"I'd invite you to come in for a drink -- but I'm afraid you'd accept." It's a line from one of Joan Crawford's later films, but it would have made the perfect script for GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush's recent meeting with gay Republicans.
The Log Cabin, a national group of gay Republicans (an oxymoron if ever one existed) put their party's Clown Prince on the spot a couple of weeks back. George W. said he wanted to bring back the "big tent" GOP where everyone is welcome. He's a "compassionate conservative," he steadfastly maintained.
Fine, said the Log Cabin folks, Let's have a chat, hey? Oooops! Turns out the tent isn't quite THAT big. Sure, the aging frat-boy's spin team countered, we'll talk to some gay Republicans (there's that oxymoron again), but we'll pick 'em out ourselves.
Of course, there was the risk of offending George W.'s fascist -- oops, conservative -- base. "Tawkin' Spanish lahk them thar mahgrant wukkers be one thang, but our Jawge ortn't go meetin' with no ho-mo- sek-shu-alls," it was muttered direly throughout the Bible Belt. And ol' George W. might have agreed, except for the spinmeister who unquestionably whispered in his ear, "Disposable income, sir. Disposable income!
"I am a better person for it," Bush summed up his meeting with the gay GOP'ers. He failed, of course, to explain in exactly what way he was "better for it," but it sounded comfortably accepting while keeping the gay issue carefully at arm's-length.
There are two stories here -- one of desperate greed, and one of pathetic inanity. It could be an ancient Greek tragedy. Luckily, instead it's only a modern American farce.
No intelligent gay man or lesbian in his or her right mind believes in George W.'s asinine "compassionate conservative" bromide. It's a meaningless platitude offered up by the spin doctors of a man who believes in nothing -- except that it's his turn to be President of the United States, and he only believes THAT because he's been told it's so. For those who've been out of the loop, here's the kindest of the jokes that circulated around the Beltway when the Bush campaign came up with the slogan:
A conservative is a guy who kicks a bum in the gutter and snarls "Get a job!" A compassionate conservative is a guy who kicks a bum in the gutter, snarls "Get a job!", and throws the want ads at him.
No, dear reader, what the Log Cabin folks and their ilk want, with a pathetic desperation so profound that they can ignore the fact George W. is nothing more than a hopefully-electable front man, is LEGITIMACY.
To the vast majority of the gay community, the notion of supporting the party of Trent Lott and Pat Robertson is anathema. The idea of gays willingly endorsing the GOP is like the idea of Jews marching eagerly into the gas chambers of Auschwitz, gaily singing "Deutscheland Uber Alles!"
Rejected by their gay brothers and sisters, the Log Cabinites have found that the Republican Party is also, shall we say, less-than-eager to clasp them warmly to its bosom. Archconservative Gary Bauer -- you know, the guy who looks like a cross between Peter Lorre and Howdy Doody, and talks like a cross between John Knox and Torquemada -- commented direly on the gays/Bush meeting. "Shooting ourselves in the foot," he called any attempt to extend the GOP hand of welcome to gays and lesbians.
And now (soap-opera organ-riff) we come to the desperate greed portion of our program. George W. doesn't have the sense God gave an ant, as BuckcuB's granny would have said, but the powerful people who want him as their puppet in the Oval Office employ some very smart men, indeed. Market demographics are the meat and drink of campaign managers. And when you've already blown more than seventy million dollars to get a brain-dead rich boy elected President, you've gotta look for some new pockets to pick. And who has money to throw around? Yep -- gay folks.
Georgie doesn't need our votes; gays and lesbians vote overwhelmingly Democratic from coast to coast. But his campaign schemers would sure like to tap into the vast ocean of disposable income gay folks represent. All that money could pay for more air time; more newspaper ads; more venues where George W. could declare his compassionate conservatism.
Bush Junior did what his handlers told him to do. He met with the queers and, presumably, was cordial to them. Then he made a non- statement statement about the meeting. He declared the meeting was a good thing, with his usual deer-caught-in-the-headlights ineptitude, smiled and waved, and as a consequence gay folks are supposed to believe he's on our side.
Believe THAT idiocy at your own peril. The socially-liberal, fiscally- conservative Republican Party, the "Rockefeller Republicans" as they were called, is gone. It was beaten to death with the cross of right- wing Christian-conservative demagoguery, and those Bible-thumpers are firmly in control of the GOP.
Their mostly-unstated goal (although some make the occasional unwise slip of the tongue) is to remake the United States into a "Christian nation." Under the strictest possible interpretation of Biblical literalism, which utterly precludes any such critter as a "gay Republican," or for that matter, a "gay citizen."
There are decent, sensible Republicans with accepting and affirming attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. The late and lamented Barry Goldwater was one such -- for all his hardassed rhetoric, Goldwater understood that a citizen of the United States is entitled to the full rights afforded by the Constitution, whether he sleeps with women, men, or ringtailed marmosets. In his waning years, Goldwater harshly criticized the military's ban on gays serving openly. Pennsylvania Congressman James Greenwood is another such Republican. Representing a largely-affluent district in the Philadelphia suburbs, Greenwood's moderate policies and attitudes -- he is pro- choice and supports antidiscrimination and hate-crimes legislation -- have been a welcome relief from the GOP's casual homophobia.
And the Vermont legislature has taken an old-fashioned insistence on "equal justice under the law" to new heights, largely bypassing partisan silliness to declare by law that gay couples are entitled to all the rights of straight couples.
But such Republicans are the exception, not the rule. And until the party is wrested from the grasp of good ol' boy Bible-thumpers and foaming-at-the-mouth Clinton-haters, it is no place for any lesbian or gay man, unless they happen to have a death wish.
"Log Cabin" refers, for the uninitiated, to the childhood in a log cabin of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln would not recognize his party if he were resurrected today. The man who took history into his hands to free the slaves, would undoubtedly turn in horror and disgust from the racism and homophobia and anti-Semitism of the current evangelical-Christian Republican party. George W. promotes a childhood-education program called "Character First." The idea is that, along with reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, schools will teach so-called "character education." Right-wing Republicans, of course, will determine the proper character to be imposed on young minds.
A more blatant, "Big Brother"ish form of forced socialization and mind control is impossible to imagine. And still, the Log Cabinites eagerly stick their collective necks into Bush's noose, even as he plans to indoctrinate the nation's kindergarteners with the certainty that homosexuals are evil sinners.
A parting note, and a prediction. If the Log Cabin Republicans are intent on cruising George W. Bush, they oughtta remember a cardinal rule of cruising -- it the guy feeling up your ass is paying undue attention to your wallet, run - do not walk -- to the nearest exit.
Once safe, they should do some serious thinking about whether they REALLY want a party whose leaders have marginalized gays to be in charge. And don't waste your time on a loser like George W. -- he isn't going to be the next President. Remember, you heard it here first.