This is not a story about hypocrisy, or spreading gossip, or a gotcha moment, and certainly not about outing. Nothing like that at all.
Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and President Bush's campaign manager in 2004, has disclosed he is gay.
The question of one's sexual orientation has never been an issue I've wanted to write about. I really don't care about those kind of stories and, besides, it's just not my business.
What I do feel strongly about is the practice of outing — announcing that someone is gay, whether or not that person wants the information disclosed. Many moral arbiters of our society feel it is their role to "out" someone, especially if he or she has a history of anti-gay activity or an anti-gay voting record. It's about hypocrisy, these "outers" argue, but I still disapprove.
But enough about me.
Back to the subject at hand, Mehlman's interview with The Atlantic's Mark Ambinder is poignant and well worth reading.
Mehlman says, "It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life." And while it has not been easy, he adds, "The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."
Nonetheless, as Ambinder writes, Mehlman says he "beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage" in private discussions with GOP officials — knowing, of course, that Bush strategist Karl Rove "had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006" to help the party.
Mehlman adds that he "'really wished' he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, 'so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]' and 'reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.'"
Ambinder flatly says that "Mehlman is the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay."
Ed Gillespie, another former RNC chair and someone who is close to Mehlman, said in the article that "it is significant that a former chairman of the Republican National Committee is openly gay and that he is supportive of gay marriage." But "he does not envision the party platform changing anytime soon."
You can read the interview here.
Melissa Block, host of NPR's All Things Considered, interviews Ambinder for tonight's program.
Two reactions to the news worth noting.
Here's a blog post by "bccohan" on RedState.com:
I can understand why those who aren’t fans of the GOP would want to turn this into an issue, but the reality is, there is no issue at all. In fact, I commend Mehlman for coming out in a respectful way, and for respecting his role as RNC chair by not using his influence as a way to push his personal beliefs.
To those who think this is somehow earth-shattering news that as RNC chair he maintained party unity on an issue that is generally very divisive, and then waited until a few years later to advocate his personal beliefs, I am sorry you feel that way. Thinking that this is an issue that is worthy of this much attention is more than just silly, it is distracting from the hundreds of real issues we face as a nation that deserve our attention.
And, on the other side, the subheader on the Huffington Post home page reads as follows:
Man Who Managed The Most Anti-Gay Presidential Campaign In Modern History Comes Out
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Europe
Mehlman, on NBC's "Meet the Press" in August 2006, makes a point to host David Gregory.