Yesterday, George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign manager and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, revealed to The Atlantic that he’s gay. Mehlman now intends to become a public advocate for “gay marriage” and has already participated in a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the organization that worked to overturn California’s Proposition 8 that had banned homosexual matrimony.
Mehlman claims that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently”… Political observers who weren’t daft, naïve, or self-deluded arrived at this conclusion many years earlier. The Republican chief’s sexual predilection was an open secret in Washington. And to be frank, he just looked it. Throughout Mehlman’s tenure at the GOP, there was a great deal of hand-wringing in the media about the “tragic irony” that the very party that wanted to restrict “homosexual rights” was run by …. a closeted homo. (The assumption being, of course, that all gays must inherently support “gay marriage.”)
Just for the record, though I’d prefer not to have deviants in high office, I don’t get particularly exercised by the sexuality of politicians. That Mehlman and Bill Clinton are my enemies has nothing to do with the fact the one prefers men and the other can’t control himself around bimbos. If a statesman instituted the kind of radical, and currently unfeasible, political change that I desire, I could forgive bestiality.
In turn, in a bad politician, like Clinton, rampant sexual indulgence is an unqualified good. Think of how much more harm Slick Willy would have done to the nation if he weren’t dedicating his time to screwing interns, covering up his indiscretions, fending off allegation, and making nice with his grouch of a spouse. If only George Bush had a secret boyfriend, then he might have been too distracted to pursue his foreign-policy agenda! One can dream…
I’m sure such opinions shock America’s Holy Rollers, who expend their political energies morally condemning and exalting various national leaders. But for them, politics has always been a cross between a Morality Play and a Reality Show.
As one can expect, the reaction to the Mehlman story reveals much about the contemporary American Left and Right. (It also marks another instance in which liberals have proven far more honest and perceptive than their conservative-movement opponents.)
Over at National Review’s “Corner,” Editor Rich Lowry writes of Mehlman’s “impeccable … conservative credentials” and expects him to be a polite sparring partner in the endless back-and-forths on “gay marriage” they’ll be treating us to in the coming years. Kathryn Jean Lopez, too, hopes that Mehlman will be a gay advocate who accepts conservatives and doesn’t call them homophobes or question their dedication to civil rights.
Liberals have been far more willing to confront what is truly at issue with this story: the irony -- or abject hypocrisy, depending on your perspective -- of Mehlman’s political career.
As Richard Adams of the Guardianwrites,
Mehlman was George Bush's campaign manager for the nail-biting 2004 presidential election, and served as chairman of the national Republican party from 2005 to 2006. During that period Republican strategists resorted to devices such as state referendums banning gay marriage as wedge issues designed to motivate Republican voters.
According to Marc Ambinder, “Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.” In Mehlman’s own words,
I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.
Liberals have mostly treated Melhman’s outing as a “historic” moment for the acceptance of gays in the American mainstream, as well as a personal, confessional one for a man who has finally come to terms with his “identity.”
I was more struck by the fact that, for years, the Republican Party was run by a lying sociopath -- one of the many lying sociopaths ensconced at the top levels of the American democratic political system.
Let’s, indeed, count the flaming lies Mehlman has told to himself and others over the past decade
- I’m not gay. Mehlman denied that he was gay to his gullible Republican supporters (to the amazement of everyone in Washington.)
- The GOP will protect the family from gay marriage. This one should probably count as two lies: a) Mehlman was willing to make a policy he himself adamantly opposed a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s campaign. b) Mehlman likely recognized that the courts would ultimately have the final say on “gay marriage,” and thus concluded it would be safe to use the issue as a way of increasing turnout among the GOP’s Christian base.
- I just discovered that I’m gay. Again, this claim is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.
Though movement conservatives like to wax on about their so-called “revolutions” in 1980 and 1994, any objective observer can only conclude that they have been losing, and losing badly, for at least the past 75 years. Far from “limiting government,” the federal Leviathan has never ceased growing, even -- or rather especially -- when Republicans control Congress and the presidency. The fact that “gay marriage” is even being debated is proof enough that conservatives has been thoroughly routed in the Culture War, and in a manner more profound than they can imagine.
But conservatives haven’t helped themselves much by lining up behind a series lying sociopaths, of which Ken Mehlman is but a minor figure.