Gaylingual: October 2006: Archives
With only two weeks until the midterm election and the GOP base appearing to lack sufficient motivation, could a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court on same-sex marriage prove to be the catalyst the Republican Party has been seeking? 365gay.com is reporting that the court may issue its long awaited ruling on gay marriage this week. Should a ruling favoring same-sex marriage be issued this week, I would expect the GOP and evangelical leaders to herald the ruling as evidence that the base must get out and vote because the U.S. Supreme Court will in all probability have the final word on gay marriage and unless another conservative is appointed, the conservative movement may come up one justice short of their decades old goal.
(Trenton, New Jersey) The New Jersey Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling this week on same-sex marriage, coinciding with the retirement of Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz.
Portiz turns 70 on Thursday. Her last day on the bench will be Wednesday and both supporters and opponents of gay marriage say they believe the ruling will be issued before then.
Some legal experts, however, suggest that the ruling will not be handed down until after Portiz's successor, James R. Zazzali, is sworn in.
The justices heard arguments in the case in February.
A New Jersey appeals court ruled in June 2005 that the state constitution does not require the recognition of same-sex marriage.
The court, in a split decision, said that it is up to the legislature to change marriage laws if same-sex couples are to wed in the Garden State.
At the Supreme Court the justices peppered both sides in the case about whether the court or the legislature should be the proper venue for the issue.
It was the same question that led the high courts in New York and Washington state to rule earlier this year that the legislatures had the right to decide.
My own perception is that the court won't issue a ruling this close to the election...but it may well happen. With the state in the midst of a hotly contested Senate race and the possibility that control of the House and the Senate could shift on November 8th, it seems unlikely that the court would want to be accused of releasing a controversial ruling that could be misconstrued as partisan act or used by any particular group for political advantage. Regardless, we will have to wait and see.
Daniel DiRito | October 23, 2006 | 9:21 AM |
| Comments (0)
Daniel DiRito | October 22, 2006 | 9:14 AM |
| Comments (0)
I hate to be sarcastic...but not so much so that I won't take an opportunity to point out the difficult position in which the GOP finds itself in the aftermath of the Mark Foley scandal. Here's the snark. The Bush administration and the Republican Party have made a concerted effort to refute claims that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war and here in the U.S. they are now on the precipice of an uncivil war within the ranks of their own formerly lockstep voter coalition. From my perspective there is a degree of poetic justice in that reality.
The Los Angeles Times reports on the growing divide that has emerged with the revelation that a number of gays are in important positions within the GOP...a fact that isn't sitting well with the many voters who have supported GOP candidates because they believed the party was leading the opposition to the gay lifestyle and the gay agenda. While its not the equivalent of the sectarian violence found in Iraq, it does point out that the ideology of absolutism is by no means inclusive and that may well spell the demise of the fragile coalition that Karl Rove has been able to maintain and manipulate for many years.
WASHINGTON — In recent years, the Republican Party aimed to broaden its appeal with a "big-tent" strategy of reaching out to voters who might typically lean Democratic. But now a debate is growing within the GOP about whether the tent has become too big — by including gays whose political views may conflict with the goals of the party's powerful evangelical conservatives.
Some Christians, who are pivotal to the GOP's get-out-the-vote effort, are charging that gay Republican staffers in Congress may have thwarted their legislative agenda. There even are calls for what some have dubbed a "pink purge" of high-ranking gay Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the administration.
The long-simmering tension in the GOP between gays and the religious right has erupted into open conflict at a sensitive time, just weeks before a midterm election that may cost Republicans control of Congress.
"The big-tent strategy could ultimately spell doom for the Republican Party," said Tom McClusky, chief lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group. "All a big-tent strategy seems to be doing is attracting a bunch of clowns."
Now the GOP is facing a hard choice — risk losing the social conservatives who are legendary for turning out the vote, or risk alienating the moderate voters who are crucial to this election's outcome.
The problem Rove and the GOP face is that their actions are not consistent with the agenda they have promoted and they don't support the goals of conservative evangelicals. The bottom line is that the agenda of the Bush administration has been to craft a voter coalition that provides them with a means to an end...enough votes to retain power. However, for evangelicals, the means cannot justify the end because their agenda is to amass power in order to limit, exclude, and impose...that being to limit the acceptance of the gay lifestyle, exclude gays from the benefits that come with recognition of their relationships, and impose legislation that insures both of the former. Therefore, the revelation that the GOP has apparently embraced gays such that they may have been willing to look the other way in order to further the Party's goal of retaining power serves to undermine the relationship with evangelicals.
A recent incident that upset social conservatives involved remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week. With First Lady Laura Bush looking on, Rice swore in Mark R. Dybul as U.S. global AIDS coordinator while his partner, Jason Claire, held the Bible. Claire's mother was in the audience, and Rice referred to her as Dybul's "mother-in-law."
"The Republican Party is taking pro-family conservatives for granted," said Mike Mears, executive director of the political action committee of Concerned Women for America, which promotes biblical values. "What Secretary Rice did just the other day is going to anger quite a few people."
It’s important to note just what evangelicals are actually opposing. The actions by Secretary of State Rice were not an endorsement of gay marriage and she was merely conducting the duties of her position. Further, Dybal was being appointed to a position with clear relevance to the gay community yet it still angered a number of evangelicals. We hear over and over again that evangelicals aren't opposed to gays having equal rights so long as they aren't allowed to marry...but if one looks at the reaction to this incident, it is clear that this evangelical rhetoric is meant to disguise their actual agenda...the full rejection of the gay lifestyle through the imposition of legislation that is punitive towards gays. If having a gay man's partner hold the Bible during a swearing in session is unacceptable, just what rights do evangelical believe gays deserve? If this is indicative of compassionate conservatism, I would hate to witness the absence of compassion.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a television interview last week that there should be an investigation into whether gay congressional staffers were responsible for covering up for Foley.
