapolis, Romney was gone, all the men who backed or voted for the FMA in the Congressional vote were defeated.  The one man who voted -- and spoke on the floor -- against the FMA emerged the victor.  Any Log Cabin leader will tell you that, apart from playing a constructive role in stopping Romney, the organization was in no position after the 2004 breach to have a substantial impact on the primary vote at the ground level or in coalition with Republican national leaders.  (For this, their compelling pounce on Romney was a sign of the scrap that has always been in the group's DNA.)  In reality, the biggest opportunity to rebuild the blown-up bridges in a way that advanced Log Cabin's mission inside the party would be around the convention and the endorsement decision.

    If Log Cabin had merely shown up in Minneapolis, endorsed McCain by press release, and gone home saying they'd simply be focusing on the Proposition 8 fight in California, it would be clear signals that the 2004 action had been more damaging to their capacities inside the party than had been thought.  Chris would have certainly declared them finished, and it would be hard to argue against.  Some partisan gay Democrats would, of course, be cheering at such news; for purely petty and selfish reasons, they've wanted Log Cabin to fail and disappear for more than a decade.  Throughout the blogosphere (including in the comments on this very site) many gays openly call for Log Cabin to be "shunned", to be "silenced", to be "punished" or to have their right to speak, to assemble or even to vote taken away.  (The attack on the highly obscure Jonathan Crutchley was a perfect example of this mob mentality that does not, and has never existed, within Log Cabin in return.)

    But this didn't happen.  And it wasn't going to happen.  If you believe that the McCain campaign is captured by the Christian right, and that McCain himself is "gay-bashing" to win this election, there was no sense in, and absolutely nothing that either DuHaime or Schmidt could have possibly gained from, going publicly before Log Cabin's delegation and saying the things they said.  The backlash would have been far too severe, if those assumptions were true.  And yet, there you are.  It happened, and it was another first for a GOP presidential campaign.  While Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week.  And certainly not one with such a personal tone that connected directly to Log Cabin's "fight".

    And so far, a pin can be heard dropping in response from within the party.  In fact, a predominant theme of McCain's speech was "country before party."  And say what you want of Governor Sarah Palin, but she gained office by unseating an incumbent Republican governor -- and a member of GOP royalty in the state -- in a primary election.  That ought to give a hint as to how he might respond to a backlash.

    And while I could end up being wrong, I doubt there will be one.  Every Log Cabiner at the convention that I have contacted reported a level of warmth from more average delegates than at any other convention they ever attended.  The poll of the delegates which showed a remarkable level of support for gay marriage or civil unions was not a surprise to many gay Republicans there.  And Log Cabin got official credentials from the convention's host committee, had an official convention booth, had a hotel room block under their group's name with the RNC organizers, and had the national party provide them with sanctioned spaces for their events -- an absolute first for a group that has had to file lawsuits to be able to even have a pamphlet table at some state conventions.  That is a major contrast between McCain and many of the arch-conservative fiefs in the more difficult regions of the country.

    One other thing Chris mistakenly said over and over is that McCain "controlled" the delegates at the 2008 convention, and therefore could dictate the platform.  As I tried to explain once before, this is a misnomer, and a misreading of the de facto situation of "control" of any Republican National Convention.  It's no excuse for the condemnable platform that gets produced every four years.  But no nominee will ever "control" the GOP platform -- far from it -- until the delegate selection rules are changed in nearly all of the key states.  The state parties control the selection processes for delegates, and a long time ago the rules were fixed by a hard-core of far right activists to ensure that no matter who won a primary or a caucus, the delegates going to convention would be of the most hardline social conservative types, with the specific purpose of controlling the platform.  In 1996, Bob Dole tried to shine a microscopic beam of light on the abortion plank and was shot down hard; he then quipped that he hadn't read the final version and didn't intend to.  George W. Bush sent a platform draft to the 2000 convention that was scrubbed of much of the anti-gay language of the previous one, or softened notably.  An organized, but highly outgunned, group of Log Cabin and pro-choice allies tried to preserve the draft, but were mowed down on plank after plank and the bad stuff was loaded back in.  So, as Log Cabin spokesman Scott Tucker said adeptly this week, the platform "was not the hill we were going to die on."

    And wisely so.  That is a battle for later.  For now, Log Cabin has re-emerged from the disaster of the FMA and is re-booting their fight within the Republican Party with a new vigor and a new set of challenges to take on.  What they scored in return for their endorsement in the bigger context of where they came from is extraordinary, and due entirely to their undying persistence in moving forward no matter what gets thrown at them. 

    And I agree with McCain's most senior aide that "the day is going to come" for Log Cabin's fight to be won.

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    McCain bests Palin from the podium

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccaincountryfirst I was more impressed than Andoni with John McCain's speech last night, although I agree that much of his rhetoric rings hollow considering how dismissive he's been toward gay civil rights.

    ("Education is the civil rights issue of this century"? School choice? Really? I favor it myself and loathe labor unions in general, but is he so blind toward the real civil rights movements out there -- targeting actual discrimination in the private sector and by our government itself?)

    Of course McCain's delivery was mediocre; speechifying is definitely not his strong suit, though he certainly stepped it up for prime time, as is the norm for nominees giving the big acceptance address.

    Unlike the partisan, dismissive tone set by Sarah Palin and, well, pretty much every other speaker I've heard this week, McCain was far less divisive. That's also to be expected, since the Palin pick has sealed the deal with his base and now he's reaching out for the independents and undecideds. It almost felt like the old John McCain, minus the courageous, stern warning of those days to the "agents of intolerance" within his own party.

    He even tried to set a more respectful tone toward the Dems…

    A word to Senator Obama and his supporters. We'll go at it -- we'll go at it over the next two months -- you know that's the nature of this business -- and there are big differences between us. But you have my respect and my admiration. Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that's an association that means more to me than any other.

    But if that was truly the message he wanted to send, he failed pretty miserably. For one thing, he just couldn't help re-using a line that struck me the first time I heard it as among the meanest personal attacks in recent times from one presidential nominee to another…

    I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need.

    What a turn off, and what dissonance from his earlier profession of respect and admiration for Obama and his supporters.

    And if McCain really wanted to set a respectful tone for the campaign, he would have been much better off if the other speakers this week -- including his own running mate -- hadn't been so dismissive. He'd have been even better off if he'd followed Obama's lead and given his acceptance speech in a larger venue, with the general public present to drown out the rah-rah delegates.

    Their enthusiasm isn't the problem, of course. That's obviously to be expected. But I can't be the only one really and truly bothered by the way the delegates incessantly chant "USA! USA!" -- not because I love my country any less. I've yelled it myself when cheering on our athletes at the Olympics or last year here in Rio at the Pan Am Games. But in a partisan setting, and especially in response to partisan rhetoric, the message is clear: We're the true Americans; the other party isn't.

    Consider the McCain-Palin campaign's new motto: "Country First" That obviously echoes the ugly message the delegates are sending, and we've already seen in comments on this blog and elsewhere how his followers wield it like a patriotic sledgehammer. Why would "Country First" be the primary reason to elect McCain-Palin unless Obama-Biden were putting someone else -- presumably themselves -- ahead of country?

    Like Palin's, the speech last night was also light on specifics -- particularly ironic considering the grief Obama has gotten on that score. Maybe McCain doesn't have more to offer on the domestic front except lower taxes, school choice, tighter spending and drilling, drilling, drilling.

    The speech also ended on a low note for me, as McCain awkwardly semi-yelled "Fight with me! Fight with me!" over the roars of the crowd. I don't know if he recruited many new McCainiacs to "fight with him" with theatrics like that, but on the whole the speech was at least less of a turnoff than Palin's.

    (If you haven't already, check out the New York Times interactive feature that ties video of the speech to the transcript. It's a great way to see what was said.)

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    Filed in: McCain

    McCain's brain hearts Log Cabin

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: The mainstream media is all over the story (here, here and here), so things may get very interesting...

    UPDATE: Now we have video, and Schmidt's remarks are very welcome.

    "We are the party of freedom," he said, citing Abraham Lincoln as the GOP's founder. "And as a party we strive to … reach that goal, and we'll keep fighting as a party to reach it in full. And I think over time it will be reached in full."

    I have to wonder if he or McCain will face backlash.

    (Hat tip: My more skeptical pal over at Good As You)

    My original post:

    More encouraging news out of the Republican convention:

    John McCain's senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt showed up at a Log Cabin meeting to, in his words, "pay my respect and campaign’s respect to your organization and to your group":

    “Your organization is an important one in the fabric of our party,” said Schmidt, who many view as the new architect of the Republican Party.

    In his brief remarks, Schmidt weaved in a personal anecdote about his lesbian sister and her relationship to him, his wife, and his children. “On a personal level, my sister and her partner are an important part of my life and our children’s life,” he said. “I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come.”

    Those are strong words, especially when he predicts "the day is going to come" that the GOP will come around on gay rights. Apparently Schmidt had read the polling that shows that the delegates to the Republican convention are actually out ahead of voters in supporting civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.

    An Advocate story about Schmidt's remarks also reports that Log Cabin received official credentials from the convention host committee for the first time ever.

    Cheneys Still, given Schmidt's influential role, those words ring hollow since the McCain campaign went along with a Republican platform plank that backed the same federal marriage amendment the nominee himself supposedly opposes. And with inflammatory rhetoric, claiming it was necessary to "preserve our children's future."

