Posted on | August 25, 2010 | 39 Comments
There were other things I wanted to write about this evening, but now I feel like I’m obligated to write a society-page feature because the Drama Queen decided to make her debut at the cotillion:
Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. . . .
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman.
Excuse my derision, and denounce me as suffering from “homophobia” — Can I get an SSI disability check for that? Would Medicaid pay for treatment? — if that satisfies your craving for a sense of moral superiority. You’re not going to guilt-trip me into pulling punches. I’m heaping the most vicious ridicule I can on this twerp for a reason: To discourage others from emulating him.
It is a fact well-known but seldom publicly acknowledged, that gay people are crucial to the operations of the Republican Party. There have always been such people in staff positions, working as campaign operatives, contributing as donors, and serving the GOP in many other ways, both as professionals and volunteers.
Back when Ronald Reagan was governor of California in 1967, there was a scandal involving his chief of staff, Phil Battaglia. From pages 239-241 of Lou Cannon’s book, Governor Reagan:
Battaglia . . . had been brought into Reagan’s 1966 campaign by Holmes Tuttle as Southern California chairman and promoted to the state chairmanship after the primary. . . . Battaglia had . . . served as [USC] student body president and editor of the [USC law school journal] . . . When Tuttle tapped him for political service, he was an up-and-coming partner in a major Los Angeles law firm. In addition to these achievements, Battaglia met the Spencer-Roberts test of lacking a political history; Reagan’s campaign management team wanted bright young men who were unscarred by internecine party warfare. . . .
Bill Clark, the cabinet secretary, got along well with Battaglia but was mystified by his many absences. . . . During the crucial months of May and June, for instance, the cabinet minutes show that Battaglia attended only six of twenty-four cabinet meetings. . . .
Battaglia cultivated the media. Trying to control “background” communications, he laid down a rule that only he and [press secretary Lyn] Nofziger could talk with reporters. . . .
Battaglia behaved as if he ran the place, and some reporters sarcastically called him “deputy governor” . . . Battaglia patronized Reagan. He acted as if he were smarter than his boss. . . .
What you recognize here, if you have spent much time around political operations, is a certain troublesome type: The manipulative know-it-all who, when assigned to a position of responsibility, immediately begins abusing his authority for purposes of self-aggrandizement. Such narcissistic personalities are attracted to politics for all the wrong reasons, and they inevitably create toxic environments because they are incapable of being team players.
Battaglia’s position as chief of staff constituted a serious problem in Reagan’s gubernatorial administration, just as Don Regan’s position as White House chief of staff became a serious problem in Reagan’s presidency. And when it was discovered that Battaglia was gay, that became the weapon Battaglia’s numerous critics within the Reagan team used to take him out.
A report about Battaglia’s “inappropriate behavior” was prepared and presented to Reagan, and it was soon announced that Battaglia had decided to resign and return to private law practice. Reagan’s political enemies got wind of the real story and soon Drew Pearson published a column about the “homosexual ring that has been operating in [Reagan’s] office.”
The purpose of this attack was to torpedo prospects of a 1968 presidential campaign by Reagan, and the reader who spots this as a characteristically Nixonian tactic is probably not far from the truth.
There is nothing new under the sun, you see. There were gay people working for Republicans in 1967 and there are gay people working for Republicans today. What has changed is that gay-rights activists have turned sexuality into an identity-politics racket, so that any gay person who doesn’t share their agenda is made to feel inauthentic, a traitor to The Cause. And, as Marc Ambinder explains in his report at The Atlantic, this is now being used as a “wedge issue” by the Left:
Mehlman, who has never married, long found his sexuality subject to rumor and innuendo. He was the subject of an outing campaign by gay rights activist Mike Rogers, starting when Mehlman was Bush’s campaign manager. Rogers’s crusades against closeted gay Republicans split the organized gay lobby in Washington but were undoubtedly effective: he drove several elected officials, including Virginia Rep. Ed Shrock, from office, pushed out a would-be presidential campaign manager for George Allen well before Allen was set to run, slung rumors about Sen. Larry Craig’s sexual orientation well before Craig’s incident in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, and even managed to make homosexuality a wedge issue within the party’s activist circles.
Mike Rogers is a scumbag and the outing of Allen’s longtime aide Jay Timmons — a very effective political operative — was almost certainly orchestrated by supporters of rival Republican aspirants to the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. I’ve long had suspicions as to who was behind that dirty little trick, but there’s no need to get into that now. (David Nolan for U.S. Senate!)
Mehlman’s dramatic gesture is nothing but pure political theater. The only reason he “came out,” as the story makes clear, is so that he can now be a GOP drum major for the gay-rights agenda.