Perkins also has questioned whether gay Republican staffers on Capitol Hill have torpedoed evangelicals' priorities, such as a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. "Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and/or staffers?" he asked in an e-mail to supporters.
This week, a list that is said to name gay Republican staffers has been circulated to several Christian and family values groups — presumably to encourage an outing and purge. McClusky acknowledged seeing the list but said his group did not produce it and had no intention of using it.
In reality, little has actually changed. The GOP needs the evangelical vote and the evangelical leaders use volatile issues to achieve influence, power, and wealth through a huge base of donors. The alliance in place between the GOP hierarchy and leaders like Dobson, Robertson, and Perkins remains strong because they serve to facilitate each others objectives. The problem they both face today is that the curtain may have been pulled back far enough to allow their loyal supporters to see that they have been viewed as little more than tools to be manipulated for the benefit of a handful of very powerful organizations and individuals.
There is one further irony found in comparing the unrest in Iraq and the schism within the GOP. Millions of Iraqi's made the effort to cast their votes in hopes of enacting a more equitable government and the Bush administration touted the now famous purple fingers as a symbol of success. Similarly, millions of evangelicals went to the polls in 2002 and 2004 believing they were electing leaders who would enact their agenda. The reality is that the votes by millions of Iraqi's did little to advance the goal of democracy in Iraq as powerful groups and individuals continue to battle for influence and power. There is growing evidence that the outcome here in the United States may well be the same.
Daniel DiRito | October 18, 2006 | 9:30 AM |
| Comments (0)
Sometimes a pending reality check leads people to let down their guard and expose a little more of the core person that underlies the public persona...and then again sometimes a pending reality check forces people to moderate the rhetoric of their otherwise partisan agenda. I've been reading a number of op-ed pieces in the last few days as I've always found them to be most interesting as an election approaches. This midterm has produced an unusually large number of them.
The first is from Richard Cohen in the Washington Post in which he discusses how the Foley scandal has brought clarity to the GOP's position on gays and how it so aptly exposes the hypocrisy and inconsistency that has been fully illuminated by this election eve revelation.
"On the nose" is a Hollywood expression. It refers to an idea or a scene or even a piece of dialogue that is too obvious or too good to be true. Hollywood would have said the whole Mark Foley sex scandal is on the nose. Let's just start with the fact that this confessed gay stalker of teenage congressional pages was co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. All over Hollywood, fingers would go to the tip of the nose: Can't we make it Armed Services?
No, we cannot. To change anything at all about the Foley matter would be to trifle with its essential vacuity, its reliance on bigotry and ignorance, its resplendent Beaver Cleaver qualities (congressional pages, for crying out loud!) and, not least, the fact that so far this is the ultimate Washington sex scandal: There is no sex.
That this happened to the GOP is too, too much. It is no longer the party of Lincoln but the party of gay-bashing. Its base, its vaunted base, is among those who embrace ignorance of homosexuality and, while they are at it, ignorance of sexual matters in general.
Put the finger back on the nose. It was the GOP that stood for family values. It was the GOP that cozied up to churches and preachers who likened homosexuals to the vilest people of all time and called on them to cease their wicked ways, go from homosexual to heterosexual, which everyone knows they can do but will not because, apparently, it is easier to be gay and reviled than it is to be straight and comfy about it.
With regard to this sort of haranguing demagoguery, the leaders of the GOP have not just looked away, they have encouraged it. They have set themselves up as the little Dutch boys of American politics, their fingers in the dike, holding back such unspeakable X-rated evil that it is a miracle any child in this great country can grow up to be heterosexual or devout or an accountant.
The abuse of trust is no laughing matter, and the corruption of children is in a class by itself. But a sex scandal-turned-political panic involving just one person lacks a certain something. That it has attained such critical mass, that it threatens the speaker of the House and the GOP majority, says little about the repellent Foley but a lot about how the GOP has been hoisted by its own petard. It's on the nose all right, but sometimes so is life itself.
Cohen's piece reminded me of an incident that took place during my days in grade school. I had a classmate that was prone to sticking his tongue out at anyone that met with his disfavor and it eventually became a playground issue. I can't even recall all of the details but for some reason I decided to intervene in order to halt the escalation and while suggesting to him that he shouldn’t stick his tongue out at everyone, he stuck his tongue out at me. I'm not even sure why I remember my response but sometimes circumstances unfold such that, as Cohen says, they are "on the nose". Anyway, in my "on the nose" moment, I told my classmate that if he kept sticking his tongue out that he would eventually bite it. As I read Cohen's thoughts on the Foley scandal, it seems to me that the GOP has finally bit its own tongue...and that seems as it should be.
The next op-ed piece is from E.J. Dionne and it is also from the Washington Post. Dionne is apparently acquainted with David Kuo, the former Bush administration operative who resigned and wrote the book, Tempting Faith, in which he suggests that the GOP sought to use their faith based initiative to lure evangelical voters...while many within the White House made disparaging remarks about evangelicals and their leaders.
Dionne raises a number of thoughtful points that evangelicals and people of faith might want to consider before casting their lot with a political party. I think Dionne's goal is to propose that people of faith might better serve their beliefs by focusing less on the political paradigm and by seeking out alternate avenues to express and enact their values. As I've said time and again, no one group or party holds a monopoly on morality and its time to dismantle the facade that has promoted that notion.
His argument -- Kuo went on the record with it long before this book appeared -- is that the White House never put much money or muscle behind Bush's "compassionate conservatism." It used the faith-based agenda for political purposes and always made tax cuts for the wealthy a much higher priority than any assistance to those "armies of compassion" that Bush evoked so eloquently.