    We've had eight years with the second most powerful man in the White House backing civil unions and supporting his lesbian daughter and her partner. The effect on policy was nil. It's long past time that the Republican powerful who "get it" to do something about it.

    If Scmidt is right, and he surely is, that our "day will come" even within the Republican party, what exactly are he and Dick Cheney and the rest doing about it?

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    September 04, 2008

    McCain's speech didn't talk to me

    Posted by: Andoni

    Mccain_acceptance I just finished watching Senator John McCain's acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for president. Having watched other McCain speeches, I thought this was one of his better deliveries.

    The only point I will make is that his speech did not speak to me. He spoke in broad generalities about rights in the country, but I know he did not mean me. For instance, he said

    If you find fault with our country, make it a better one. … Enlist in our armed forces.

    Sorry, Senator, as much as I would like to, I can't because I'm gay. And you want it to stay that way, so don't tell me to join the armed forces. This doesn't apply to me or millions of others, and for you to suggest it knowing it excludes us is ignorant.

    He also advised viewers, "Defend the rights of the oppressed." Hey, as a gay man in the U.S. I consider myself oppressed by my government. Senator McCain doesn't support my rights as an oppressed person. This is meaningless hyperbole and hypocritical.

    Additionally, he asked the crowd, "Fight for the ideals and character of a free people." Again, I want to be free in this country, but I know he doesn't mean me because he ignores his followers who fight for me and ask him to fight for people like me.

    Finally, he concluded, "Fight for justice and opportunity for all. " Again, sounds good, but this rings hollow, too, because his history on justice for the LGBT community is just about non existent.

    So, in conclusion, Senator McCain gave a good speech, but said nothing to show that he understands my struggles, my fears, and my greatest hope as a citizen of this country. Very disappointing. He showed ignorance and no concern for my concerns.

    If you missed it, you can read his speech here.

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    Filed in: McCain

    Tracy Flick for vice president

    Posted by: Chris

    SarahpalinconventionCount me among those not particularly impressed by Sarah Palin's speech last night at the Republican National Convention. I do understand why the delegates went ga-ga for her and why Kevin loved it.

    Considering all the hits she took in her short time in the spotlight, the feisty speech served notice she can give as good as she gets. Palin is an engaging public speaker, certainly more effective than John McCain and those who preceded her at the podium last night.

    For Republican partisans and others turned off (or envious) of Barack Obama and his adoring masses, the speech was a clear home run. A woman's softer delivery is better suited for using humor to mock and belittle because it doesn't come off as mean-spirited -- so long as it isn't shrill.

    Annrichardsconvention To that extent, Palin's dismissive tone about an opponent she seemed to pity more than dislike harkened back to Ann Richards' legendary stemwinder against George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. ("Poor George, he can't help it if he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.") Then and now, the anti-elitist rhetoric was the perfect red meat for energizing the base.

    I was a Republican back in those days but at least interested in what the other side had to say. I remember laughing along with Richards -- how could you not like her? But in the end, all those raucous applause lines Richards delivered so well had done little to convince undecided voters to ditch Bush (despite his frighteningly unqualified running mate), much less pull the lever for Michael Dukakis. I would say the same about last night.

    That's my sense about Palin's speech, which included surprising little substance about the economic issues that will decide the election.  She did, at least, come off as a more formidable campaigner than Dan Quayle, though she wind up as tarnished by scandal as Geraldine Ferraro.

    Tracyflick What's more, Sarah Palin is no Ann Richards. Last night at least, she came off half as genuine and twice as smug. Andrew Sullivan absolutely hit the nail on the head when he compared Palin to Tracy Flick, the annoyingly smirky candidate for student body president that Reese Witherspoon played so brilliantly in "Election." (Speaking of annoying, it really rubbed me the wrong way to see Cindy McCain chortling along to Palin's shots at Obama, the supposed elitist. Talk about someone born with a silver foot in her mouth.)

    If that seems like way too many comparisons, it's because Palin remains an empty vessel at this point, partly because she's still unwilling to submit to tough questioning by the "media elite." (This weekend's Sunday talk shows will feature McCain on "Face the Nation," Obama on "This Week," and Joe Biden on "Meet the Press." Notice anyone missing?)

    Time will tell if I was off-base in my first reaction, thinking McCain had "blown the election" by selecting someone so clearly unqualified. At this point, I agree with those (including conservatives) who point out the Palin pick ultimately says less about her than it does McCain's reckless, knee jerk approach to decision-making.

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    September 03, 2008

    Take that, bitches

    Posted by: Kevin

    Palinrnc Tonight, I came in after a solid 36 hours of work (in the real world, where I have a job) to Mitt Romney droning through a speech that appeared to be written in 1980.  Thank God this was his exit from the stage for now, hopefully for good.

    Then I saw Rudy Giuliani speak, and was reminded why I fought, and marched, and campaigned, and bled for that man in 1993 and 1997 in New York's gutter politics with the kind of energy a 20-something activist has plenty of to spare.

    And then the speech of the night.  I spoke to my 68 year-old mother, a registered independent, who was born in New York and lives in a swing state today.  She voted for Hillary in 2000, and again backed her this year.  She was in love.  My sister, who lives around the corner from Mom, who is Palin's age, is a soccer-hockey-baseball-wrestling mom who sleeps about 5 hours a night and drives a minivan, and was on her feet.  My dad, the only registered Republican of the bunch of them, who said to my horror in 1984 that a woman could never handle being President, said he thinks the "other three should step aside and let her do it."

    I say this purely as someone who did politics and campaigns for a decade, and not even a voter or a white guy or a right-handed vegetarian or a homosexual or an itinerate anti-car pedestrian: from what many very clever Democrats (and some temporarily whacked-out bloggers) have done to turn her into a monster, and what some marginally lunatic trolls on the internet have tried to do to her children, the speech given moments ago by Sarah Palin ought to send a chill down your spine tonight.  She represents an America you apparently don't realize is out there, and you'd better get with the program if you don't want to blow yet another election.  This is not Dan Quayle you're dealing with.  That's obvious now.

    And aside from everything that has been said about her record (and what yet might be said by her on the campaign trail), and this was only round one of a two-month long campaign ahead, I can tell you -- I agreed with every word, comma and period in that speech.  I am really, really undecided now.

    More later.  I'm on fumes, and I'm going to bed.  (Chris, you'll have to wait for the tome on the LCR endorsement.  But I think I've hit some of the points already right here.  We'll talk about the issues in a bit, but read through the blogosphere and you'll see why about a million gay Republicans feel a kinship with Sarah Palin tonight.  Emotion cuts both ways, ladies.)

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    GOP delegates out in front on unions!

    Posted by: Chris

    Since I've been pretty harsh on Log Cabin for endorsing the McCain-Palin ticket, I feel especially obliged to point out some positive developments in these early days of the Republican National Convention.

    By far the most impressive was some polling data that got buried in the updates to my post on the LCR nod. According to a CBS-New York Times survey of the Republican delegates, fully half (well, 48%) of the delegates support either gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

    Here's my homemade chart that breaks down the percentages among delegates and voters from each party. It's clearer that really civil unions are the option that the GOP delegates go for, but that's not the real shocker:

    Cbs_nytimes_poll_delegates What truly surprised me is that the delegates to the Republican convention are actually out ahead of the GOP voters on relationship recognition for same-sex couples (shown in yellow highlight).

    Civil unions register 15 percentage points higher support among Republican delegates than among the party's voters, and the combined support for either marriages or civil unions register 10 points higher among delegates than voters.

    On the one hand, it's incredibly encouraging to see that level of support among Republican delegates for marriage or its legal equivalent for same-sex couples. This should come as a wake-up call to those on the left who consider the GOP to be a lost cause on our issues.

    On the other hand, it should come as a wake-up call to Log Cabin that it's high time to raise the bar on its expectations from presidential hopefuls, since fully half the party's delegates are already there on the issue.

    Before gay Democrats feel too comfy, however, they need to consider raising the bar themselves. With a majority (55%) of the party's delegates supporting full marriage equality and half of all Democratic voters feeling likewise, there is another disconnect there with the party's (viable) presidential candidates, none of whom were willing to go the distance on full marriage equality.

    (Hat tip: Marc Armbinder)

    A few other positive tidbits:

    RNC's Shrinking Violet (ok, Lavender)

    Log Cabin announced that about two dozen openly delegates and alternates (out of about 2,400 total) are attending this week's Republican convention in Minneapolis. That sounds like good news, but it's only one-third the number from just four years ago, when there were about 40. (Some 277 out GLBT delegates -- out of 4,400 total -- were selected for the Democratic convention, for those of you keeping count at home.)

    Rakegayguide Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Gays?

    I know I said this post would feature positive news from the Republican convention, but I just can't help myself on this one:

    The Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention canceled their order of The Rake magazine's "Secrets of the City" guide because it includes a section for gays and lesbians. The publication is a guide to various attractions in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the gay section contains non-sexual information about local bars and events.

    The campaign for Virginia's Lt. Governor Bill Bolling ordered 150 of the guides to give to Virginia delegates as gifts when they arrived in the Twin Cities. But after reviewing the guide and finding it had a six-page section for gays and lesbians, they canceled their order, said AJ Kiefer, The Rake's advertising director.

    "We need to cancel the order for 150 of the 'Secrets of the City' guidebooks, Melissa Busse, Bolling's political director, wrote in an email to The Rake. "Upon looking at it, though, having a section dedicated solely to GLBT will be a BIG problem for many of our folks. We simply can't hand them out."

