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Steve Clemons

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On Gay Bullying and DADT: Cindy McCain vs. John McCain

Posted: 11/11/10 10:29 PM ET

john mccain annapolis.jpg
April 1, 2008 -- Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America


Over the years, this blogger has expressed admiration for some of the principled issues that John McCain stood by when his Republican Party was off course. He was gay friendly then and had lots of gay staffers in his campaign. He was backing serious efforts in campaign finance and broad election reform. He was the epitome of a "radical centrist" when he was the straight-talk express John McCain.

If John McCain had beaten George Bush in the 2000 primary, I would have strongly supported his campaign.

But something has happened. He has become more mean, more rigid, an angry senator who seems bent on destroying his own considerable legacy by doubling down against the normalization of gay rights in the country.

I don't understand why he is doing this. I've known and respected him for years and have always felt that whether it came to national security policy with regard to North Korea, or leading on normalization of relations with Vietnam, or believing that we needed to fundamentally change the dynamics of the corporate takeover of the nation's election machinery, McCain has been a great leader. I haven't supported his views on Iran, think he oversells "the surge" in Iraq -- but reasonable people can debate these important matters in a civil and respectful way as I have tried to do with the senator on many fronts for years.

Some of his closest, long-term advisers and friends are well-respected gay lawyers and politicos. He knows that the military is packed with honorable gay men and lesbian women serving their country. I've personally heard him express appreciation for their service.

But now he's the lead opponent in the US Senate of efforts to end Don't Ask Don't Tell -- and McCain, who is probably in his last term in the US Senate, is going to scar his legacy badly by making himself into one of those senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act or who supported racial segregation and upheld an infrastructure of bigoted law in America's past.

I want the straight-talking John McCain back -- a McCain that is going to be relevant to our nation's future, not one that we have to always express shame about as we look back at his legacy because he was the person who "delayed" the normalization of gay rights in this country and in the US military. Strom Thurmond eventually remade himself and found ways to demonstrate that he had dropped his once raging bigotry, but John McCain at the current point of his career is possibly going to end on a very dark note.


As the intrepid John Aravosis has pointed out today, John McCain's wife will not join him in his anti-gay crusade.

Aravosis writes:

John McCain is leading the filibuster against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" "repeal" legislation in the Senate (it's not an actual repeal, but we'll leave that for another time). Today, Cindy McCain joined a number of celebrities in a video about gay youth suicide and bullying.

Mrs. McCain's part of the video condemned DADT and then accused our government of sending bullies a message that what they do is okay.

The woman basically accused her husband of sharing the blame for gay kids killing themselves.

I'm astonished. And impressed as hell.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future.

They can't serve our country openly.

VARIETY OF SPEAKERS:

What's worse, these laws that legislate discrimination teach bullies that what they're doing is acceptable.

CINDY MCCAIN:

Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens, why shouldn't they?

I want to express thanks to Cindy McCain for this brave and much appreciated message to bulliers everywhere and for her support of the gay men and women serving this nation and risking their lives in military engagements thousands of miles from home.

I can't imagine to know or understand the contours of their marriage. That is their private affair.

But I can't help wondering whether Cindy McCain misses her straight-talking, do-the-right-thing husband as much as I do.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.

 

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