Exposés of hypocrisy are the mother's milk of Washington journalism. Yet the most useful thing that could flow from Kuo's revelations would not be a splashy exchange of charges and countercharges but rather a quiet reappraisal by rank-and-file evangelicals of their approach to politics.
I hope Kuo's book promotes serious discussions in religious study groups around the country about whether the evangelicals' alliance with political conservatism has actually made the world, well, more godly from their own point of view. What are evangelicals actually getting out of this partnership? Are they mostly being used by a coalition that, when the deals are cut, cares far more about protecting the interests of its wealthy and corporate supporters than its churchgoing foot soldiers?
Kuo is being cut up by some administration loyalists. That's not surprising, but it's painful for me. I met Kuo in the 1990s through a conservative friend and was impressed by the power of his religious faith and his passion for developing a conservative approach to helping the poor that would be as serious as liberal efforts but, in his view, more effective.
All of which is to say that I once hoped -- and, for the future, still hope -- that left and right might meet in some compassionate center to offer support for expanded government help to the needy while also fostering the indispensable work of religious and community groups.
Kuo's book comes on the eve of an election in which the odds suggest that voters will administer a strong rebuke to Republicans and the administration. It will thus be read as another argument for why such a reproach is merited.
When Kuo says there's something wrong with "taking Jesus and reducing him to some precinct captain, to some get-out-the-vote guy," he sounds a trumpet that makes you want to follow him into the battle.
It should actually come as no surprise that compassion and the pursuit of power are not all that compatible. Further, history is littered with examples whereby the pursuit of power (politics) has hidden behind the platitudes of compassion or some other higher purpose. Frankly, the objectives and the rewards that compassionate people seek aren't likely a byproduct of politics or even government. The notion that politics or governance is public service has been long corrupted and the recently exposed hypocrisy ought to be a potent wake-up call. Compassion is learned; not legislated. In fact I would argue that the majority of those who can be identified as evangelical leaders have the same objective as most politicians...and the populous serves as the vehicle by which that goal...power...can be achieved.
As my dad has so often stated..."people like to talk about compassion, but they can't make a marriage work and they would rather gossip about the neighbor than lend a hand. They prefer to be a church leader or some other authority figure because they aren't actually interested in giving...they prefer to take under the guise of goodness". While self-reported polling suggests that America is a religious nation, I would actually suggest that these numbers more closely define our words than our deeds.
The final op-ed piece is an article by Cal Thomas from Real Clear Politics. I've long viewed Thomas as a partisan hack and though I include his thoughts in this posting, I find his words to be the most disingenuous and indicative of what I initially described as a moderation of partisan rhetoric facilitated by a new reality...which in this case appears to be the likelihood that the GOP will not retain their stranglehold on power.
Thomas suggests that the GOP has succumbed to the spoils of power in just 12 years...while he also states that the Democrats previously took 40 years to do the same. He doesn't explain the large difference in timing which is why I give less credence to the bulk of his observations. I'll offer my own explanation after some excerpts from his article.
It's not just the war, or the travails of former Congressman Mark Foley, or any number of other things that political experts and pollsters tell us has jeopardized Republican control of Congress in the coming election. More than anything else, it is the perception that Republicans stand for little more than maintaining power for its own sake.
The problem is Democrats have fewer ideas than Republicans. They, too, crave power for its own sake and would return to their failed class warfare of the past, the only warfare they support. They will grow government even more than Republicans have and they will raise taxes and retreat from engaging America's enemies, thus encouraging those enemies to come after us with renewed zeal and an assurance that God is on their side.
Thomas suffers the very affliction that allowed the GOP to lose favor in only 12 years. He cannot and, more importantly, will not concede that all that is prudent and practical does not reside in his party. Further, his misrepresentation of recent political history underscores his inability to face the realities that have led to his party's disfavor. Perhaps the last two presidencies will prove to be aberrations but if one were able to remove partisanship from the equation and simply apply labels to the policies of George Bush and Bill Clinton, then the GOP is the party of big government and the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. With that said, his accusation cannot be sustained.
So why does it appear that the GOP's reign might end in only 12 years? Here's the explanation. George Bush and his administration suffer from the ideology of absolutism. Their ideas are not constrained by labels such as conservative or liberal; they are defined in terms of right and wrong and that makes them all to quick to discount anything that fails to conform. The GOP has failed in 12 years because it has placed its own ideology above the will of the people. They saw their ascension to power as a mandate to dictate when it was simply a decision by the electorate to give them an opportunity to lead. This midterm election may serve to make that clear distinction.
Thomas can't let go of the need to win and the need to be right. The solutions he offers are reserved for his Republican cronies and that only serves to demonstrate the problem with his own absolutist ideology.
If Democrats win one or both houses, they will face the same choices Republicans had in 1994. They can return fire, like some Middle East revenge-seeker, perpetuating a cycle that never stops, or they can announce that America's problems and challenges are too large for one party and work with Republicans toward common objectives. My guess is Democrats will crow like the Republicans did and begin to position themselves to grab the White House in 2008, giving immediate problems a lower priority.
If that is their choice, Republicans may want to try something radically different, which might not only produce policy successes that benefit the country, but incidentally pay them political dividends.
Republicans should assemble a bipartisan group of former members of Congress, such as Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn and Missouri Republican John Danforth. They would be commissioned to draft a bipartisan team to find solutions to common problems and challenges, such as a general framework for when American forces would be committed abroad and for what purposes. The team could also attack poverty in ways politicians have not, largely because each side is beholden to its "base," which won't let them stray far from past practices.
I'm astonished by the Thomas understanding that revenge and retaliation may not serve our interests. Has he lost sight of the fundamental construct behind the Bush administration foreign policy? Has he forgotten that any and all Democratic calls for an honest and candid debate about the war in Iraq and with regards to the war on terror have been met with accusations that those who disagree with the status quo are unpatriotic? Aren't the problems the GOP has faced in the last 6 years the same ones he suggests would be too large for one party to confront should the Democrats assume a position of power? Why wasn't that true during the last 6 years and why will it suddenly become true if the Democrats prevail?
