Minnesota Liberal

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bush Hides Behind Gay Issues

We have been seeing gay rights issues pop-up quite a bit recently. Whether it is the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Mary Cheney debate, or Bush’s endorsement of civil unions- it is quite a popular debate. But what do we make of this right before we cast our votes?

Well, I think it all really ties together quite well. George W. Bush and his administration have a long history of playing both sides of these issues.

Lets start with AIDS funding. A few years back, Bush took the initiative to increase aids funding to $500 million dollars. As David Corn wrote in an opinion column for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

At the White House, Bush said, "In Africa, the disease clouds the future of entire nations... In the hardest hit countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as much as one-third of the adult population is infected with HIV, and 10 percent or more of the schoolteachers will die of AIDS within five years." He proposed "to make $500 million available" to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to children.

Stopping inherited AIDS is one of the best bang-for-a-buck components of an assault against AIDS. A single dose of medication given at birth will work half the time. This is also one of the least controversial aspects of AIDS prevention because it has nothing to do with sex or condoms. It focuses on newborns, not adults. Consequently, it does not offend the religious right and cultural conservatives.

First, let me ask why in the hell it is controversial to discuss sex or condoms when the subject in question is AIDS??? What a great idea- deal with the problem by ignoring its causes.

Second, I will point out that this type of funding is a great example of what Bush termed his “compassionate conservatism.”

But lets continue reading:

So what's the catch? First, Bush was proposing funding that does not meet the actual need. Second, he was taking credit for money already approved by Congress. Finally, he was covering up the fact that his administration had pressed Congress to lower spending for this activity. Bush was spreading it thick in the Rose Garden.
The President expects his project to prevent nearly 150,000 infant infections over the next five years. The problem is there are about 800,000 children born with AIDS each year, according to the United Nations. That means the Bush initiative is aiming at helping less than 4 percent of this population. Moreover, $200 million of this supposedly "new" initiative was approved for use this year by Congress days before Bush's announcement. What he added was $300 million for this type of AIDS prevention in the following two years. Which averages out to $150 million a year - a cut from the current level.

It gets worse. At the start of June, several Republicans - notably, Sens. Bill Frist and Jesse Helms - were trying to raise overseas AIDS funding this year by $500 million. But the White House leaned on Frist and Helms and got the pair to slice that to $200 million.

So… in other words… Bush was pretending to act like he was leading the cause to fight AIDS in Africa, when he was really working to limit our contribution. Don’t believe me… believe John Kerry.

As Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat who has worked with Frist and Helms to increase global AIDS funding, griped, "Just as we've achieved bipartisan momentum to make a real difference on the toll this devastating disease is taking on Africa, the administration announces a retreat and pretends it's a forward charge."

Lets move on to the Federal Marriage Amendment.
President Bush announced his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment in February of this year.

Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife. The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.

If you notice the areas in bold… you would think that the President would allow the states to grant legal arrangements for same-sex couples that are similar to those of straight married couples.

But lets take a look at the Federal Marriage Amendment that was introduced in the House of Representatives.

SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

The amendment is specifically worded so at to prevent states from deciding for themselves whether or not to allow equal legal arrangements. And while the President did not write the bill, you would think he would have considerable enough power within his party to get Republican Representative Marilyn Musgrave and her co-sponsors to change the wording to match the Presidents policy. Bush certainly did not speak out against this "radical infringement of states rights."

When John Kerry mentioned Mary Cheney during the third debate, Lynne Cheney was quick to defend her daughter’s honor.

This is not a good man," she said. "Of course, I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.

Wow, Kerry must have said something really hurtful and mean.

"We're all God's children," Kerry said. "And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."

Well, I can’t really see how that is “cheap”, “tawdry” or in any way inappropriate when the question Kerry was asked was whether or not homosexuality is a choice.

But maybe the Cheney’s just don’t like politicians using their daughter to illustrate their political positions.

Vice President Dick Cheney spelled out Tuesday his differences with President Bush on the volatile issue of gay marriage, while for the first time discussing the sexual orientation of his gay daughter in a public setting.

Asked his position on the subject at a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, Cheney replied: "Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. ... With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free -- ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

So it IS okay to use her AND her sexuality to illustrate political positions if you are her father. But what about if you are another Republican? One that just happens to be running for Senate in Illinois?

After saying homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," Keyes was asked if that made Mary Cheney "a selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition."

Wow, that must have made the Cheney’s go nuclear.

Liz Cheney, Mary's sister, refused to comment Wednesday during an interview on CNN.

"I guess I'm surprised, frankly, that you would even repeat the quote, and I'm not going to dignify it with a comment," she told the interviewer.

I bet if John Kerry had said that Mary Cheney was a “selfish hedonist” Liz would have had something to say.

Let’s summarize: The Cheney family only mentions their gay family member when it is politically convenient.

Maybe Bush’s sudden endorsement of civil unions will help create the change needed in right-wing conservatism on this issue. But then again, can you trust a politician who says, “I believe in such and such” but has never once created legislation to support such a statement?

And you may also notice a timeline pattern developing.

The first time Cheney ever mentioned his daughter being “gay” in public- took place the day before a damning census bureau report on the rise in poverty and the uninsured. Wanna guess what got more headlines on the 26th?

Mary Cheney-Gate happened the same night Bush stumbled through his third debate loss in a row. But what got all the headlines instead? Mary Cheney.

What did Bush reveal to the country on the same day that reports started surfacing about missing explosives in Iraq? That he was in support of civil unions.

Maybe this is all just strange coincidence. And maybe God really does speak to Bush.