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Mitchell Gold Headshot

Who Broke John McCain?

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The Religicals took John McCain into the back room and gave him a good thrashing. They broke the man that claims to be a maverick and a reformer. John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin and his promise of Supreme Court appointees is substantial proof that he is neither. The Religicals, those that use their religious positions to advance their political standing, have rejoiced. The same day as the announcement became known James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and company, spoke with great enthusiasm in support of the Palin selection. How did they know so much about Sarah Palin? How were they so prepared? Sadly the media accepts his hypocrisy. Their silence is their complicity. Hasn't the media learned to seek and report the truth after Bush misled us into war?

Senator McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention had some very moving moments to it. Although one certainly knows that he was a prisoner of war under grueling circumstances, it was the first time I had ever heard that his captors had "broken" him. As he retold being taken time and time again for beatings and interrogation, he then spoke of the time they finally broke him. I can only imagine how traumatic a time that must have been. Excruciating pain physically and mentally. But being broken down by your captors under those circumstances are heroic, clearly not cowardly. It sounded like by the time he caved in during the Vietnam War it caused no harm to others.

During this part of his speech, I felt a real sense of the man John McCain was at that time. As he used the phrase that his "captors had broken him," I clearly understood how it happened and thought nothing less of his heroic actions on behalf of America. Indeed, I felt compassion for him.

Less than a decade ago, John McCain recognized that some religious leaders in America were far more divisive than uniting. He saw that they were hijacking the Republican Party and spoke out against Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and the other Religicals. He wanted the Republican Party to return to being the party known for fiscal responsibility and national security. In the course of having the courage to try to bring his party to see him as the future leader during the 2000 election, he got trounced by George Bush and Karl Rove. They knew Republicans could only win with the strong support of the anti-gay Fundamentalists that have become known as the 'base' of the Republican Party.

It was with that knowledge that McCain approached this election cycle. He has methodically shed himself of positions that would cause him not to have the support of this base. John McCain eventually decided that he just doesn't think he can win without their support. He probably banked on the idea that they would give him their support because surely they would see him as better than the gay and woman's right to privacy groups embracing Obama. But as he had the opportunity to meet privately with some of these Religical leaders, they broke him. He learned that they might rather stay home than support him.

They took him into the back room and broke him. The aftermath may be disastrous. Teenagers will not get reasonable reproductive education. Teen pregnancy will increase. Young woman will be forced to bring up their children without a father or they will get married. They'll marry at a young age when too many of them will be made to feel emotionally dependent on their emotionally too young husbands. More spousal abuse. And sexually transmitted diseases will spread more quickly because these kids lack the knowledge to protect themselves.

John McCain's acquiescence to this obsessively anti gay position will leave hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens at horrible risk. My recent book CRISIS provides a window into the traumatic lives of the crisis these teens go through when they first discover their sexual orientation (www.CrisisBook.org). Not choose but discover. These kids are especially traumatized by parents who fear that accepting their child's sexual orientation will put them at odds with their faith and by so-called religious leaders who recklessly use them as political footballs. John McCain has become a leading part of the great moral failing of how America treats its gay citizens. It's nothing less than a disgrace and he has the power to do better.

When John McCain says he will appoint strict constructionist justices to the Supreme Court make no mistake about it. That is code for taking a woman's right to privacy and choice away, and allowing laws that keep the gay community as second class citizens. When children are not supported by their parents and leaders, they have a much smaller chance of navigating their teenage years with success.

At the risk of losing credibility for my intelligence and judgment, I will admit that I was somewhat pleased that McCain got the Republican nomination. I thought he was the best of the field. And that if elected he might be counted on to do the right thing. Unfortunately for America, the Religicals got to him. They broke him. And this time it was not courageous but clearly very cowardly and selfish.

For more information on "CRISIS: 40 Stories revealing the personal, social, and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America", please visit www.crisisbook.org.