Obamaphobia

Commentary: Center Field

I’m sick of the phony reasons some gay people give for opposing Barack Obama. I am not talking about my friends in Log Cabin Republicans, who prefer John McCain for broader ideological reasons. I am talking about angry Hillary Clinton supporters.

For example, Sirius OutQ talk-radio host Larry Flick, still upset that Clinton had not won the Democratic nomination, slammed Obama on Aug. 28 for opposing same-sex marriage. Yet Clinton holds the same position on marriage — except that she would only repeal Article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, whereas Obama favors total repeal.

Flick challenged Sirius Left host Mark Thompson, an African-American minister and activist with whom I’ve worked for years, on his support for Obama. Flick expressed outrage that Obama accepted help from ”blatant, aggressive homophobes” Donnie McClurkin and Illinois State Sen. James Meeks (D). Yet Clinton enjoyed support from homophobic Bishop Eddie Long of Lithonia, Ga., and from former D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange, who as a mayoral candidate in 2006 called his opponents morally unfit for supporting marriage equality.

Flick said Obama ”has not voted in favor of these issues on gay rights in any fashion.” In fact, the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for the 109th Congress shows that Clinton and Obama had identical GLBT voting records and earned an HRC score of 89. This included, among other things, voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment. I have not yet seen the scorecard for the 110th, but the Congressional Record shows that in 2007, Clinton and Obama were co-introducers of the transgender-inclusive Hate Crimes Prevention Act — later incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act — and voted ”aye” in a key cloture vote.

Flick acknowledged that he would probably vote for Obama given the alternatives, but ”I won’t allow any of his people to come on my show.” He even claimed that Democratic Party leaders decided a year ago to back Obama for the nomination because they never thought Hillary Clinton could win. This conspiracy mongering ignores the fact that the Clintons were a dominant force in the party while Obama was given little chance. During the primaries, Clinton landed her share of blows, as shown by McCain’s use of them in his commercials. Clinton and Obama have reconciled, and she has hit the campaign trail for him. As Thompson suggested, her supporters should consider the larger stakes and not let the election be reduced to a clash of personalities.

Flick repeatedly said to Thompson, ”You’re not a gay man, you don’t understand.” Thompson was admirably restrained. He stated that blacks and gays share a ”mutual struggle,” and that comparing oppressions was a mistake. He noted that he himself has differences with Obama, ”but we would be better off holding a President Obama accountable than a President McCain.” Thompson also sang the praises of Clinton, describing the exhilarating moment during the roll call when she moved to nominate Obama by acclamation. He said it was time to move forward together: ”Today is bigger than him.”

We should heed Thompson’s wise advice. McCain’s eagerness to distract voters from the issues is evident in his vice-presidential choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who opposes Clinton on nearly every issue. Former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, in response to journalistic scrutiny of Palin, stated, ”The Republican party will not stand by while Sarah Palin is subjected to sexist attacks.”

Oh, really? Ten years ago, McCain joked, ”Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.” How does a man who could say such a thing about a political opponent’s teenage daughter dare have his surrogates cry sexism over press examination of his running mate’s qualifications — or declare family matters off-limits, even as he parades the family in question before the cameras? How is an out-of-wedlock pregnancy nobody’s business, while it’s okay to accuse gay people of undermining families? How in the world does this show McCain putting his country ahead of his political ambition?

Our intelligence is repeatedly insulted as GOP wordmeisters put just about anything on the teleprompter that will get a roar from the crowd. Given the recent tone of McCain’s campaign, his promise to bring the country together is as credible as President Bush’s old line, ”I’m a uniter, not a divider.”

As Obama said on Sept. 6, ”They must think you’re stupid.” Prove them wrong.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist whose work has appeared on Salon.com and the Independent Gay Forum (www.indegayforum.org). He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

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