When cornered and asked about persistent rumors that he is gay, Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman said "[You] have asked a question people shouldn't have to answer."
Mehlman is right. It shouldn't matter if he is gay. His performance should be judged solely on its merits and not his sexual orientation, skin color or religious beliefs. I believe in the Barney Frank rule that holds the only time when it is appropriate to out someone is when that person is hurting gay people. Say, like heading a national political party that routinely rallies right wingers to bash gay and lesbians, for example.
As a liberal, I'm glad to know that the Republicans might have become so open-minded and progressive as to allow someone who might be gay the role of national director. Even if it is an imperfect "don't ask, don't tell" deal, it's a step in the right direction for the Republicans. If they want to walk even further on the wild side, the Republicans should be gracious enough to says thanks to Bill Clinton for their new policy on tolerance and acceptance.
While it doesn't matter to me if Mehlman is gay, straight or mannequin, it matters passionately to the fervent evangelicals who faithfully elect Republicans. And you can be assured that the evangelicals are more than a little bit interested given that they believe the Republicans have not vigorously pursued an anti-gay legislative agenda. You can also safely assume that Mehlman saying that he shouldn't have to answer whether he is gay sounds to evangelical ears a whole lot like "I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it might tend to intimidate me."
Mehlman's answer sounds straight out of Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Then again, the way House Speaker Dennis Hastert has handled the Foley fiasco so far, the Republicans might be using the (hopefully) former "don't ask, don't tell"practices of the Catholic church.
During the same five years, the national GOP counted on anti-gay evangelical voters. "It has not escaped our notice that they waited until just a few months from the November elections to address our agenda," said Kenyn Cureton, a vice president for the Southern Baptist Convention. "Conservative Christians are somewhat disenchanted with Republicans," Cureton said.
Well disappointed should conservative Christians be. Back in the spring, House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told Hastert that there had been inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page.
But wait. Back in 2005, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who oversees the page program, learned of Foley's emails and investigated. Shimkus warned Foley to leave the boy alone.
The boy's congressman, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., learned of the situation and then discussed with Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort. Then Reynolds told House Speaker Dennis Hastert this past spring.
During the same time period, one piece reported that a staffer said that it was well known in Washington that some members posture as more anti-gay than they really are. The staffer said that "while members may not have personal problems with having gay staff, they vote the way their constituents want them to." Even the religious right's darling, Senator Jim Inhofe, R.-Ok, has allegedly said that he would hire gays for his Washington staff but not at his district offices in Oklahoma.
Rep. Barney Frank, D- Ma., who has had his own gay sex scandal, said that "the Republican attitude is that they have now moved to the point where they accept the fact that you're gay as long as you act somewhat embarrassed about it."
Which brings us back to the original question: have the Republicans finally endorsed Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy at least for their elites? Maybe their policy on bedroom privacy is like their take on health care: good enough for Congressional nobility but too good for us commoners.
Tags: Mark Foley, Gays, Gay Republicans, Gay Congressmen, GOP, Republicans, Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, Don't ask, don't tell, Evangelicals, Conservative Christians, Fundamentalists, Right wing, Conservatives, Liberals, House speaker, Barney Frank, Barney Frank rule, Dennis Hastert, Congressional pages, Congressional sex scandal, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Jim Inhofe, Thomas Reynolds, John A. Boehner, Rodney Alexander, John Shimkus, Kenyn Cureton, Southern Baptist Convention, ABC, Gay Peoples Chronicle