Home > gay bashing, Gay Rights, Mehlman, Republican Party > “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry….”

“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry….”

Here we go again. Another prominent Republican, this time former RNC Chair and Bush Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman comes out (to the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder).

And now he’s, like, all into equality and stuff.

Here’s the core of his infuriating mea-sorta-culpa:

Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
It’s the last paragraph that had me wishing I’d printed the story out so that I could have torn it into tiny scraps. Note the unstated assumption: He couldn’t help the community sooner,  because he wasn’t yet out to himself. As if his long residence in the closet excuses his politically self-serving, homophobic agenda. Try “wouldn’t” instead of “couldn’t.”
This may come as news to Mehlman, but all of us who identify as part of the LGBT community had our own “journey” (to use his word), and many, many of us didn’t engage in gay-bashing while trying to figure it all out. It turns out to be quite possible to support gay rights even when you’re “straight.”
Read the whole story. Ambinder reminds us that Mehlman presided over the RNC and the Bush campaign at a time when our community was being used, again and again, as electoral fodder for their campaign in order to drive the base to the polls and give Bush his disastrous second term. Because of that, we have many more anti-gay constitutional amendments in place than would otherwise have been the case. Mehlman’s attempt at expiation by working with pro-equality groups can’t begin to unravel the harm he helped weave.
Oh, but let’s not be too hard on the guy. After all, he “privately” supported civil unions and, he claims, “privately” met with Republican officials to “beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.” That seems to have worked well.
He’s still a Republican, of course. No matter that the party is way behind even the pathetic Democrats when it comes to LGBT issues; it’s all about the lifestyle and access to which he’s become accustomed. He’s like Stephanie Vanderkellen, the empathy-challenged character from the old Newhart show, who when forced to apologize for shocking behavior, apathetically intoned: “Sorry, sorry, sorry….”
I’m not usually this unforgiving, but this is a particularly egregious case. And Mehlman still doesn’t seem to quite get it.
  1. Jay
    August 27th, 2010 at 09:04 | #1

    Thanks for the excellent post.

  2. le-lone
    August 28th, 2010 at 11:26 | #2

    “all of us who identify as part of the LGBT community had our own “journey” (to use his word), and many, many of us didn’t engage in gay-bashing while trying to figure it all out.”

    I think you sum the guy up with the sentence above.

    Why didn’t the guy get himself into a powerful political situation where he could have done some GOOD for the LGBT community?
    I can understand being afraid of being outed, but going to the ‘dark side’, the guy has a lot of apologising to do.

    I live in a country where we don’t really have so many homophobic homosexuals in politics, luckily.

  3. Mark Gerardy
    August 29th, 2010 at 21:14 | #3

    What do you do with homophobic politicians who get publically outed either from someone else or their own behavior, come out of the closet as gay, and then admit that they have been wrong, and now hold pro-GLBT views?
    Do you embrace them? If so, does this mean that you should accept an apology if “Hitler said that he was sorry”? Certainly this is an extreme example, but so is Iran, Uganda and even to a degree, Fred Phelps.
    Is this a matter of degree, and if so, then what is the threshold?
    Do you indefinitely condemn highly-visible former homophobic politicians who have undeniably harmed the lives of thousands of people, if they admit that they have been wrong?
    If so, then what about organizations that once had leadership who held hateful views and policies, which has since been replaced by new leaders who have welcoming views? Should the new leaders suffer for the image of an institution which previously was homophobic?
    When is it foolish and insincere to forgive, yet cold-hearted to not forgive?
    How does one discern the sincerity of the former homophobe – and should this play a role alongside their degree of public and real implications of their homophobia.
    Or is sincerity a moot-point – should the takeaway be real actions that the politican takes, like Bob Barr, coming out against DOMA?
    Former homophobe Mary Griffith redeemed herself as a tireless GLBT advocate to her dead gay son Bobby, who threw himself off a bridge in “Prayers for Bobby”. Certainly she is hurting too, and it would make no sense to continue to condemn her, even though her actions clearly compelled her son to commit suicide.
    Do we forgive the government of Uganda or Matthew Shepard’s killers if they admit that they awere wrong? Does this hinge on a public performance to convince others of their sincerity?
    If sincerity is moot, then what would they need to do? What if the anger from within the GLBT community inhibits a former homophobic politician from ever making changes to undo the damage that they once did?
    Is sincerity the precursor for the GLBT community to then work with a former high-level homophobe to get them involved working alongside others for the public good of GLBT persons? If so, then who is there to step forward and faciliate this?

    Perhaps someday there should be an organization that does some form of outreach to alienated high-level former homophobes – wracked by their own overwhelming guilt, alienated from their former brethren of fellow haters, and never accepted and only condemned by the GLBT community that they now side with. Turn a negative into a positive. This involves more than legal issues in the political arena, but also service to the community to address health living issues, leadership and empowerment, and quality of life venues and organizations. The GLBT community might want to start asking some of these questions and collectively work together to find that delicate balance somewhere between idealism and pragmatism.

  4. charlie j
    August 30th, 2010 at 08:43 | #4

    i think john got it right, not letting mehlman off the hook without a protest. he did some real damage, and he shouldn’t be allowed to just walk away from it.

    but redemption is one of the great themes of the nation. perhaps mehlman can come up with a way to use his talents productively.

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