Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The outing

Express Staff Writer

You think politics is filthy? You don't know the half of it if you haven't heard of "The List," which you probably haven't because this recent saga of scum isn't apparently worthy of widespread media notice and editorial outrage.

The List is a roster of gay Republican congressional staffers that has circulated around Washington, D.C., since former Rep. Mark Foley's exit. It includes chiefs of staff, press secretaries and communications directors who work for GOP lawmakers such as Bill Frist, George Allen, Mitch McConnell, Rick Santorum and Henry Hyde. List recipients include the social-conservative arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy: the Christian Coalition, the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family and so on.

But, lo, members of the religious right are not the ones outing gay GOP staffers or poking into the private lives of people working for Republicans. If they were, The List would be a major issue right now.

No, according to The Nation magazine's David Corn, "copies of The List have been sent by gay politicos to a variety of social conservative groups." That's right, the gay politicos who are supposedly concerned about the privacy rights of gays, who are opposed to job discrimination, who are sensitive to the plight of gays and lesbians. These non-Republican gays are ready to heave their gay brothers and sisters, and their principles, under a bus for partisan advantage.

It's hard to fathom a dirtier or crueler political ploy.

Say this of Joe McCarthy's famous or infamous list of alleged communists in the State Department: At least the Wisconsin senator was focused on a real problem. What have the young staffers on The List done other than live their lives and work on Capitol Hill? And do others, utter strangers, have a license to decide if someone else is in or out of the closet?

I can only imagine how difficult and complicated of a decision it is to tell your family and friends or boss that you're gay. Perhaps you're ready to tell your parents, but not your grandparents. Perhaps the folks in your life don't know. Or they "know," but not officially. Perhaps you simply believe it's your own business. Whatever the case, it's your personal decision, and now some unknown person is making that decision for you. It doesn't get much sicker than that.

Today's McCarthyites, of course, offer rationales. When they're not arguing that they're only trying to save gays from the psychological affliction of the closet, they're arguing that gay GOP staffers have it coming. As Corn wrote, "(W)ashington gays have been seething for years about gay Republican staffers who serve a party that opposes gay rights ..."

But there's one rub: They're targeting staffers, not the public figures. The gay GOP staffers may agree with their boss' traditional views on marriage and gay rights, or maybe they disagree. But it's the bosses who cast the votes. Are today's sexual McCarthyites suggesting traditional-values Republican lawmakers take steps to make sure they have no gay staffers?

It almost stoops to their low level to counter their bogus rationales. There's really only one reason The List is circulating now. As Corn wrote last week on his blog, "The senders—gay people of a non-Republican bent—seem to be hoping to set off a civil war within the GOP, to turn the anti-gay social cons against the GOP's Velvet Mafia."

That may be the plan, but it will likely fail, and for one big reason: It relies on a cartoonish view of "social cons." It assumes they are as intolerant of gays as The List circulators are of gays who don't share their political views. It assumes that social conservatives would be shocked to learn gays work for Republicans and, on learning this, will join in an intraparty witch hunt.

These "gay people of a non-Republican bent" really ought to get out more.

Republicans don't come any more social conservative than Sen. Santorum. Guess what? His communications director, Robert Traynham, is openly gay. Here's what Santorum says about him: "Not only is Mr. Traynham an exemplary staffer, he is also a trusted friend and confidant to me and my family."

Santorum said this last year after somebody "outed" Traynham. Such intolerance.

So, The List probably won't work any better as a political tactic this year, but that doesn't make it any less despicable or worthy of outrage. Or any less cruel.

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