    Actually, this does qualify as good news. I can't imagine how those on the right could possibly make themselves look more foolish. Makes you wonder why exactly they were so afraid that their delegation might learn where the gay hot spots are…

    Gaypatriot Dan Does Dallas (ok, Minneapolis)

    A handful of gay bloggers got credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention -- Andy Towle (Towleroad), Daniel DeRito (Thought Theater) and Pam Spaulding, Russ Belville and (my favorite!) Autumn Sandeen from Pam's House Blend.

    But it's pretty fantastic that Dan Blatt (Gay Patriot West of the Gay Patriot blog) was awarded credentials as an out gay blogger covering the GOP confab.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Dan at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convention in San Diego last year, and came away very impressed. He's a very fun and engaging guy, and my jaw was agape at how he can bang out on-the-spot posts in the time it takes me to form my thoughts on what I might have to say.

    He's already made some interesting observations (here and here) on what it's like to be an openly gay blogger in the belly of the beast .

    Kolbe_1 Jim Kolbe's Big Blind Item

    Jim Kolbe first came out while serving as a Republican congressman from Arizona when he thought he was about to be outed by the Advocate and gay activists who were angry that he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (a vote he finally recanted last year). So it's a bit surprising (and fun) to see him engaging in a bit of public gossip about closeted party brethren still serving.

    In a well-received speech at Log Cabin's Big Tent Event yesterday, Kolbe remarked on the fact that his retirement in January last year left no openly gay Republicans in Congress:

    “Don’t worry, there are others there,” Kolbe said of gays in the House. “We just need to make them feel more comfortable.”

    You taking notes, Mike Rogers? Er, let's hope not.

    Less fun was Kolbe's full-throated endorsement of John McCain, based in part on the reaction the Arizona senator had back in '96 to Kolbe's big gay news:

    Kolbe described confiding his sexual orientation years ago to McCain, who he said cut him off and held up his hands. “None of that makes any difference,” Kolbe quoted McCain as saying. “You were my friend yesterday and you’ll be my friend tomorrow.”

    Neilgiuliano That reaction is to McCain's credit, of course, and I remember him issuing a public statement that same year when my good buddy Neil Giuliano came out while serving as mayor of Tempe, Ariz. You may recognize the name because Neil has been doing a bang-up job since 2005 running the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

    If only the partisan hacks on the Human Rights Campaign board had selected Neil instead of a certain someone earlier that very same year. (Just kidding with the "hacks" comment, of course. Kevin's turn of phrase is still ringing in my ears. Not kidding with the partisan part, though.)

    Stevegunderson FYI, CQ Politics erroneously reported that Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican ever in Congress, forgetting Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson, who served from 1981 to 1997, and was outed on the floor of the House in 1994 by GOP blowhard Bob Dornan (R-Calif.) in 1994.

    Whatever happened to Gunderson anyway? He was the guest speaker at my first ever Log Cabin meeting, about 14 years ago now, and I'll admit to coming away a bit crushed out. Anybody out there help out with a "where is he now"?

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    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.

    Ridgeliebermanmccain 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:

    He's teachable.

    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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    More Palin problems

    Posted by: Andoni

    Mccain_eyes_shut Drip, drip, drip.

    When Senator John McCain chose and then introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate in Ohio, he stressed how she was a reformer who fought against Washington pork, just as he had. Well, in addition to the "bridge to nowhere" pork she sought and then accepted money for as governor which I posted  on yesterday, today's Washington Post  details another $27 million in earmarks (pork) which she lobbied for and got as mayor of her small town of Wasilla when she was mayor. That's over $1000 for every resident.

    As mayor, Palin was so into federal pork, that she hired a lobbying firm to get federal money. This is not the modus operandi of a fighter against pork.

    McCain introduced Palin as his compatriot against wasteful government spending. There is nothing wrong with that so long as it is true. But what we have is a myth. They are trying to tell us that red is blue and think that we are too stupid to notice.

    As I noted in Reckless and hypocritical, McCain's decision to pick Palin was hurried and based on impulsive instinct, not careful judgment. Today's New York Times reveals just how little vetting Palin underwent before McCain announced her.

    In the most important decision to date for him in this campaign, McCain demonstrated how he makes important decisions. It is not a model I want to see for anyone sitting in the Oval Office.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    September 01, 2008

    Sarah Palin's lies

    Posted by: Andoni

    Palinmccain UPDATE at end of post.

    It's been only 3 days since Senator John McCain introduced us to his chosen running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. During that time several public lies have come to light vis a vis Palin's political career.

    The first lie relates to her words after McCain introduced her in Dayton, when she said she opposed the infamous "bridge to nowhere." She claimed that opposition as the basis to portray herself as a Republican who opposes earmarks or pork projects. The problem is that Palin strongly supported the "bridge to nowhere" when she was running for governor in 2006 and then accepted money for it. Only after the bridge got negative publicity and Congress decided not to continue funding it, did she voice opposition to the project, but in more of an expedient "you can't cut our funding, we don't want it" manner. Of note is that she gladly took the pork money already funded for the bridge and built a road to where the bridge was supposed to be. Andrew Sullivan jokingly calls this the "the road to nowhere."

    The second lie relates to her attempt to get her brother in law, a state trooper going through an ugly divorce with Palin's sister, fired , using her influence as governor. She initially denied any involvement of her office in the incident, that is until tapes surfaced linking in her office to the attempt.The whole episode is under investigation and a full report is expected a few days before the November election. Of note, is that Palin fired the state police chief after he refused to summarily dismiss her brother in law. In my mind this is a real abuse of power. The circumstances of what her brother in law did are irrelevant. If what he did was wrong or bad, she should have used legal means to challenge him.

    Finally, is the accusation that the Trisomy 21 (Down's Syndrome) baby that Sarah Palin and her husband have publicly proclaimed as their 5th child is really the child of her daughter Bristol. (It was just announced today that Bristol is pregnant as a 17 year old unmarried teen.) See UPDATE at the end.

    However the facts eventually turn out for this Trisomy 21 baby - and at the moment with the UPDATE it looks like the baby is hers, at best Sarah Palin showed utter disregard for the welfare of her "about to be born child."

    You can read all the circumstantial evidence that the baby is really Bristol's, not Sarah's here. Note in UPDATE this story has been walked back.

    Let's assume Sarah's story is true. According to Sarah her water broke at 4 am while she and her husband were in Dallas for a conference. As a physician, I can tell you statistically, that for a 5th pregnancy, when the water breaks the baby is coming very very soon and you should get to a hospital ASAP. Additionally, this was a high risk birth because it was a special needs baby (they knew this). To complicate matters further, the water broke early. Certainly they should have gone to a tertiary care medical center that has a neonatal intensive care unit. Dallas has many hospitals that fit this bill. But did Sarah go to a Dallas hospital? No, she decided to give her speech later that morning. After that, she got on an airplane and flew 8 hours to go to Alaska.

    Ask any obstetrician if someone whose water breaks in the 8th month and is carrying a special needs baby should get on an airplane and fly 8 hours, and he will tell you that that would be reckless behavior. It could also be considered malpractice (by the mother) ........ against the baby. These are not the actions of parents who claim to love a baby so much.

    The plane landed in Seattle (which also has great hospitals) and then in Anchorage. Instead of going to the closest hospital in Anchorage which is a tertiary care facility, she drove 45 minutes more to go to a rural, non tertiary care hospital that does not have the facilities that she could need due to the early term birth or the special needs a Trisomy 21 child might have.

    So what's going on here? Is this "right to lifer" totally irresponsible with the life she is about to give birth to and claim they love and want so much.....or is she hell bent on rendezvousing at the rural hospital where her daughter is in labor or has already given birth so Sarah, not the daughter can be the one to emerge from the hospital with the new baby?

    From a medical point of view if Sarah's story is true, she acted totally inappropriately for the welfare of her baby. Her actions do not match her professed words of love for that child. But from a logical point of view, her irrational actions give credance to the rumors that flew on the Internet.

    UPDATE: Fellow blogger Kevin emailed me that the Daily Kos considers the story that the Trisomy 21 baby is really Bristol's ended with the surface of a photo of a clearly pregnant Governor Palin. So my post should be re-titled "2 Lies and one bad behavior." Also, Barack Obama has issued a statement today that he does not want the privacy of Bristol invaded after her mother Sarah Palin today announced that Bristol is pregnant. He said people's family's and people's children are off limits.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    August 31, 2008

    Log Cabin's big decision

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccainpalinhug All signs point to a forthcoming Log Cabin endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket, which would be profoundly disappointing from a group I believe is committed to the struggle for gay civil rights and equality.

    As much as my co-blogger Kevin predicted "gay Democratic hacks" would exaggerate Sarah Palin's mixed record on gay issues, the nation's largest GOP group is so far playing the same game:

    Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon
    She's a mainstream Republican who will unite the Party and serve John McCain well as Vice President.  Gov. Palin is an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.

