THE BLOG

Does the Media Advise and Consent to the Republican Closet? The Buzz About Charlie Crist

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET

The GOP has this rule about anyone who aspires to national elected office. Nobody talks about it much these days. But 50 years ago it inspired both a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Advise and Consent, and a Broadway play, Gore Vidal's The Best Man. The rule is simple. Any serious question about a candidate's sexual orientation is an instant disqualifier.

So ignore the phony buzz from Bob Novak and Dick Morris, who once wrote, "To stop Hillary, draft Condi"." John McCain will never pick Condoleezza Rice as his running mate. Her status, as a 53-year-old never married woman, would invite reporters to start asking too many of the wrong questions.

The same applies to McCain's good friend, Lindsey Graham. Rush Limbaugh said as much on his radio show. Reiterating his longstanding contempt for McCain and his supporters, he said, "Lindsey Graham is certainly close enough to [McCain] to die of anal poisoning." Nobody asked Limbaugh to elaborate.

Washington Republicans enforced the rule three years ago, when Tom DeLay plotted his return to power. Forced to step down from his position as Majority Whip once he was indicted in Texas, DeLay planned to fight the charges and eventually return to his leadership post.

"DeLay and [House speaker Dennis] Hastert wanted someone to hold the job but with no ambitions to stay in it, and had in mind Rep. David Dreier of California. But when the indictment was unsealed Wednesday, conservatives in the GOP caucus immediately erupted in anger over rumors about the selection of Dreier, whom they regard as too moderate, and Hastert eventually agreed to elevate Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo," The Wall Street Journal Online September 29, 2005

That's right. According to the Washington press, David Dreier was too "moderate." Or, as the Journal would later report, Dreier was "a gentleman in the not-so-gentle world of the House Republican leadership. Witty, articulate, friend to the Annenbergs and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger," Drier also "shuns any elected party post, preferring to protect his privacy as a loyal lieutenant to Speaker Dennis Hastert." Wink, wink. In a subtle but powerful way, the Journal was complicit in spreading a form of disinformation about what happens underneath the surface of Republican sanctimony on gay marriage and other issues.

House members who opposed Dreier were motivated less by ideology than by ruthless pragmatism. If, as Karl Rove said, Joe Wilson's wife was "fair game," then so was Dreier's husband, or, er, highly paid Chief of Staff, with whom Dreier shared his Washington home.

Dreier himself had been outed in 2004 by L.A. Weekly. And you know what they always say, when one Republican House leader shares his Washington home with his gay Chief of Staff, as Speaker Dennis Hastert did with Chief of Staff Scott Palmer, it's a coincidence. When two Republican House leaders share their homes with their respective gay Chiefs of Staff, it looks like a trend, a trend that might upend the Republicans' 2006 election strategy.

That strategy was heavily reliant on H. J. Res. 88, which had 127 Republican co-sponsors. Eventually brought up before the full House in July 2006, H. J. Res. 88 enshrined a ban on gay marriage in the Constitution. Had he held the post, Dreier's job as Republican Whip would have been to count the votes before the final tally. Such irony would have been irresistible to liberal bloggers, who were still asking questions about the special White House access afforded Jeff Gannon, that gay whore turned Milli Vanilli journalist.

Sometimes, Republicans promote legislation designed to enhance the public image of their closet cases. And the press plays along. Remember the Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act of 2002? It was sponsored by Mark Foley.

Last April the Florida legislature changed the law to allow the current governor, Charlie Crist to run for president or vice president without resigning his job. Crist is enormously popular among Floridians, and any buzz about his joining the Republican ticket generates favorable free media in a crucial swing state. So it was inevitable that GOP operatives would plant phony stories, like the one in that showed up in Bob Novak's column and elsewhere touting Charlie Crist as McCain's possible running mate.

But the New York Post discredited those rumors last November, when it reported that Charlie Crist was dating Carole Rome, who was in the process getting a divorce from the owner of the Bluestar Jets. It must be serious; they've been together eight months, which is two months longer than Crist's first and only marriage, which ended in divorce in 1975 when Crist was 23.

Like John McCain, Charlie Crist is a traditional values kind of guy. During the 2006 campaign season, he told groups of voters, by way of targeted recorded phone calls, that, "I support a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriages, and I oppose adoption by gay couples." Crist has backtracked on the constitutional amendment issue; "I'm just a live and let live kind of guy," he now says. But not his party. Florida Republicans have secured a place on November ballot for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Of course, Florida Republicans don't want Crist to start campaigning for the amendment, for the same reason that House Republicans didn't want David Drier counting votes for H.J. Res. 88.

You think Republican regulars don't recognize what's going on? Novak professed to be shocked when he heard about Larry Craig. " I have talked to several of my sources in the Senate," he told Al Hunt on Bloomberg. "This came as a huge surprise to me as I said on this program...they knew about it. They knew he had this problem."