If you need evidence of Thomas's insincerity, look no further than his call for "something radically different" and note that it is immediately followed with the all consuming ulterior objective that those measures might "pay them political dividends". Thomas is simply seeking the tools that have the potential to restore the GOP to power. Take note that he is proposing that a bipartisan group of "former members of Congress" carry out his olive branch strategy. His fear that the Democrats will retaliate is nothing more than his admission that they would have grounds upon which to do so. Don't kid yourself...Thomas and his ilk signed on to Karl Rove's vision that the GOP was poised to establish a dynasty that would dominate and dictate the political terrain...and compromise wasn't part of the equation. They sought to impose capitulation.
Republicans need to try something dramatic that will demonstrate success and communicate to the public whose interests they actually serve. If they do lose their majority next month, but learn the greater lesson that power should be a means to success, not an end in itself, they will not be the first party or person to learn more from failure than from success.
I don't disagree with Thomas when he suggests that politicians should promote the interests of the public they serve. Unfortunately, my cynical side leads me to suspect that the Thomas suggestions are simply an acknowledgment that the GOP will have to recalibrate their weaponry if they want to succeed in putting an end to the opposition. Nonetheless, if I take Thomas at his word, I shouldn't have to worry about any of this for at least another 40 years. I'm glad he pointed that out. Thanks Cal...I'm feeling better already.
Daniel DiRito | October 17, 2006 | 11:23 AM |
| Comments (0)
Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2006 | 1:37 PM |
| Comments (0)
Logic should tell us that no one group has a lock on morality...but don't look at the last decade to discern that conclusion. Nonetheless, the GOP stranglehold on values voters seems to be on the wane as evidenced by Frank Newport's analysis at the Gallup News Service which reviewed recent polling trends. I'm reminded of the well know adage of, "It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". If this new Gallup analysis is accurate, then this insightful quote from Abe Lincoln may well be the undoing of the Republican Party's efforts to rewrite the equation. Perhaps an exaggeration on my part but one intended to emphasize the GOP's years of successfully pushing the envelope.
PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of USA Today/Gallup poll trend data indicates that while Democrats have made gains across the board on the generic Congressional ballot in the latest Oct. 6-8 survey, the change has been greater among religious whites than among less religious whites and among non whites. At this point, religious whites are equally as likely to say they will vote Democratic as Republican, a marked change from their strong tilt towards the Republicans in surveys conducted June through September.
The Democrats made gains across all groups in the October poll compared to the averages in previous months. But the Democratic gain (or Republican loss depending on how one looks at it) is more significant among religious whites than among the other two groups. Religious whites went from an average Democratic disadvantage of 23 points across the June through September months, to dead even in October. Less religious whites shifted only seven points across these two time periods, while the group of "all others" shifted 9 points.
A comparison of the September average to October shows a 22-point gain for the Democrats among white frequent churchgoers, a six-point gain among white less frequent churchgoers, and a 14-point gain among all others.
The fact that the largest percentage shift towards the Democrats seems to come from the most religiously defined group harkens another well known adage, "Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me". As a good friend once told me, the best way to change someone's mind or their behavior is to put them in a situation where retaining their opinions or their actions might make them appear to be stupid. Before anyone is offended, I am not suggesting anyone is stupid...but I am arguing that many values voters were manipulated by a Republican Party that has mastered the art of lip service.
One plausible explanation for the broad drop in Republican support in the most recent poll is the Mark Foley scandal in Congress. Since this situation involved issues of morality on the part of Foley, and allegations of a cover-up on the part of Republican leadership, it appears plausible that religious whites may have become disproportionately disillusioned with the Republicans and as a result lost more of their fervor for voting Republican than others in the population.
I realize that values voters on the far right and those secular voters on the far left are unlikely to narrow their divide in order to reach many points of agreement...but that is why they call it a bell curve. Fortunately the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle because they are reasonable and thoughtful and they understand that our social contract can only succeed if we demonstrate a healthy measure of tolerance for opposing views. In return, the same social contract provides each of us the opportunity to equitably hold the views we choose so long as they conform to law. That's an amazingly practical and efficient construct based upon an appreciation of human nature.
At the same time, it acknowledges that the notion of values is much broader than two or three volatile issues like abortion rights or same-sex marriage. Finding oneself in agreement with another on two critical issues doesn't necessarily mean that both parties share the same values. Even the very cornerstone of many American voters’ beliefs, the Bible, offers numerous examples to support that observation. I don't know if we're on the verge of enlightenment or if someone has found a new way to fool more of us...but I do know that all that is required to maintain a rational balance is a willingness to take the time to learn enough about others such that an accurate and honest evaluation can prevail when confronted by the all too frequent rhetoric of partisan political absolutism. I think a wise man from our distant past had it about right when he coined another famous adage, "Moderation is the key".
Daniel DiRito | October 12, 2006 | 1:59 PM |
| Comments (0)
Never underestimate the ability of the GOP to transform scandal into spin aimed to obfuscate fact and shift blame. The latest effort involves the revelations that Republican Congressman Mark Foley sent solicitous emails and instant messages to underage male pages. In the course of the near two week old scandal, the GOP has crafted a message designed to infer that a group of gay staffers may have been responsible for shielding Mr. Foley's actions from the scrutiny of those who could punish his actions. The Chicago Tribune elaborates on this GOP spin in a new article.
More signs of discontent among the GOP's core social conservative supporters also emerged, with a prominent conservative activist questioning in an article whether gay Republican staffers and members of Congress were working behind the scenes to undercut the political agenda of religious conservatives.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote in a Web newsletter that the scandal "raises another plausible question for values voters: has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and/or staffers?"