    Log Cabin spokesperson Scott Tucker
    Sen. McCain’s choice for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a smart choice on many levels.  She unifies the GOP across the spectrum.  Plus, Gov. Palin will help appeal to disaffected Hillary supporters.  Also, so-called “pro-family” groups love her because she’s solidly pro-life. …
    But, let’s remember one thing: pro-life doesn’t equal anti-gay. Her record on gay issues is unclear, but it’s not anti-gay and news reports say she has expressed sympathy for gays who face discrimination.  In 2006, she said she’s “not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay.” Her record doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to support pro-gay issues, but it indicates she’s an inclusive leader who isn’t a bigot. …
    The only decision she made as governor affecting gay people benefited our community.  In late 2006, many social conservatives wanted her to sign a bill that would’ve blocked benefits for the same-sex partners of state employees.  She vetoed the bill.  Though she disagreed with the Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits, she said the anti-gay bill was unconstitutional.

    Tucker at least acknowledges Palin disagreed with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling that denying gay government workers equal benefits violated the state constitution, but he leaves out that also she opposed granting the benefits as a policy matter -- a different and more question than the constitutional one. That's especially the case since the Democratic-controlled Congress will likely pass a bipartisan bill (praised by Log Cabin) that would extend D.P. benefits to federal employees.

    Our gay Republican friends at GayPatiot, frequent critics of Log Cabin, are even more ebullient and appear no more interested in scrutinizing Palin's record:

    Gay Patriot
    Just as I couldn’t imagine me disliking the Obama ticket more after he picked Biden, I’m shocked to now find myself EXCITED about McCain’s pick and Vice President Sarah Palin.  I almost can’t believe that he has done it.

    Gay Patrot West
    Sarah Palin is anything but a Bush Republican. And we gay Republicans have something to cheer in her record. Shortly after taking office, she vetoed legislation that would have prevented the state from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

    Another prominent gay Republican blogger, BoiFromTroy, is refreshingly skeptical of her overall qualifications and does a good job of analyzing her on the issues (details in his post). But ultimately he, too, sets a pretty low bar:

    Boi From Troy 
    So the person with the most executive experience of any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate is a 44 year-old woman who served as Governor of Alaska and Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin. … Regrettably, [she is] about as progressive as a Republican can be on gay issues and be at the top-of-the ticket these days, but also makes me hope that Sarah Pallin can be persuadable if need be.

    There are still important blanks to fill in about Palin -- on a whole range of issues, but on gay rights as well. Although Log Cabin credits "news reports" that she's "open" to non-discrimination laws to protect gays, all I've seen so far was a Wikipedia entry to that effect, without any supporting citation. The reference has since been deleted from the entry.

    With those specific questions still hanging, there remains a much bigger question, for Log Cabin as a civil rights group and for gay Republicans individually: Is the McCain-Palin ticket one they can in good conscience support?

    Logcabinbigtentevent As much as Log Cabin wants to be a part of the GOP "big tent," I cannot see how this ticket has earned their endorsement. McCain has a full record of opposition to every form of gay rights legislation -- state, federal or local -- ever introduced.

    The only thing that separates him from George W. Bush, who Log Cabin under the leadership of former president Patrick Guerriero declined to endorse, is McCain's opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    That's old new, unfortunately. Even though McCain said during that 2004 Senate debate that such an amendment is "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," this month the GOP delegates he controls voted in favor of a draft party platform that backs it. At the recent Saddleback forum, McCain softened his own opposition, saying he would support amending the U.S. Constitution if even one federal court concludes the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    Surely Log Cabin requires more of a presidential candidate than such weak, conditional opposition to the FMA, especially since McCain is on the wrong side of every other gay rights issue.

    Richtafel Consider that none other than former Log Cabin leader Rich Tafel, who along with Guerriero and my co-blogger Kevin is most responsible for the group's prominence, publicly supported Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Kevin has also had very positive things to say about Obama, if less so recently. Rich and Kevin haven't yet said whether they prefer Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin and no one expects Log Cabin to back a Democrat for president. Still, endorsing McCain isn't the gay GOP group's only option. 

    With so little in McCain's record or positions that merit praise, Log Cabin has made a big deal of trumpeted its "productive" relationship to the McCain campaign, pointing out that it netted a personal meeting between Sammon and the candidate himself back in June. Putting aside that the campaign initially said the meeting was unplanned and coincidental, an open door is nonetheless important. If McCain is elected, Log Cabin might well be the only gay rights group with White House access.

    Log Cabin's leaders no doubt worries that open door will slam shut if they decline to endorse, but still they should consider the very real cost of going along to get along. It sends the message that whatever their opposition on the issues, Republican politicians need only answer their phone calls to win their support.

    Considering the very justified grief that gay Republicans have given the Human Rights Campaign and other D.C. groups for confusing cocktail party access with real progress, that's not the message Log Cabin needs to send now.

    (Photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin via AP)

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    August 30, 2008

    What was he thinking?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mccainpalin What a day for my Internet service to be interrupted! Right after I learned yesterday that John McCain had basically blown the presidential election by picking a singularly unqualified vice presidential candidate, the signal cut off. I am overstating the point, of course, but what the hell was he thinking?

    My hat's off to my friend Kevin and others for trying to put lipstick on a pig, but McCain has just punted on the single issue that was most likely to beat Barack Obama. Sarah Palin is completely unprepared to be vice president, much less president -- and far, far less experienced than Obama.

    The only point the McCain camp can tout is her executive experience as small town mayor and, for two years, governor of a small population state. Even that can't compare to Obama's management of a massive undertaking like a presidential campaign. (Just ask Hillary Clinton.)

    Kevin is right about gay political groups grossly overstating the case against her on civil rights issues, although he's overstating the point himself to predict "press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak." A great turn of phrase, though!

    Our friends at the Human Rights Campaign wasted no time in labeling her "anti-gay" and "a fierce opponent of equality":

    “America may not know much about Sarah Palin, but based on what our community has seen of her, we know enough,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Sarah Palin not only supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning marriage equality but, in her less than two years as Governor, even expressed the extreme position of supporting stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers.  When you can’t even support giving our community the rights to health insurance and pension benefits, it’s a frightening window into where she stands on equality.”

    The truth, as Kevin points out, is far more subtle. Palin backed a 1998 state constitutional amendment that overturned a preliminary ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court on gay marriage, but then again, so did John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago. He nonetheless received a hearty endorsement from HRC.

    Gov. Palin also vetoed a bill that attempted to defy an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that gay state employees could not be denied health benefits for their domestic partners. She backed an advisory ballot measure on the question and made clear that she disagreed with the court decision but ultimately abided by it:

    "We may disagree with the foundation [of the court decision]," she said, "... but our responsibility is to proceed forward with the law and abide by the constitution."

    Solmonese is right that it's a bit extreme -- and heartless, I would add -- to oppose health insurance coverage, especially since she claims to have many gay friends. After all, D.P. benefits are the norm throughout the private sector. But these days it's still something for a conservative Republican to respect the role of the judiciary.

    It's premature and a bit silly to label Palin "a fierece opponent of equality." (The blogs are a bit more bombastic, of course.) Unlike the man at the top of the ticket, Palin is said to be open to the idea of anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation, though I've yet to see a solid citation on that.

    With many reasons already to doubt Palin's qualifications and McCain's judgment for selecting her, it's entirely unnecessary to caricature her on gay rights.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    Reckless and hypocritical

    Posted by: Andoni

    Sarah_palin Call me shocked but not surprised by Senator John McCain's pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

    Palin would be a heartbeat away from the oldest president ever elected to a first term, and one who has had the most malignant form of skin cancer times two. Malignant melanoma can re-appear any time, any where, even years after a "cure."

    So let's get right to the readiness to be president issue. It is arguable that Palin has the same experience Barack Obama had 18 months ago when he first declared for the presidency. However, since then we have all watched Obama grow tremendously. For the past 18 months he has been vetted by the national media, tested by 20 debates, and been approved by millions of voters in all 50 states. He ran one of the most sophisticated and successful campaigns in history. You could say that his character has been tested and forged over the past 18 months by running the grueling minefield our country demands of future presidents and passing with flying colors. 

    Even if Palin is equal in experience to what Obama was 18 months ago when he began his campaign, McCain has chosen someone who 99% of America does not know and there are only 67 days to put her through the tests to become familiar with her and to determine if she is ready. This is impossible and demonstrates a carelessness on McCain's part. The fact that he only met her twice and is now vouching for her to all of America is reckless. If he had known Palin for years before he pulled her out of a hat and then vouched for her to America that she was ready, that would be an entirely different story.

    Furthermore, just as politicians criticize an activity that we later find out they themselves are doing (think Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer), McCain now is a member of that club. For months he has been condemning Obama on the grounds that he is inexperienced, not ready, and untested. Now McCain does the opposite of what his words would indicate, and picks someone with less experience and readiness than Obama has. (By her own admission, she knows nothing about the Iraq War, and doesn't even know what the vice president does.) In addition, McCain attacked Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton, the person who criticized him the most during the primaries, saying Obama could not stand to run with a critic of his because the criticism was true. Guess what? Mitt Romney criticized McCain most during the primary season and was the leading candidate for V.P. until the last minute. Could McCain not stand to take as his veep the candidate who was his sharpest critic? Another hypocritical moment for McCain.

    McCain has been described as a maverick over the years. I think this is a euphemism for "loose cannon" or even reckless, just as you would describe a spoiled brat child as precocious if you want to pretty it up a bit. Remember McCain is the guy who does whatever he wants regardless of the rules or conventions. He was a hell boy in the Naval Academy, breaking all the rules just to break them and barely graduated. Some think he graduated only because he came from a family of admirals and privilege. During pilot training he crashed 3 planes and was considered one of the worst pilots ever by his instructor. And in both his marriages, he has exhibited reckless, oh make that maverick, behavior.