My ax to grind with Mehlman has nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with how he ran the White House Office of Political Affairs and the RNC in the Bush years. It was during the Bush years, with Karl Rove as deputy chief of staff and Mehlman as director of OPA (and later as RNC chairman), that the Republican Party began operating in a top-down fashion, with the smart guys in Washington calling all the shots, playing favorites in contested primaries and otherwise meddling in affairs that are properly the business of state parties and the GOP rank-and-file.
When you see debacles like John Cornyn’s NRSC trying to pick the Florida GOP’s Senate nominee 15 months ahead of the primary, you are witnessing a continuation of the Rove-Mehlman Method. When you see all the GOP Establishment types lining up behind a loser like Dede Scozzafava, Sue Lowden or Jane Norton, that’s the Rove-Mehlman Method in action.
While that kind of politics may work — or, at least, appear to work — when Republicans hold the White House and Congress and the Democrats are in disarray (as was true 2002-2005), it is ultimately a formula for failure because it is undemocratic.
Instead of power flowing up from the grassroots and being exercised in proxy by duly-elected officials, the Rove-Mehlman Method involves power being arrogated by the insiders and political professionals — the staffers, the operatives, the consultants — so that the grassroots are squeezed out of the action.
Top-down political organizations tend to destroy grassroots enthusiasm, driving away volunteers and chilling voter enthusiasm, because Ordinary Americans aren’t stupid. You can fool the people only so long before they start wising up and figure out that there is a scam afoot. They may not understand exactly how the scam works, but when the people at the grassroots see powerful insiders trying to handpick their nominees — ask yourself, how did John McCain’s presidential campaign come back from its summer 2007 near-death experience? — they understand that it’s a crooked racket, and that’s when they decide they’d rather stay home on Election Day.
You’ll sometimes hear Rush Limbaugh remark sarcastically about The Smartest Guy in the Room, the arrogant types in politics who think they know all the answers and presume to be infinitely smarter than the stupid voters they’re paid to represent.
Listeners nod in recognition when Rush says that, because everybody knows the type: The new assistant manager — hired fresh out of business school — who comes into the workplace and immediately starts changing things around, ignoring advice from guys who’ve been doing the job for years.
The Bush-era White House always comes to mind when I hear Rush talk about The Smartest Guy in the Room, because the Bushies acted like they had patented the secret of political success. They were going to “change the tone in Washington” with “compassionate conservatism,” remember? Rove was bragging about the “Permanent Republican Majority” and — for a couple of years after the 2004 election — they had nearly everybody convinced that they had all the answers.
And then the wheels fell off their bandwagon, so now we have Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama.
Thank you, Karl! Thank you, Ken!
This morning, I quoted Ronald Reagan’s famous aphorism, “You can accomplish much, if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Yet there are people whose success in the world of politics involves taking credit for the efforts of others. There are people who don’t understand that to hold a political position — even as chairman of the RNC — is to exercise an authority that ultimately is delegated to them, not by fat-cat donors and party insiders, but rather by millions of Republican voters across the country.
Ken Mehlman was a hired hand, a paid political operative who was designated RNC chairman at the behest of his patron, George W. Bush. Now, Ambinder describes him thus: “Mehlman is the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay.”
The question is this: Whose power?
By what right, on whose authority, does Mehlman claim this power? While you’re pondering that metaphysical question, read this paragraph from Ambinder:
Chad Griffin, the California-based political strategist who organized opposition to Proposition 8, said that Mehlman’s quiet contributions to the American Foundation for Equal Rights are “tremendous,” adding that “when we achieve equal equality, he will be one of the people to thank for it.” Mehlman has become a de facto strategist for the group, and he has opened up his rolodex — recruiting, as co-hosts for the AFER fundraiser: Paul Singer, a major Republican donor, hedge fund executive, and the president of the Manhattan Institute; Benjamin Ginsberg, one of the GOP’s top lawyers; Michael Toner, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission; and two former GOP governors, William Weld of Massachusetts and Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey.
So the contacts Mehlman made while in the pay of the Republican Party are now being mobilized for purposes alien to and in conflict with the political principles and interests of the GOP’s conservative grassroots.
During the winter of 1862-63, when command of the Union’s Army of the Potomac had devolved onto the incompetent Gen. Ambrose Burnside, a soldier in the 79th New York Infantry wrote a letter home:
“Mother, do not wonder that my loyalty is growing weak. . . . I am sick and tired of the disaster and the fools that bring disaster upon us.”
Indeed, and who could blame the loyal foot soldiers of the GOP if their “loyalty is growing weak”? Like that soldier of long ago, they are sick and tired of these fools that bring disaster.