Several key figures involved in the scandal and its handling are gay or linked to gay causes. Foley has acknowledged he is gay. Kolbe is gay. Trandahl, 42, is a board member for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign.
Noting that, Perkins continued, "The GOP will have to decide whether it wants to be the party that defends the traditional moral and family values that our nation was built upon and directed by for two centuries. Put another way, does the party want to represent values voters, or Mark Foley and friends?"
I've previously suggested that the leaders of the evangelical voting block and GOP strategists, under the direction of Karl Rove, work in concert to achieve their individual and mutually beneficial goals. I believe the remarks of Perkins are offered with the approval of the hierarchy of the GOP and are intended to achieve two goals. One, to absolve high level members of the Republican Party from fault (particularly Dennis Hastert) and two, to reframe the issue into advantageous campaign rhetoric designed to motivate their all important conservative religious base.
Perkins comments are specifically designed to infer that the real problem is the gay lifestyle and that the only fault that rests with the GOP leadership has been their overly compassionate approach that has included employing a number of gay staffers. The exposure of Foley as gay along with the revelation that numerous staffers are also gay has the potential to damage the GOP's relationship with evangelicals and now that their disingenuous rhetoric has exposed their underlying hypocrisy, they are prepared to toss these gay staffers under the bus to retain their all too important voting block.
Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican organization, said the connection was spurious.
"The anti-gay groups are trying to spin this into some kind of gay cover-up," Sammon said. "But I don't think any of this had anything to do with sexual orientation."
I would caution Democrats to temper their optimism that this issue will continue to provide an advantage for the Party as we approach the November election. I view the reported bipartisan effort on the part of the ethics committee that included a somewhat unprecedented news conference may be part and parcel of a GOP strategy. Note that Hastert and the vast majority of Republican operatives are now touting the investigation and supporting its efforts to provide a rapid response to the scandal. I suspect that the plan is to shift blame to a number of GOP gay staffers in order to absolve elected Republicans and to reframe the scandal as an advantageous campaign talking point...one that reunites the evangelicals with the GOP in a belief that they must oppose the gay agenda.
The bottom line is that the GOP isn't going to stand by and watch their constituent base fall apart. With that in mind, look forward to the GOP doing whatever it takes to turn this scandal into an opportunity to reassure these voters that they are united in their committment to a values agenda.
Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2006 | 9:24 AM |
| Comments (1)
The GOP is on the offensive in an attempt to blame the Democrats and a "network of gay staffers" for leaking the details about Congressman Mark Foley as well as sitting on the information until it would provide them maximum partisan advantage. Stewart skewers the argument in this video clip courtesy of John at AMERICAblog. Samantha Bee also spoofs the issue by comparing the war on congressional child predators to fighting the war on terror.
Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2006 | 8:51 AM |
| Comments (0)
In the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, the GOP has struggled to offer a plausible defense for what appears to have been an effort to cover up the congressman's outrageous communications with underage male pages. While the situation is certainly not what the Party would have wanted to happen with barely a month until the midterm elections, I have my reservations as to the impact the scandal will have on the evangelical vote.
Two new articles offer some insight into how the GOP will attempt to spin the scandal and into the mindset of the evangelical when confronted by such a scandal. The New York Times headline reads, "Evangelicals Blame Foley, Not Republican Party", while the Washington Times article closes with a quotation from a senior Republican campaign official, "The only anger we're hearing from our grass roots is anger aimed at one man -- Mark Foley."
In mulling over both articles as well as reading and listening to the many Republican operatives who have been discussing the issue, a clear GOP strategy appears to be emerging. More importantly for the Democratic Party, this scandal should once and for all provide them with insight into the way evangelicals think as well as just how successful the GOP has become in tuning into that mindset in order to retain their support. At the core of that understanding is the adoption of what I would call the politically correct notion of hate the sin, not the sinner.
From The New York Times:
“This is Foley’s lifestyle," said Ron Gwaltney, a home builder, as he waited with his family outside a Christian rock concert last Thursday in Norfolk. “He tried to keep it quiet from his family and his voters. He is responsible for what he did. He is paying a price for what he did. I am not sure how much farther it needs to go."
The Democratic Party is “the party that is tolerant of, maybe more so than Republicans, that lifestyle," Mr. Gwaltney said, referring to homosexuality.
Most of the evangelical Christians interviewed said that so far they saw Mr. Foley’s behavior as a matter of personal morality, not institutional dysfunction.
But as far as culpability in the Foley case, Mr. Dunn said, House Republicans may benefit from the evangelical conception of sin. Where liberals tend to think of collective responsibility, conservative Christians focus on personal morality. “The conservative Christian audience or base has this acute moral lens through which they look at this, and it is very personal," Mr. Dunn said. “This is Foley’s personal sin."
The concept of morality from the religious perspective is a powerful force that is derived from a more or less literal interpretation of Biblical teachings. In the last thirty years, as the religious right has sought to become a political force, they have honed their message into a salable partisan strategy. Specifically, the strategy is to satisfy the desire of religious voters to maintain the appearance of Christian compassion coupled with the larger goal of opposing and extinguishing those behaviors they reject through the imposition of laws designed to achieve that outcome.
The key to the successes achieved by this powerful movement rests in the alliance of influential religious leaders like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, and countless others with a Republican Party looking for a winning voter coalition. This symbiotic merger provides both groups what they seek. For Dobson and his ilk it allows them to raise huge sums of money and expand their influence as the voice of the devout and a broker for achieving their political objectives. For the Republican Party, in exchange for the occasional legislation and the all too frequent pledge to make values a fundamental political objective, they gain the perpetual support of this significant and stable voting block.