    People don't really change that much over the years. You may wish to use the term maverick to describe McCain. However, I think reckless or loose canon is a better description --- and this latest episode makes me conclude that he really is not fit to be president.

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    Filed in: McCain , Palin

    August 29, 2008

    Suddenly Sarah

    Posted by: Kevin

    SarahpalinlgWell, she's not Mitt Romney.

    But many Americans down in the lower 48 are asking themselves, who the hell is Sarah Palin?

    The Governor of Alaska is perhaps best known anywhere for having an approval rating of around 90% in her home state, which for any Republican these days is a remarkable achievement.  And Palin is 44 years old, three years younger than Barack Obama.

    And no matter who she is or what she believes on a full range of federal matters of interest to gay people, the press releases calling her the girlfriend of Satan and the most dangerous, hateful maniac in history are no doubt flying off the laser printers of gay Democratic hacks as we speak.  They will wisely leap on how unknown she is, and will burst into a chorus of screeching like the finger-pointing little girls in "The Crucible."  They saw Goody Palin with the Devil.

    What little I know about her is that she is a native of Idaho and a social conservative, but cut from the Alaska cloth in terms of her politics.  She is much more active in the pro-life movement, largely tied to the symbolism of her personal experience (she gave birth to her fifth son in April, who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome early in the pregnancy). 

    On gay issues, there is a discordant mix.  Palin said during her 2006 campaign for governor that she has many close gay friends, and that she is "not out to judge anyone."  She used her first veto as Governor to strike down a law which would ban domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, effectively clearing the way for those benefits to be granted, when the state's Supreme Court found the measure unconstitutional.  She complied with the decision, but also said she would support putting the issue to the voters in a referendum.  "Signing this bill would be a direct violation of my oath of office," she said at the time.  In April 2007, 53% of the voters in Alaska gave their approval to putting the issue on the ballot this year, but the measure has not been put forward.  Palin also supported the state's ban on gay marriage in 1998, and said she didn't know whether being gay is a choice or not, but the exact quotes on those positions are not available anywhere.  All of this needs a lot more definition from Palin herself.

    However, for those who continue harboring a concern that Barack Obama does not have the experience to be President, Palin's resume is even thinner.  A year and a half in office as governor, and years of experience in civic politics before that.  No national experience and no foreign policy background.  The one area where she has some real gravitas is on energy policy, which is a crucial one in this election.  However, as those who doubt Obama's experience may persist in them, one could also argue that Obama's camp couldn't credibly lob the same criticism at the number two on the GOP ticket when their number one has the same problem.  McCain would win that draw in the minds of many.

    Palin was elected in 2006 -- an upset victory against better funded and better known candidates, on the worst year for Republicans in a generation.  For those who followed that race, she truly earned it.  At a time when the state's GOP establishment is sinking in sleaze - embodied in the now-indicted Senator Ted Stevens on corruption charges - Palin personally went public with her knowledge of a corruption scandal that involved the state's Republican Party chairman and the Republican state Attorney General, both of whom were brought down by the scandal, and she crusaded against much of the pork barrel spending that Stevens himself became famous for, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere".  All of this is in line with McCain's own reformist agenda, and she is probably the most successful maverick Republican in office.  Perhaps McCain will bask in her success, and the pick is more one of synchronizing attitude on reformist zeal.  Palin will also be a ferocious running mate, and an effective attack dog, if her upset 2006 campaign is any indication.  She will also spend her time going after every disaffected Hillary voter she can sink her nails into, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan, among other states.

    I'll leave it to Log Cabin to do the grunt work of reaching out to Palin and McCain and reporting back to all of us on their progress.  Nobody else will have any hope of impacting the ticket.  Their endorsement is not a dead letter now, as Romney has been brushed aside.  The question is whether McCain wants to gain it, no matter which non-Romney has joined as his veep.

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    August 28, 2008

    If it's Romney...

    Posted by: Kevin

    RomneyxJohn McCain is expected to announce his running mate in the next 24 hours.  The rising speculation from Republican and conservative circles is that it will be Mitt Romney, McCain's defeated foe from the primaries.  Knowing how Republican activists and pundits operate, the buzz could be a combination of wishful thinking, bullpen calculations and a bit of actual intelligence from balloon-floating campaign aides.  Who knows? 

    What is known for sure is that, besides McCain himself, no more than four or five of his aides know the name of his choice at this hour.

    A couple things would be certain if the choice really is Mitt Romney.  It would be the end of the road for McCain with a lot of gay Republicans, whose loathing of Romney is perhaps even more intense than for much of the Christian Right's various backbenchers, given his betrayal of a decade of strong public support for gay rights (and strong gay Republican support in return) once his ill-fated presidential campaign began.  A Romney pick would also make a Log Cabin endorsement for McCain nearly impossible, despite the iron will among some hardline partisans within the organization to ensure an endorsement at almost any cost.  From what I can measure picking Romney would be felt like a knife in the chest even by some of McCain's oldest and strongest admirers within Log Cabin.

    It is also hard to imagine what good Romney would bring to McCain's presidential effort.  He's a very wealthy man and a gigantic target by an increasingly populist Democratic Party, particularly among those looking to bring Hillary Clinton's working-class whites back into the fold.  Perhaps Romney could help in his native Michigan, though it has been 40 years since his father was governor so one wonders how many voters today actually remember his father.  Michigan has been hemorrhaging jobs so Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, where layoffs were sometimes part of the “turn around strategy” for good or bad, will cause problems among blue collar voters. 

    Also, Romney’s selection could only hurt in frighteningly vulnerable states for the GOP like Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi, where Republican base voters are evangelical Christians whose petulant intolerance against "heretics" (like the Mormon former governor of Massachusetts) has been intensely stoked by their political leaders for too long to change course this late in the game.  There are a lot of evangelical voters in the GOP fold who would rather vote for pro-choice Rudy Giuliani than for an adherent to a religion that many of them consider a cult.  Political 'heresy' is very different from outright religious heresy to those folks.

    Romney was also defeated in the primaries largely because of Republican unease with his oily shift on so many issues -- he was a pro-choice, pro-gay reformist 1994 Senate candidate and governor from 2002 to 2006 who suddenly pirouetted into a staunchly anti-gay, anti-abortion midwesterner before he even left the statehouse in Boston.  He leapt on the anti-gay-marriage train so severely and eagerly that he gleefully self-immolated in Boston to foist his martyrdom aloft for all the Red States to see.  It won him enough calculating Republican activists to gain traction in some of the primaries, and to generate lots of buzz, but McCain and Mike Huckabee tore at his flanks from both sides fairly easily right out of the gate and Romney was stopped.

    Picking Romney would also raise more doubts about McCain's own beliefs, especially among his most fanatical primary supporters who bitterly fought Romney in every state they contested.  The McCainiacs were fighting against a man who came to represent the worst aspects of a post-Bush GOP establishment: an empty suit, a weirdly naive and creepily clean-cut face ready to believe anything and do anything to win.  It would also cement a disturbing transformation inside McCain himself.  For a man, whose great appeal has been rooted in his maverick instincts, to choose Romney as his running mate at this moment of triumph would be perplexing and confusing to independent voters, who shunned Romney in the primaries.  And that could cost McCain the margin he desperately needs to hold in November.

    Whoever McCain picks, the reasons behind it, and the strategy it will come to represent, should become very clear over the weekend as the campaign rolls out its ticket in a battleground state tour that will end up in Minneapolis.  We'll be seeing the final touches being placed on the real campaign that will be unfolding over the coming months. 

    Here's hoping the campaign isn't over by this time tomorrow.  Those of us who remain undecided have fairly open minds, but not that open.

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    August 27, 2008

    Manhunt-McCain witchhunt (IV)

    Posted by: Chris

    I enjoyed Jamie Kirchick's great op-ed today in the Los Angeles Times about the brouhaha over the donation to John McCain from Manhunt co-founder Jonathan Crutchley -- and not just because his view mirrors my own on the subject.

    There are differences in nuance, for example in the way Jamie describes the "liberal intolerance" that motivated the Manhunt boycott:

    In the minds of too many on the left, gay people (like women and ethnic minorities) have to be liberal and support Democratic candidates. To do otherwise -- that is, to have opinions on issues (even issues utterly unrelated to gay rights) that don't follow the left-wing line -- is to be a traitor to the gay "community."

    That's undoubtedly true of some on the politically correct gay left, but many intolerant gay liberals really don't care so much about how gay Republicans feel about "issues utterly unrelated to gay rights," except to assume unfairly that their motivation is probably selfish (i.e., lower taxes) rather than not (i.e., national security, foreign policy, etc.).

    The real source of their trouble is their singular focus on gay civil rights as an issue that ought to trump every other, so much so that they bear real feelings of betrayal and outright hatred for any one of "our own" who support politicians or even political parties on the other side of that issue. (No doubt that singular focus is easier when they just so happen to agree with Democrats on most every other issue.)

    I understand and sympathize with their fervent commitment on equality for gays.  I quit the Republican Party years ago in part because of the willingness of GOP leaders to pander and placate and empower gay rights foes and outright anti-gay bigots.

    The problem with the witch hunt at Manhunt, to slightly restate Jamie's point, is too many on the gay left who believe that because of how the parties stand on gay rights, to be gay and Republican is a betrayal not to be tolerated, especially if you support individual politicians like McCain who have a rotten gay rights record.

