Thursday, August 26, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Ken Mehlman discovers he is gay

Ken Mehlman, who managed George Bush's campaign in 2004 (which succeeded largely by pairing the campaign with anti-gay marriage state referendums) and later led the Republican National Committee, has discovered at age 44 that he is, in fact, gay. Though the idea had been suggested in the media for years, the development apparently took Mehlman himself completely by surprise.

I have no problem with Ken Mehlman being gay. I have no problem with him advocating for gay marriage now if he thinks that is the right thing.

What I do have a problem with is the ridiculous proposition that he just figured out his sexual orientation, and the suggestion that his supposed "discovery" has prompted his change of heart on gay marriage. Obviously, he was a gay man who kept that secret so he could succeed in an organization that counted on anti-gay marriage votes.

Sure, it happens a lot, in a variety of ways. Cynics and hypocrites succeed in politics. I know that. I just don't like it-- I want public servants who really believe in the positions they profess, who have a passionate belief in a point of view. It saddens me that we seem so short on those people of late.

Why is politics, a trade which offers low pay and long hours, so thick with hypocritical opportunists?

Advocating positions you don't believe in for personal gain...kind of seems like that applies to the legal profession as well.

-A lawyer.
The truth is, in my cynical opinion, that our politicians and their hypocrisy are merely an expression of our national personality. As a fallen people, we often overlook our own faults (forgetting that power corrupts) yet expect the closets of our elected officials to be skeleton free (figuratively speaking). The truth is, politicians are elected by a generally ignorant population, responding to demagoguery and division. In fact, we incentivize political hypocrisy by refusing to allow the political dialog to extend beyond rigid party lines.

Make no mistake, I hate hypocrisy as much as the next guy (which I suppose is somewhat hypocritical given that I am occasionally a hypocrite and I rarely hate myself)and I do not excuse the disingenuous behavior of sordid politicians, but I expect that a culture which punishes individual expression while at the same time claiming to be an individualistic society will undoubtedly create hypocrisy.

My solution: Install Lane and RRL as co-dictators to rule the land with a refreshingly genuine pair of iron fists.

PS, my apologies for the cynicism. I would have undoubtedly responded more positively at a more reasonable hour.
Most people are hypocritical opportunists. We just notice it more in public figures.

That said, a certain degree of avarice is present in our political arena. As long as self-selection and self-promotion remain the avenue for public service, this will continue. Those best suited to lead often eschew the control over others that power entails. An interesting paradox. It mirrors Yeats: the best lack all conviction, though the worst are full of passionate intensity.
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As someone who worked in politics for almost three years right out of college, I can say this. Politics succeeds in luring many bright young people to their doom through the illusion of power. You might not get to be president right out of college, but you can be the guy that sets up White House tours for "VIP" guests. You may not be a shark lobbyist right away, but you can be the kid who meets with them for a congressman. Successful folks just work their their way up a continuing ladder of jobs like these, until one day they really do have some power and influence. But since they thought they did all along, they've also become convinced that what they do matters a lot more than it really does. Thinking that they have a lot to lose, they're a lot more willing to bend the truth or fool themselves into hypocrisy.

Some of these people really do change the world, but most change themselves to succeed in a flawed system.
Also, I have a feeling that a joint RRL/Lane Dictatorship would end up much like the song "City Hall" by Tenacious D.
Lane, we'll lead as two kings!

"Obviously, he was a gay man who kept that secret so he could succeed in an organization that counted on anti-gay marriage votes."

Is this really so obvious. I mean, I'm sure that he had to have feelings about men, but I actually think it is equally possible that he was a person struggling with his own sexuality. Instead of keeping it a secret so that he could engage in the "politics of hate" and rally the anti-gay marriage vote, isn't it equally possible that his support for that position was really just an extension of his own personal struggle with his own sexuality?

I mean, I don't know Ken Mehlman personally, but I wouldn't presuppose that he was being dishonest in supporting the anti-gay marriage position as opposed to simply very, very confused.

As far as hypocrisy, I got nothing. We are all hypocrites on some level (which makes us all hypocrites, ironically enough, when we criticize someone for hypocrisy). Therefore, if someone does something and the worst thing you can charge them with is being a hypocrite then I think it is fairly meaningless.

You aren't quoting me when you call being against gay marriage the "politics of hate." I think there are people who hold that position who don't hate at all.

Yeah, there is hypocrisy everywhere-- I'm just saying I wish that there was more genuine passion for a position among our political leaders.
Prof. -- do you think the lack of "passion for position" in our politicians comes from the media climate? Why stake out difficult ideological ground if all one is doing is providing fodder to one's enemies?
Osler - I didn't mean to give the impression I was quoting you. Sorry if I did. I was using the quotes to indicate that it wasn't my phrase either.
Because after you take the low pay and long hours for a few years, you move across the way to K Street.

And was it not Henry Kissinger who said that "power is the ultimate aprhodisiac?" He probably did not say it to Al Haig though.
Other than the "misquote," I think RRL offers the most nuanced analysis of this human drama.

As the POST article explained, Mehlman was always a fixture of the "compassionate conservative," outreach-oriented wing of the Bush administration. According to the POST, Mehlman was not an "architect" of the infamous "same-sex marriage strategy" of 2004.

Back to RRL's take, I think I am more tolerant of sexual confusion of all types than some of my friends on the Left and the Right. I think I can envision an orientation ambiguous enough to necessitate some soul searching and elicit an evolving awareness over time.

As for political opportunism, who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?

I say give Ken Mehlman the benefit of the doubt. He always struck me as a decent and sincere fellow.

Excuse me, not the POST article but the TIMES article.
Mehlman was Bush's campaign manager in 2004. It's disingenuous to act like he had nothing to do with the primary tactics of that campaign.
I agree with Osler that there are people who oppose gay marriage and whose motives for doing so are not hateful.

I agree because I used to be one of them, and I never hated anyone based on their sexuality. In fact, I considered the private affairs of gays and lesbians in my own church to be none of my business. I didn't hate them, but what I did was very close in spirit---I ignored the facts of their lives.

I changed my mind about gay marriage for two reasons: one I'm proud of, the other I'm not. I'm proud that I changed my mind based, in part, on Ted Olson's making the conservative case for gay marriage in a logical and reasoned way.

I'm not proud that I changed my mind, in part, on becoming very good friends with an openly-gay man. I'm not proud of this latter because, to me, it smacks of the trip that Chief Justice Warren began through the South while Brown v. Bd. of Education was pending. Warren and his driver began their trip, and Warren was surprised after spending the night in a hotel room to find that his driver, who was black, had spent the night in the car. Where, the driver asked, was he supposed to sleep? Becoming friends with a man who is openly gay opened me, on a personal level, to realizing that being gay is as much a part of him as being straight is a part of me. They are simply facts of our lives that we cannot change.

I'm happy that I've changed my position. I'm just ashamed that I missed this common humanity for so long.
To "B":
Your post is not only lovely in it's tone but what I truly believe. Meet someone who's is different from you and learn their story. Politics tend to take a back burner when there is a connection. I think this is true with almost any issue.
_B_, why feel shame? If we all got everything right the first time, we wouldn't have the chance to learn and grow as people.
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