The instinctive reaction to the Foley scandal is to presume that these religious voters will conclude that the GOP has failed to uphold its end of the bargain. Supporting that assumption are the measured remarks of disappointment from a number of these powerful religious power brokers as well as the typical one dimensional media analysis that sees these issues in terms of their utility during the next 24 hour news cycle. Unfortunately, this simplistic analysis suffers from an abundance of shortsightedness.
Let me offer an alternative perspective. Despite the risk of angering religious and political insiders, the leadership within both camps is staffed with opportunists. Further, they also realize that they can best exploit opportunity if they act in concert. I would equate the handling of the Foley scandal with the adage that states, "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Here's the equation. The Republican Party, seemingly caught with their pants down, immediately pivots to make comparisons to the Democrats handling of a similar scandal in 1983...an effort to demonstrate two things.
One, Democrats tolerated the outrageous behavior of one of their own because they politically support the homosexual lifestyle and they didn't want to alienate their constituents. In other words they failed to sufficiently punish the sin because they embrace the underlying lifestyle. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that Democrats embrace pedophilia. What I am suggesting is that the religious argument being used against Democrats seeks to show that supporting the gay lifestyle already accepts sin...which makes it possible to assert that the current Democratic outrage is primarily a partisan strategy.
Two, Republicans can argue that, in an effort to not hate the sinner, they probably used bad judgment in not addressing the Foley scandal more aggressively. They can suggest that they used caution to avoid being seen as lacking compassion...even though they view the homosexual lifestyle as sinful. In other words, they tried to avoid jumping to conclude that Mark Foley had committed a sin beyond the fundamental sin of his lifestyle. They can argue that his behaviors...limited to those they contend they were aware of...were objectionable such that he was confronted and asked to cease his actions...but not so outrageous that they would warrant unduly punishing Mark Foley, the sinner.
They can contend that if they had been given any reason to believe that Foley had intended to act (as the "newly" revealed instant messages now seem to suggest) or had actually acted upon his lifestyle and committed a crime, then it would have been a far different situation and resulted in a far different reaction. In fact, they have argued that once they knew the scope of the behavior, they did act swiftly and far more aggressively than their Democratic counterparts.
From The Washington Times:
But before the House page scandal broke, igniting a finger-pointing fight among conservatives over who was to blame, polls had shown the political environment slowly improving and the election tightening in the House and Senate races.
Republican campaign officials talked of "turning the corner" in their campaigns and a change in the nation's political mood. Elections forecaster Stuart Rothenberg reported at the end of last month that "GOP polling has shown dramatically improved prospects for the party in a number of districts."
After House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's press conference last week, Republican officials now think their party has regained the offensive on the page scandal after beginning a two-pronged investigation by the House ethics committee and the FBI.
At the same time, I have no doubt as to how the incident is going to be characterized in churches around the country prior to the election. It will go something like this. Yes, our Republican leaders have been far too tolerant and they likely failed to pursue the issue with sufficient tenacity...but they didn't do so because they embrace the gay lifestyle. In their efforts to love the sinner, they may have afforded too much compassion to Mr. Foley in order to be abundantly fair as well as to honor their prevailing Christian religious beliefs. In other words, there was a risk of personally hurting Mr. Foley by unnecessarily exposing his chosen sinful lifestyle.
I wouldn't be surprised to hear ministers attempt to minimize the less than satisfactory reactions to the revelation of the initial emails and to draw comparisons to minimize the offense committed in those documents. The best one I can offer would be for a minister to ask the congregation to consider how fellow congressman might react to an accusation that a member made a comment to a female page, while in his office, that she looked especially lovely today in her new outfit. Inappropriate? Probably so..and it would likely warrant a word of caution to that member...and the public exposure of such behavior might draw frowns and criticism from many as an instance of bad judgment...but in comparison to the possible very negative reaction to the outing of a closeted gay congressman (Congressman Foley), there is a difference that should be considered.
The minister, in offering this example, can contend that good intentions may have led to a poorly handled situation...but it should in no way be viewed to impugn the values of the Republican Party. On the contrary, the minister can argue that the GOP may have, in attempting to live their Christian beliefs, simply been too compassionate in wanting to avoid personally hurting Foley by exposing the fact that he is gay.
At that point, the minister could pivot to a discussion of the need to prevent the institutionalization of the homosexual lifestyle and its agenda. He or she could suggest that we have to be compassionate towards the sinner but we need not embrace the sins he or she may be inclined to commit. In other words, the gay lifestyle is wrong and we Christians must redouble our efforts to reject it...and that can best be achieved by supporting politicians that are opposed to gay marriage, that want to put an end to judicial activism, that want conservative Supreme Court justices, and that hold sound Christian values that honor the teachings of the Bible and seek to write our laws accordingly.
In my hypothetical sermon, the conclusion would suggest that this incident is a wake up call to the complacency that can result from failing to clearly interpret right from wrong in our attempts to be compassionate. Those who support the gay lifestyle have been effective in shifting blame to Christians and that must be resisted and basic values must be preserved...which can only be achieved by Christian leaders who are committed to enacting laws that honor these fundamental beliefs.
While I am opposed to conspiracy theories, it wouldn't be difficult to conclude that, in the waning effectiveness of using opposition to gays as a wedge issue, the GOP has once again found a means to elevate the topic in order to motivate their fundamentalist evangelical base. By bringing voters to witness how complacency in reaction to the onslaught of the homosexual agenda may have led to this troubling incident, the GOP may have stumbled upon the next best thing to constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. In my cynical scenario, it all comes down to those sinful gay people who, rather than repent and seek redemption, continue to push a militant agenda determined to force the full acceptance of the gay lifestyle upon a nation and a world already struggling to maintain its moral compass.