    For those who can't get enough of this issue, check out my gay press column last week on the topic. Parts will be familiar to regular blog readers but I think it's a fun read. The column also follows after the jump.

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    August 26, 2008

    My eight houses

    Posted by: Andoni

    MccaincyberhomesNo, I'm not mocking Senator John McCain. There was a point in my life when I owned eight houses and the only reason I bring this up is that some of the criticism leveled against McCain for his seven houses is off the mark. However, there are other points about the answer to his houses question that need to be made.

    I owned so many houses because of the tax laws at the time. The time was between the late 70's and the mid 80's and I was earning a 6 figure income as a physician. Most accountants at the time advised people in these high tax brackets to buy real estate in order to lower their taxes.

    This is how it worked. If you purchased houses, you could depreciate them and deduct the depreciation directly off your earned income. It was legal and it saved tens of thousands in income tax by reducing your taxable income on paper (but not in reality). Additionally it got you out of those very tax high brackets -- 50 to 70% if I remember correctly. It was the greatest tax saving devise I ever encountered. Today they would call it a loophole for the rich.

    Why am I telling you all this? First, despite my eight houses, I think I was and still am very attuned to the middle class and people's economic problems. There is no correlation between my owning eight houses and not being able to relate with working people. So I don't buy the Obama line that McCain owning seven homes means he cannot understand or relate to ordinary folks.

    However, when I owned my eight houses, if someone asked me how many places I owned, I would know exactly. Furthermore, I could tell them where these houses were and what the monthly mortgage payment was.

    So when John McCain stumbles over the question of how many homes he and Cindy have, I think there are three possibilities:
    1. he instinctively knew that 7 wouldn't sound good, so he played ignorant
    2. there is a neuron problem and he simply couldn't recall
    3. he really doesn't know the details of his finances because he is not privy to them. a.) Maybe he is a kept man or b.) he is so unknowledgeble on economic/financial matters that he doesn't care to know, want to know or try to know.

    Number 1 is supported by the fact that when McCain was making major renovations to a new house at the time he was first running for the Senate in 1986, he used a false name to try to fool the public.

    Number 2 I've written about here and here.

    Number 3, part a.) wouldn't be good because that would open him to the same charge the Republicans made against Senator John Kerry when he ran for president in 2004 -- that he was a kept man. Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz was the one with the money.

    Number 3, part b.) that he doesn't know or care about economic or financial things is a death knell and a reinforcement of statements McCain has made in the past.

    So, any way you slice it, McCain's house problem is not good. But saying that he is out of touch with people simply because of the seven houses he and his wife own is not really the most serious part of his housing problem.

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    August 24, 2008

    McCain's integrity and credibility

    Posted by: Andoni

    MccainI guess any politician can mis-speak, misremember, or embellish. That is entirely human. I've already wondered here  and here  whether Senator John McCain's neurons are operating properly because of the high number of inadvertent errors he has made. The problem now is why is he making a large number of errors that cannot be described as inadvertent. These are purposeful misstatements that I believe demonstrate a problem with McCain's integrity and credibility.

    Let's list these:
    1. his falsehoods with respect to his first marriage and divorce
    2. his lying with respect to the cone of silence
    3. his invention (or plagiarism) of the cross in the dirt story
    4. his twisted accusation of Obama's "ambition" to be president
    5. his lie that John Lewis is someone he would consult with

    Chris recently exposed how McCain has tarnished the sanctity of marriage. Here is the story from McCain's friends in more detail of exactly what happened. And this story from the LATimes  (along with Chris') nails how McCain started lying about it.

    When McCain appeared at the Saddleback Church with Pastor Rick Warren, he was supposed to be in a "cone of silence"  the entire time Obama was answering the questions. McCain did not comply with this arrangement. When McCain appeared on stage he did not tell Warren that he was not in the cone the entire time, instead he allowed the lie to be perpetuated. He was complicit in the lie.

    McCain's story of the guard in the Hanoi prison during Christmas of 1969 has been analyzed and there is strong evidence that this story was made up for his book and run for the presidency in 1999. It was never mentioned prior to 1999, including in a 12,000 word report on his captivity or in his prior writings about his Christmases in captivity. There is further suggestion that the story was borrowed from Solzhenitsyn. Andrew Sullivan does a good job of getting to the bottom of this here, here, and here.

    Earlier this week, McCain ran an ad criticizing Obama saying it was ambition that made him want to be president, suggesting this was a bad thing and implying it didn't apply to himself, McCain. However, it was soon shown that Obama was not the only one with ambition, that McCain himself had admitted ambition when he ran for president in 2000.

    Finally, at Saddleback McCain said that Congressman John Lewis is someone he admires and would consult  with. When someone says something like this, one would assume that the two know each other, have a relationship, and speak occasionally if not regularly. McCain was clearly trying to have the audience believe that John Lewis is someone he talks to and consults with. However the next day, Lewis said that although he knows McCain, they are not buddies, do not speak and McCain has never consulted him. There may be another name for this. I call it a lie. At a minimum it was an outright attempt to deceive, and in my book, this is a lie.

    Clearly one has to wonder where McCain's integrity and credibility are at this point.

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    August 21, 2008

    The sanctity of McCain's marriages (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    After watching the excerpt below from a CNN report on John McCain's life, all I can say is it's about damn time.

    I have written many times that I do not believe in general that opposition to gay rights makes a person's private sex life fair game on the basis that the issue relates to sex and morality.

    Civil marriage is a public institution, however, and a basic human right. When a politician opposes allowing same-sex couples access to that basic human right, his own marital history is fair game -- especially when that politician justifies our exclusion as a defense of "the sanctity" of the institution.

    When Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced the notorious federal Defense of Marriage Act, it was absolutely relevant for debate that he had been married three times. (Barr has since quit the GOP and is running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, and has renounced DOMA even though he remains personally opposed to gays marrying.)

    The same holds true for John McCain, who opposes not just marriage but any form of legal recognition of gay relationships -- whether civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits from public entities. Now he's even backing away from his previous opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from deciding the issue for themselves -- setting a very low bar for the full reversal of his position that is sure to come.

    Pointing out McCain's hypocrisy on marriage doesn't require invading his privacy; it's all there in the public record or his own writings. Especially now that he is hyping his Vietnam POW history as proof of moral credentials to be president, the public should know how when he returned from captivity he began cheating on his first wife Carol McCain, the one who waited for his return over for those agonizing long years.

    The CNN excerpt tells even more about how McCain has distorted the truth about that period. He has claimed he was long separated from Carol when he met and courted and became involved with Cindy Henley, the much younger, beautiful and wealthy woman who would become his second wife. In fact, his own divorce filings show he was still living with Carol for nine full months while carrying on his affair with Cindy.

    McCain even applied in Arizona for a license to marry Cindy while he was still in fact married to Carol. This is the "sanctity" of marriage in Arizona that McCain so fears that gay couples will erode?

    McCain fails utterly to explain his conduct or subsequent distortion of it when gently prodded by CNN's John King. "That was 30 years ago," McCain keeps saying. Yes, but so are those POW years he claims show us what stuff he is made of. He can't have it both ways. George Bush's problems with alcohol were just as dated, but he wasn't pointing to the same period of time as a primary credential to be president.

    Unfortunately, CNN did not go on to connect the dots for viewers, but McCain's hypocrisy also lays bare the base political motivations underlying his view on marriage as a policy issue. When President Bush used and abused our basic human rights for his own political gain, the public could be fooled into believing his motives were more genuine. Not so John McCain.

    (Hat tip: Jed Report)

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    The McCain-Manhunt witch hunt (III)

    Posted by: Chris

    Gaysexwebsiteowners In what perhaps (we can hope!) is the last chapter in the Manhunt-McCain drama (background here and here), it's been widely accepted as fact on the blogosphere that John McCain's presidential campaign returned the $2,300 contribution it received from Jonathan Crutchley, one of two co-founders of the gay hook-up site Manhunt.

    Hardly surprising, if it's actually true, but the sourcing is far too thin to treat it as fact.

    Every such claim I've seen in gay or mainstream sites link back to this article in the Boston Herald that relies on neither Crutchley or the McCain campaign but instead on Larry Basile, Manhunt's other co-founder and the CEO of Online Buddies, Inc., which owns the site:

    McCain’s camp seemed just as eager to distance themselves from the brief alliance. McCain spokesman Jeff Grappone didn’t return multiple phone calls on the subject, and Crutchley has apparently been informed that his $2,300 will be returned.

    “He said, ‘If John is too good for my money, I’ll give it to (presumptive Democratic nominee) Barack (Obama),’ ” Basile said yesterday.

    Crutchley, who originally defended his donation in an online post, did not return a call for comment.

    Considering longtime Democrat Basile's business and political bias here, it's a bit much to rely on him as the one and only hearsay source, especially since Basile uses the claim to swear that Crutchley has also had a total change of heart:

    Crutchley has since written a “touching” letter to the employees at Manhunt, according to Basile, and is now committed to supporting Obama.

    “Someone had a reality check,” Basile said.

    Basile, who described himself as a “staunch Democrat,” said Crutchley has given the maximum amount to Obama.

    Color me very skeptical, considering Crutchley's longtime record as a partisan Republican and remembering his original justification for backing McCain was based on national security issues. If in fact he's switching allegiance to Obama just because he's miffed that McCain returned his money, then Basile himself (unwittingly) concedes Crutchley is in for another "reality check":

    [Basile] said he wouldn’t be surprised, considering the subject matter of the Web site, if Obama returns the $2,300 as well.

