Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I have a bad feeling about this:

Mike Rogers, who calls himself "the nation’s leading gay activist blogger" has just finished a nationally-broadcast interview on the Ed Schultz Radio Show in which he alleges that Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig has engaged in same-sex sexual activity....

Rogers said he has talked to three men unknown to each other who all reported in detail their sexual encounters with Craig over the last four years. The men were of legal age, Rogers said....

Rogers says that digging into the private lives of politicians who support anti-gay legislation is legitimate....

It took about ten minutes for right-wing bloggers to start talking about "liberal gaybashing" and arguing that "the Left hates gays and believes that private sexual preferences belong on the front page." If this story gains traction, how long do you think it's going to take for Chris Matthews and David Broder and David Brooks and Bill O'Reilly and George Will to start saying the same things, to start saying things like "Is this sexual McCarthyism?" Was Rogers in a coma when John Kerry's mention of Mary Cheney turned into a major gaffe?

Everyone needs to stop thinking like a cerebral liberal for a second. A huge swath of ordinary Americans are neither truly gay-friendly nor truly gay-hostile -- and they're the ones this has the potential to sway. Their rather muddled view of homosexuality is that they think -- or at least they think they think -- it's nobody's business as long as nobody gets hurt. That means they're with us on Mark Foley -- they think he was a predator. But they weren't with Kerry when he mentioned Mary Cheney's sexual orientation, because he was the one who was (as I'm sure a lot of them would put it) "waving it in everyone's face." Yes, that suggests that these people aren't really convinced that being gay is OK -- which is true. But we have to care about what these people think because they're a huge chunk in the middle of the electorate. They're swing voters who might switch to the Democrats this year. And they're not going to like this outing of Craig, if they find out about it. In fact, they're going to want to shoot the messenger -- who is going to be identified as "the left," and thus the Democratic Party.

Just what we need twenty days before an election.

This is going to hurt Democrats in November if it becomes a major mainstream-media news story, if no one finds evidence of criminal or harmful behavior in Craig's personal life (or in the personal life of anyone else Rogers outs in the next couple of weeks), and if lefties seem to embrace the outing. (On the latter, I see that a Kos diarist and Pam Spaulding are already happy. That should be enough for pundits to declare this a trend.)

I know, I know: Craig's voting record (as the last two links make clear) is about as gay-hostile as it's possible to be. If he has sex with men after voting this way, he's the worst sort of hypocrite. In an ideal world, that's how this story would be received. But that's not how it will be received. It will be received as McCarthyism and "waving it in people's faces." It might help save the GOP's majority.

(Via Memeorandum.)

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