From The New York Times:
To a person, those interviewed said that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois should resign if he knew of the most serious claims against Mr. Foley and failed to stop him. They said the degree of Mr. Hastert’s responsibility remained to be seen. Many said the issue had not changed their view of Congress because, in their opinion, it could not sink any lower.
But all also noted that the swift Democratic efforts to broaden the scandal to Mr. Hastert and other Republicans had added more than a whiff of partisanship to the stink of the scandal.
Still, many conservative churchgoers said that what stood out for them was not the politics but the individual sin. “It is not going to affect my vote because I don’t live in Florida," said Scott O’Connell, a mechanical engineer who described himself as a fundamentalist. “But there is a bigger moral issue which I would say is the prism I view this through: I do not believe in homosexuality."
David Thomas, a father taking his family to the concert, said that he, too, was leaning toward voting Republican and that the scandal only reinforced his conservative Christian convictions. “That is the problem we have in society," Mr. Thomas said. “Nobody polices anybody. Everybody has a ‘right’ to do whatever."
In an interview on Friday, Pastor Anne Gimenez of the 15,000-member Rock Church here said the scandal “doesn’t change the issues we are voting on," like abortion, public expression of religion and same-sex marriage.
Many have called the Foley scandal the October surprise...and while that may be an accurate assessment...if my fears are confirmed, it may turn out to be the Democrat's October surprise that suddenly became the GOP's Election Day surprise. I certainly hope I'm wrong.
Daniel DiRito | October 9, 2006 | 8:07 AM |
| Comments (1)
If you care to see how desperate the GOP is to shift the blame for the Foley scandal to everybody but themselves, take a look at this video of the usual Republican talking heads giving it their best shot. If you've ever wondered why the GOP is so effective at framing a message, you will have your answer after watching this clip.
Daniel DiRito | October 4, 2006 | 11:00 AM |
| Comments (0)
That didn't take long! Call me a cynic and a skeptic but within hours of the announcement by Mark Foley's attorney that his client is gay, a number of GOP operatives were appearing all over the media attempting to portray this scandal as an incident that is predominantly about homosexuality...rather than a question of insidious behavior coupled with an intentional cover-up for the sake of political expediency. I find it amusing that up until Foley became a political liability, the Republican leadership was willing to sacrifice the welfare of a 16 year old male page...but the minute Foley's actions were exposed, his sexual orientation became the issue. That is nothing but blatant partisan hypocrisy at its worst.
Tony Perkins, appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews inferred that he was opposed to electing gays and while he conceded that homosexuals should be entitled to participate in the political process, he didn't feel they could be expected to exhibit the appropriate sexual restraint He said homosexual men are more likely to molest children than heterosexual men and suggested that may well mean that it isn't advisable to have gays serving in an atmosphere that might present an opportunity for sexual misconduct. He attempted to portray the alleged cover up by the Republican leadership as a hesitation to confront Congressman Foley because they may have feared their actions would be viewed as gay bashing...thereby absolving the GOP leadership of any misconduct.
In addition to Perkins, Pat Buchanan, also appearing on Hardball, was quoting the flawed research frequently offered by religious conservatives that has been documented to be the biased work conducted by Paul Cameron, a discredited researcher who has sought to portray homosexuals as pedophiles and sexual deviants. Buchanan twice repeated the assertion that homosexuals have a proclivity to pedophilia...making the statement that thirty percent of pedophile crimes are committed by gays...a group that he asserts is just three percent of the U.S. population.
Buchanan also cited the Pope and his opposition to homosexuality to reinforce his assertions...making the statement that the Catholic Church's U.S. sex scandal was basically a problem that resulted from allowing gays to serve within the Church despite their predisposition to pedophilia...apparently granting the Church absolution for their decades of denial and deceit. Apparently the premise of hate the sin but love the sinner only applies to those who aren't gay...after all the Catholic Church has always found themselves in need of scapegoats.
This attempt to shift the issue to homosexuality is some of the most vial and disingenuous spin that I have had the misfortune to witness. It demonstrates an absolute disregard for Christian principles and an unbridled propensity to scapegoat gays when the GOP once again finds itself in trouble with their conservative evangelical base.
As I interpret this calculated damage control strategy, it seems obvious that the goal is to make voters believe that the actions of the Republican Party, in embracing Foley as a Republican, were an attempt to display tolerance...but in doing so...they suddenly and unfortunately found themselves in a difficult position when Congressman Foley's improprieties surfaced. Essentially, they want their constituents to believe that they didn't try to cover up the scandal...they were simply exhibiting the politically correct behavior that has come to be expected in these times of increasing anti-religious sentiment and growing tolerance for alternative lifestyles.
Let me offer an equally ridiculous example for comparison in order to amplify my accusations. Take the recent resignation of Duke Cunningham, also a Republican...one who was convicted of accepting huge amounts of money in exchange for providing political favors...and who also attended parties at which he was provided the services of prostitutes by those who paid him these bribes. If the GOP wanted to be consistent, why didn't they assert that middle aged married heterosexual white men are prone to adultery...offering the overwhelming statistics supporting that contention...and concluding that they may not be suited for political office in light of their preoccupation with extramarital sexual relationships and a disregard for the sanctity of their marriage vows.
If Mark Foley's homosexuality is responsible for his inappropriate behavior, then why isn't heterosexuality also responsible for the indiscretions of married white male politicians? Instead, Cunningham is just a man who failed to do the right thing while Foley is a failed man because he is a homosexual. Pardon my indignation but that is abject bullshit.
Let me be clear...I am not defending Foley...he is a reprehensible man because of his actions...just as Cunningham is a reprehensible man because of his actions...but the sexual orientation of either man is only relevant when determining whether they committed their transgressions with same or opposite sex individuals...it is not a valid attribution. The attempt to make Congressman Foley's sexual orientation the issue is as outrageous as the behaviors exhibited by Foley and by Cunningham...and any voter that elects or succumbs to that ridiculous hypocrisy has no right to the moral indignation they may be attempting to assert.