    “Barack can’t endorse this kind of adult content. It’s sort of like a third rail,” Basile said. “I would imagine if it’s tough for one, it’s tough for the other.”

    A new bit of info that surprises me much more than McCain's (alleged) rebuff is a nugget from Bay Window's site Edge-Boston that Crutchley and Basile were not just partners in creating Manhunt but are "life partners" as well.

    So much for the mutual back-slapping we've seen among Crutchley's critics that his resignation from Manhunt has purified the sex site of pernicious moderate Republican influence. Since the Crutchley-Basile household remains the beneficiary of revenue from Manhunt through their combined ownership interest as well as Basile's ongoing role as chief executive officer, the GOP taint remains. Out damn'd spot, out I say!

    If nothing else, news of the Crutchley-Basile relationship goes to show the futility of these ideological witch hunts, at least as measured by their effectiveness on effecting real change. That will, of course, be lost on the politically correct zealots whose real motivation is the opportunity to feel superior and to signal to gay Republicans their status as lepers within our "community." (As if they needed reminding.)

    Along with the wasted activist energy, it's that message of exclusion -- which treats gay support for Republicans for non-gay reasons as equivalent or worse than anti-gay bigots  -- that's the real problem with the witch hunt at Manhunt, yet another disappointing example of gay liberal intolerance.

    When the issue is intolerance, simplistic appeals to the First Amendment are beside the point, which remains lost on some of those who commented in response by my last post on the topic. We wouldn't be having this debate if Crutchley's critics had merely been criticizing Crutchley for backing McCain, something I've done myself in posts on the Arizona senator's truly rotten gay rights record.

    But of course they didn't. The gay liberal blog posts (and comments) on the subject are chock full of the usual smear of gay Republicans as "self-loathing Nazi Jews."  What's worse, the very idea of the Manhunt boycott was to say loud and clear that gay Republicans have no place in businesses with gay customers -- and by extension in leadership roles in the community.

    Then again, these (situational) ideological purists are too busy doing their Church Lady superiority dance to notice, much less care. 

    (Above: very clever graphic via The Gist)

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    August 18, 2008

    Manhunt or witch hunt?

    Posted by: Chris

    An interesting comment from a reader about my earlier post on the controversial contribution to John McCain's presidential campaign by Jonathan Crotchley Crutchley, the co-founder and chairman of the gay hook-up site Manhunt:

    Let's see if I understand your point, Chris.

    It's a terrible thing when Americans use their First Amendment rights to protest the actions of others with whom they disagree?

    It's wrong for people to use their freedom of association and the power of their dollar in the American capitalistic system to reward businesses with whose actions they agree and punish those with which they find fault?

    It's wrong for a privately held corporation to determine that the actions of a board member have brought economic harm and reputational damage to the company and to reduce said member's role?

    The First Amendment arguments are in reality just straw men. Simply because people have the guaranteed freedoms of speech and association doesn't make every exercise of those freedoms a good thing.

    Also, despite the Cheneyesque line-blurring by some critics on the blogs, there is no absolutely no accusation that Manhunt/Online Buddies, Inc. itself engaged in any politics whatsoever. This was Jonathan Crutchley using his own money (from whatever source) for his own personal reasons. Another straw man.

    The important point the reader raises is whether the personal politics and monetary contributions of a business executive (or investor/owner) provide a good justification for customer boycotts and executive firings. For executives, I would say absolutely not, unless there is some evidence of effect on the policies/conduct of the business. I don't think we want right-wing groups going on witch hunts for gay and gay-friendly execs at top companies, do we?

    For investor/owners, the issue is more complex and ultimately a judgment call. What percentage of ownership are we talking about? How much of each customer dollar is enriching the anti-gay owner and enabling his donations? Also, how specifically anti-gay are the politics and donations? Is he giving to groups/causes etc with a specific agenda that is anti-gay? Or is his support for the cause/group for other reasons or even despite anti-gay stands?

    Crutchley is clearly not anti-gay, even if he doesn't prioritize gay rights like we would. If you support a Manhunt boycott because of Crotchley's connection to McCain, what about other businesses (gay or otherwise) with top execs (gay or otherwise) who are Republican -- or even Catholic! Lord knows the Catholic church has had a far more profound and pernicious impact on gay lives and in spreading HIV than John McCain and the GOP.

    Even still, there's little question that the effectiveness of this kind of boycott almost always makes it a waste of activist energy. What's more, the (situational) ideological purity that motivates such boycotts is one big reason why political correctness so enrages many of us -- and even turns off moderates (gay and otherwise) to our own cause.

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    August 16, 2008

    McCain at Saddleback Church

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnmccainrickwarren I hope my gay Republican friends pay close heed to the very disturbing answer that John McCain gave tonight on marriage. Much of it was not new, including his generous willingness to allow gay Americans in relationships to enter into "legal arrangements" with each other -- at least our right to private contracts isn't at risk! But it is grossly disingenuous to say we should have "the same rights as other citizens" when he's just made clear that we can't marry -- a basic human right -- and in fact he opposes any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, whether it be civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits offered by public institutions like universities and hospitals.

    That wasn't even the disturbing part. McCain also made much clearer than he has to date that if "any federal court" says that one state, like his home sweet home in Arizona, has to recognize gay marriages from other states, then he'll reverse his "courageous" opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning all states from marrying same-sex couples.

    It matters not to McCain, who claims to respect federalism and the role of the states to decide these questions, that the U.S. Constitution may well require each state to recognize and respect the decision other states have made on this question -- just as they do on almost every other similar decision. If some federal judge somewhere decides the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, probably because of the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit clause," then McCain is fully on board with George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, and other hard-right-wingers who would amend our nation's founding document to forever ban any state from deciding the issue for itself.

    (Note: If this overturning DOMA is really McCain's trigger, then he ought to support a limited federal amendment that enshrines the portion of DOMA that provides one state should not have to recognize gay marriages from other states. His answer belies a political, and cynical, willingness to go much, much further.)

    Perhaps even most disturbing was his list of current Supreme Court justices he believes should not have been nominated: Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and John Paul Stevens and David Souter, nominated by Republican Presidents Ford and Bush Sr. All four were eminently qualified and confirmed by wide Senate majorities. You don't get any clearer glimpse at the Supreme Court that a President McCain envisions.

    The real irony of this clear, new statement from McCain on a federal marriage amendment is how it came only minutes after he listed Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), the black civil rights pioneer who fervently supports gay marriage, as one of the three "wise" men he would rely on as president. Then, only moments later, he offered as America's "greatest moral failure" our inability to defend the rights of those different from ourselves.

    (Late-added note: Obama's answer was actually worse. In addition to his wife and 85-year-old grandmother -- really? they are the wisest people to turn to on matters of state? so much for arguing 71-year-old McCain is too old to trust! -- he offered up Sam Nunn, the former Georgia senator who is an expert on defense issues, as well as forcing the bigoted "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on a president of his own party. Is this a veep hint? Please, no!)

    There's no way to square his respect for Lewis and civil rights with his complete disregard for the lives and hopes of gay Americans. His views on legal recognition of gay couples are to the right of the vast majority of Americans, and even President Bush himself -- who has spoken favorably about civil unions.

    Rhetoric about civil rights is empty and hypocritical if in almost the same breath John McCain can assert such hardened views about lesbian and gay Americans.

    An endorsement from Log Cabin really ought to be unthinkable now.

    (Photo of John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren via Justin Sullivan/Getty)

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    Gay sex, politics and intolerance

    Posted by: Chris

    Manhuntcofoundersout The bubbling controversy over the $2,300 contribution to John McCain from a co-founder of the gay hookup site Manhunt.net offers a classic example of the way idelogical intolerance sucks the life out of meaningful gay political debate.

    When word first got out that Jonathan Crutchley, one of the original investors behind Manhunt, had donated the maximum allowed by law to the Republican's presidential campaign, the response was altogether predictable.

    The public interest was altogether understandable. Here was politics making for very interesting bedfellows. It could have been an opportunity for some real discussion about how and why some gay folk prioritize issues like national security -- cited by Crutchley in his own defense -- over "the gay agenda," as he put it somewhat dismissively.

    That's not what happened, of course. The blogs howled with angry calls for horny gay boys everywhere to cancel their Manhunt accounts in protest. Can you imagine a less effective form of political expression than this laughable suggestion? Don't give money to Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or your favorite gay group, noooo.  Effectiveness wasn't really the point here, clearly. The idea was to savor that "special" feeling of cultural and political superiority (see Carvey, Dana: Church Lady dance).

    The reaction within Manhunt, Inc. (a.k.a. Online Buddies, Inc.) was also swift and tailor-made for the company's hometown of Cambridge, Mass. -- the place where political correctness was born and I saw flourish in the late 1980s. The Manhunt board of directors -- wouldn't ya love to know just who that includes and how they got there? -- reacted with "disbelief" at Crutchley's donation, even though his moderate GOP politics had been known for years and his McCain contribution public knowledge for weeks.

    Larry Basile, the site's other co-founder and more active in current management, offered up his liberal credentials in alternative, swearing he had made (smallish) contributions to Democrats as well as to Obama. The board even went so far as to ask Crutchley to resign, which he did, because, "Politically, [the donation] was just off-base, with the whole feeling over here at Manhunt."

