So the lines are drawn. The Democratic leadership has been calling on Senator Santorum to apologize. The good Senator stands by his disparaging remarks. He does not believe that Americans – gay or straight – have a Constitutional right to privacy in their own bedrooms. (For the full transcript, see Thursday’s column.) And if some are offended by his likening intimacy between gays and lesbians to incest, well, so be it.
And the Republican leadership stands by Santorum. ‘The President believes that the senator is an inclusive man,’ White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. ‘The President has confidence in Senator Santorum and thinks he’s doing a good job as senator – including in his leadership post.’
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist also stands behind Santorum (literally, at news conferences) and echos the assessment: Senator Santorum is an inclusive man.
Salon has a different take. ‘Reporters should question Santorum and his defenders at every opportunity,’ Salon argues. ‘Do they think Vice President Dick Cheney’s gay daughter Mary should be prosecuted for her ‘homosexual acts?’ Does the GOP believe in a right to privacy? Should adultery be criminalized? What about contraception?’
It’s worth remembering who was Texas governor in 1998, when police burst into the bedroom of the gay couple whose case is before the Supreme Court: Yes, it was Fleischer’s boss, our President. He’s had plenty of time to rethink that law, which was enforced on his watch, and he hasn’t. He had all week to rethink Santorum’s outrageous remarks, and repudiate them, and he didn’t.
After watching a segment about Santorum on Fox News the other night, I stayed tuned as the network segued into an Iraq update, and a Fox commentator decried the country’s Shiites for trying to “introduce religion into political life.” Of course the president’s party is trying to do the same. Let’s hope Santorum’s candor wakes more Americans up to the fact that Iraqis aren’t the only ones at risk of losing their freedom to religious fundamentalism.
[Note: As conditioned as the next guy to free sneakers just for visiting a free website, I was not about to pay to read Salon. I clicked here, to read the full story for free (although I had to watch a 15-second ad to get past the lead). But then it asked me whether I was not troubled by ever greater media conglomeration (I am) and whether I think a free press is actually worth a nickel a day (I do) and before you know it, Salon had my credit card. No paper, printing, freight or disposal to burden the planet, and it follows me automatically wherever I go. I chose the faster-loading $30 ad-free version. Oddly absent was the gag reflex I normally experience spending money I don’t have to. Indeed, I felt rather good about it.]
Kevin Clark: ‘There’s lots of good commentary on Senator Santorum and the Texas sodomy case at andrewsullivan.com – you might want to point your readers there for more info.’
☞ Andrew is a brilliant man and, despite our political differences, a friend. I am happy to see him taking on Santorum. But I do note that Andrew is one of the reasons there’s no one in the White House to veto Santorum; one of the reasons that for the next 30 years we’ll have a Judiciary more sympathetic to Santorum’s view than we otherwise would have; and one of the reasons Santorum is in the majority, setting the agenda, rather than the minority.
I am frequently asked how it can be that fully 25% of gay and lesbian Americans voted for Bush/Cheney. One reason is that there are, of course, lots of issues that matter to gay and lesbian people besides attaining equal rights.
Some were no doubt attracted to the sound balanced budget they were promised. (Yet candidate Bush’s numbers were clearly off by a trillion dollars from the very start. There was simply no way, recession or no recession, war or no war, he could have done what he promised – and most knowledgeable observers realize that he and his advisors had to know this all along.)
Some focused on the prospect of tax cuts. (But will they get anything like the $44,500 a year President Bush himself will get or the $327,000 a year Dick Cheney will get? And did they realize how many kids would lose their school lunches and after school programs as a result? How many veterans would see their benefits crimped? Most astonishingly, how many new trillions would be added to our National Debt, with all that implies as a drag on our future prosperity?)
Some took heart in the knowledge that Dick Cheney would be vice president. (But has the VP said one public word to Santorum in defense of his own daughter?) Or the knowledge that the President himself has plenty of gay friends. (But what does that matter when he appoints an Attorney General, and so many others throughout the Executive and nominated for the Judiciary, who feel otherwise?)
I think a lot of those gay and lesbian Republicans who voted for the President needed ‘permission,’ as it were, to feel OK doing so. Andrew, with his wit and passion and charisma, gave many that permission.
Last thing on Santorum (Tuesday: your comments . . . and eventually back to money-making ideas, I hope). On one level, it is all very hypothetical. When was the last time you – or anyone else you know – were arrested in your bedroom for having proscribed sex (such as heterosexual oral sex, which remains illegal in some states), taken to jail, kept in jail overnight, and ultimately convicted and fined?
The point is not that this is likely to happen to you any time soon. The point is that the number three man in the Senate Republican leadership strongly believes this is okay. He does not regret what happened, only that the Supreme Court might restrict the ability of states to do more of this kind of thing. And the President of the United States and Republican majority leader in the Senate, and most of the rest of the Republican Senate, all stand behind him.
They are entirely entitled to feel this way! And those who believe in the separation of church and state – and in the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are entirely entitled to be frightened.
Tomorrow: Your Mutual Fund – Raspberry or Tomato?
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