Its time for decent, values oriented, law abiding Americans to tell those who employ the politics of division and derision that such behavior will not be tolerated and that they will no longer be afforded the power to put forth a platform that is poisoning our political system and preying upon prejudice for partisan advantage. Morality cannot be measured by sexual orientation any more than a black slave could be assigned a numeric value less than the equivalent of one man, one vote or than a woman could be deemed unfit to vote. In fact, as with the mistreatment of blacks and women, history will clearly note that the only immorality associated with homosexuality was that which was exhibited by those who sought to demonize it in order to maintain one last bastion of bigotry.
Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2006 | 6:05 PM |
| Comments (0)
Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2006 | 5:48 PM |
| Comments (0)
The dust has yet to settle on the scandal surrounding the resignation of Florida Congressman Mark Foley after the exposure of solicitous emails to an underage male page. Foley's actions are especially damaging to the GOP given his position on the Congressional committee intended to protect children from exploitation. The fact that the Republican congressional leadership seemingly ignored some of the troubling emails despite being alerted to their existence may offer the Democrats a much needed wedge buster. The Washington Post discusses the ramifications in a new article published today.
From The Washington Post:
As House GOP leaders defended their role in handling revelations that forced Foley on Friday to give up his House seat, party strategists said the scandal threatens to depress turnout among Christian conservatives and could hamper efforts to convince undecided and swing voters that Republicans deserve to remain in the majority.
There was intense anger among social conservative activists in Washington yesterday, and some called for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to resign.
Others warned that the impact could be much greater. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and an important social conservative leader, said "there's a real chance" that the episode could dethrone the Republican majority. "I think the next 48 hours are critical in how this is handled," he said, adding that "when a party holds itself out as the guardian of values, this is not helpful."
By yesterday, a number of GOP strategists reported widespread gloom about the party's prospects, combined with intense anger at the House leadership.
In a further sign of the outrage, The Washington Times, a notably conservative newspaper, also called for the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
From The Washington Times:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.
In my opinion, these recent events provide the Democratic Party with an opportunity to begin the process of dismantling the values wedge that has been created by the Republican Party. Time and again, the GOP has attempted to characterize the Democratic Party's position on issues of morality as inferior and designed to undermine religious beliefs. Don't get me wrong...I'm not suggesting that conservative Republicans are going to immediately change their political affiliations and begin voting Democratic. Nonetheless, I think this situation provides the Democrats an opportunity to draw some important distinctions.
The GOP has been able to characterize Democratic support for a woman's right to choose, support for gay rights issues, and support for a number of other values topics as positions of insufficient moral standing. I believe the Democrats can pivot from the Foley situation to redefine themselves to values voters. Democrats need to make clear to religious voters that they are not opposed to religion and that they have been unfairly accused in that regard by a Republican Party that has sought to exploit the beliefs of this important voting block.
Here's how I would frame the message if I were a Democratic strategist. It begins with a clear explanation that the duty of elected officials is to uphold our constitution...the social contract that we American's embrace and that was designed to provide equal rights and equal opportunity to all Americans without the imposition of any particular religious doctrine. Therefore the document is first and foremost about fairness and tolerance. In that regard, the actions of elected Democrats...in carrying out their constitutional responsibilities may not always comport with specific religious beliefs...but they will always honor the intent of the constitution.
Further, that consistency is not intended to invalidate the religious beliefs that voters may hold...but it is also necessary to avoid the imposition of one belief system over another. At the same time, in observing the constitution, elected officials may not require a citizen or a group of citizens to embrace or act in any way that may well be contrary to the religious convictions of the individual or the group. In other words, the constitution provides equitable reciprocity.
I would then compare and contrast that with the actions of the GOP and suggest that while the Republican Party may, from time to time, be willing to endorse particular religious beliefs and occasionally seek to legislate those beliefs...those actions may not be based upon the same religious convictions and may well be a calculation intended to give the appearance of endorsing those beliefs in order to obtain the votes they seek to maintain power. I would ask that voters consider the numerous Republican scandals as well as examine the apparent disconnect between their words and their actions.
I would conclude by asking values voters to consider the possibility that the Republican Party has sought to deceive the many religious voters they have courted and while the Democrats may not endorse some or all of the measures values voters support, they have not engaged in manipulation for political gain. Finally, I would ask voters whether the honesty and integrity demonstrated by many Democrats in opposing the imposition of religious beliefs...based upon upholding our constitution...may well be favorable to the repeated revelations that the GOP gives lip service to values in order to amass power. In essence, isn't honesty also a question of values?
In the end, the Democrat's goal need not be to promise values voters that they will endorse legislation they believe is contrary to the constitution just to appease them...they merely need to point out that the Republican Party isn't the Party of values they purport to be. Doing so may not immediately change votes, but it removes an advantage that has tilted the playing field for far too long. If values voters can be convinced that their voting decisions aren't actually black and white, they may well take the time to listen to the arguments made by Democrats that have been so successfully characterized by their Republican counterparts as the ranting of anti-religious extremists. From my own perspective, I would trust an honest and candid opponent with my well being far more than someone who is willing to deceive me in order to win my allegiance.
This may be the opening Democrats have long sought to dispel the presumption that the depth and breadth of values can be encompassed in the Republican rhetoric of gays, guns, and God. The absence of honesty and integrity being witnessed in this scandal and numerous others finally exposes the degree to which Karl Rove and his operatives have blatantly manipulated this particular voter constituency. Perhaps this incident can finally be the catalyst to begin the difficult task of uniting, not dividing.
Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2006 | 9:13 AM |
| Comments (0)