    Does anyone else find it ironic that a website that offers tens of thousands of men a relatively anonymous way to meet up for sex would sack its chairman and co-founder over his own private political beliefs? Isn't Manhunt as much about the right to privacy as much as it is about same-sex marriage?  This ain't gay eHarmony, after all. Doesn't that double standard at least rival Crutchley's alleged offense?

    Crutchley himself saw the irony. "Welcome to the age of the internet, where everyone's private life becomes public," he noted in a comment he posted to an early article about the donation,

    Another insidious aspect to the controversy is the angry indignation we often see from the left that anyone who calls himself a Republican might enjoy an active gay sex life, much less be affiliated with a business that facilitates such for other gay men. Why is that so?

    There's no hint that Crutchley agrees with the social conservative wing of the Republican Party on gay rights or personal privacy; in fact he made clear that his support for McCain was based entirely on who'd be the better commander-in-chief. (Crutchley also makes the interesting point that being a "Masssachusetts Republican is about the same as being an Alabama Democrat.)

    You may fault his judgment on that score, and disagree strongly with the way he prioritizes civil rights and other issues -- count me in on both points -- but neither makes him a hypocrite.

    Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows I am no fan of John McCain and believe the choice we face in November should be clear for anyone committed to gay civil rights. Still, I am much more troubled by the arrogant intolerance that says the Crutchleys of our community should be excluded from gay-oriented businesses, organizations, etc., than I am by the misplaced political priorities of a few gay Republicans.

    (Photo of Larry Basile, left, and Jonathan Crutchley via Out magazine)

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    Convention Preview: The Republicans

    Posted by: Kevin


    The Republicans will converge on Minneapolis barely a breath and a half after Barack Obama's stadium acceptance speech in Denver.  But the event beginning on September 1 will probably -and sadly- be predictable.  As with the Democrats, the Republican National Convention has evolved into an enormously irrelevant exercise beyond the likely debut of the vice-presidential pick, and the chance for John McCain to capture the attention of the American people (and actually hold it for more than a few minutes if he can manage to ditch his alarmingly wooden delivery from various primary victory nights). While McCain is not likely to physically bolt the convention hall for his one appearance before the delegates -- like Obama wisely will -- in his gut he probably will want to.

    McCain is just as likely as Obama to be more hurt than helped by the confab of his party's activists - probably a lot more.  In fact, despite waving signs with his name all over them, most of them loathe their nominee deep down for his middle-of-the-road views on many issues, and are thinking more of their desperate hopes to hang onto the White House than their real feelings. The GOP doesn't have superdelegates per se (although state party chairs and national committee members are guaranteed delegate status), but several states select delegates for the national convention in a similarly bizarre manner under state rules that were adopted to make sure that no matter who the nominee is, there would still be an overwhelming number of extreme-right conservatives in enough delegations to ensure that the party's platform will remain an enjoyable read in the original German.

    And that's another thing.  While the Democratic platform is a huge camouflage operation intended to hide the contempt that its party's base has for the rest of the country, the Republicans put all the hate and contempt and twisted ideas of their extremists right out on paper for the world to see - and for the hapless nominee to waste time trying to shake off like a piece of toilet paper glued to his shoe.

    The Democrats might pay lip service to gay rights now and then (although they decided to give up on the "g" word this year) without really caring at all about the issue as a national party, but the Republican conventioneers have cared a lot, a LOT, about gay rights since it started popping up at conventions in the 1980s.  Gay marriage, gays in the military, gay adoption, employment discrimination, partner benefits, even the rights of domestic partners in the District of Columbia, and gays in the Boy Scouts - you name it.  Gay rights is always in the GOP platform, in that the document usually reflects the abiding hatred that the religious right and its convention soldiers hold for any kind of progress we have made or might make in legal or political terms, written in often lurid ways that depart from the majority thinking of the American people.

    The evolution of the abortion issue is an interesting illustration of the horrendous shortcomings of the GOP Convention in ever reflecting the reality of American opinion, thanks to its delegate selection rules in most states.  While the American people might be queasy about unfettered abortion, they long ago closed ranks against a constitutional amendment abolishing it.  Yet, the Republican platform still trumpets an abortion plank out of the political dark ages, and if even a pro-choice Republican somehow win the nomination he or she'd have to stay away from that sacred plank or else.  The same attitude has encrusted around all things gay, despite polls which put public support as very high for lifting the military ban, very high for employment non-discrimination laws, and even heading upward for gay marriage.

    This has always put Republican advocates for gay rights (and movement to the center on abortion) in a tough position inside the party machine.  In my years on staff at Log Cabin Republicans, we always looked at taking on the platform somehow and even on years when we were blessed with scores of gay rights supporters in the state delegations -- even openly gay delegates -- and even with some state leaders ready to go to bat for us in platform committee meetings, the math was clearly never going to be remotely  with us.  No matter what the vast majority of Republican primary voters even believed, the delegate selection rules were cooked long ago.  Rudy Giuliani or William Weld could have won 100% of the vote in the Texas primary, for example, and the Texas delegation would still have been made up mostly of hateful activists aligned with the religious right movement.  In 1996, Bob Dole gave up on his effort to adjust the platform on social issues, and just quipped to a reporter that he didn't read the platform and didn't intend to.  I expect McCain will do the same, whether he says so or not.

    I spoke with a number of Log Cabin activists in the past few weeks, and I saw a remarkable level of focus around the realities of the 2008 election campaign.  It's not the hopeless 2004 election, but it's also not the idealistic 2000 campaign either, where Bush had a public meeting with gays and said he was "a better man" for it.  One longtime member was very direct. He said the gay community is kidding itself if it thinks the gay vote will make a difference one way or the other: 

    "Look at the 2004 vote - with [Log Cabin] openly against Bush, and the gay Democrats in full attack with their vote-or-die scenarios, the vote was still about the same as in 2000.  Bush still got 20 to 25 percent of the gay vote.  And Kerry's gay vote didn't make a difference one way or the other.  So this isn't about kidding ourselves that gays matter to either party.  It's about whether gays are positioned to have an impact on the next administration whoever wins."

    That jarred me.  To me, this was a departure from the idealism we come to expect from political activists.  At least, the way gay Democrats talk about the need for a virtual one-party regime as a matter of life and death, you'd expect some kind of idealistic thought to motivate the gay political leaders of today.  But what I heard from a number of gay Republicans I talked to this month was consistent: Log Cabin's endorsement isn't about getting gay votes, or about promoting a set of gay rights legislation.  The gay GOP vote will be there no matter what, and the legislative goals will be dictated by the Democrats (if they care to even talk about them).  In 2008, it's a question of having a chance to impact a McCain Administration, or being on the outs (as it has been the last four years with the current one) at a time when the so-called leading groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, are in the GOP freezer in just about every corner of the nation and will stay there for years to come.

    I remember that the hope, back in the formative 1990s, was that Log Cabin would be able to raise the bar every four years and slowly leverage public opinion and moderate voters to pressure Republican candidates to go further than the last one.  As another gay Republican leader told me last week, gay marriage has landed on that vision like a bomb, both for bad and for good.  It led to a permanent break between Log Cabin and the Bush Administration, and from that moment on things largely collapsed after some promising developments in the first two years.  And in just the past four years, the bar on gay rights has been raised so high -- especially after the arrival of gay marriage in California -- that the incrementalist path and the various legislative vehicles for traveling down it (ENDA, the federal hate crimes law, etc.) must be totally reviewed and adapted for the new reality.  I agree with that notion -- and I think it also can be seen on the somewhat panicked faces of many national Democrats looking at California and wondering what it will lead to.

    One thing I'll give the Log Cabiners credit for -- they have a grip on reality.  Their party's convention and much of its base activists form the center of opposition to gay progress, and yet they are still marching into that convention hall, have a history with McCain, they are going to declare a set of goals before the election, and they're going to make themselves accountable for them after it.  They are going to try to collect political capital, even if it is pocket change, and they are going to spend it all.

    Say what you want about gay Republicans, but despite the enormous difference in atmosphere in their own party, I don't see one single gay Democratic organization -- de facto or de jure -- doing the same for this election cycle.  Perhaps the experience of promising a rainbow revolution with a Democratic Congress, only to see it pop like a balloon in practice the last two years, has jarred them about overpromising.   But are things that bad behind the Wizard's curtain that they can't make any set of public goals at all?  Have they no political capital at all to spend, even in 2008?

    I don't want to believe that the gay Democrats are all hot air -- I know and admire many of their leading lights, and know many to be serious people.  Why are they allergic to clear, public goals on gay issues and accountability for them?  If Log Cabin - with all the limits and challenges they face - can be sanguine about their endorsement process and their role in the big picture, albeit small, why can't there be some outside group of gay Democrats (like HRC) who set forth a clear agenda that they intend to carry out in an Obama presidency?

    After the hundreds of millions of gay dollars raised and spent over the last 20 odd years of this stuff, it would be a horrendously depressing conclusion if all it has bought us is a gay Democratic establishment that, behind the expensive glitter, exists only by the permission and good humor of its party's leaders, and a small gay Republican insurgency, battered as it is, which would be the only channel of information for a GOP administration that itself would be a minefield whether the Oval Office was inhabited by a friendly face or not.

    Let's see.

    [Photo from The Simpsons (Fox).  Note:  Sorry this is a day late, but we had an internet outage in our building last night. -K]

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