Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Clinton Fink?

My friend James Taranto, overseer of OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web," goes after the former president of the United States for comments about Republican consultant Arthur Finkelstein:

This morning's Times brings us yet another Finkelstein update:

"Former President Bill Clinton unleashed an attack yesterday against a gay Republican strategist who has plans to work against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election, suggesting that the man may be 'self-loathing' to work on behalf of the Republican Party."

John Edwards, John Kerry and now Bill Clinton--that's three. We can now officially speak of the gay-baiting trend among Democratic politicians, though in fairness to Kedwards, we should note that they did not go so far as to imply being gay was loathsome.

When I first heard Clinton's remarks, I was of a similar mind. What? Gays aren't allowed to be Republican consultants? Does that fit into the "blacks should only be Democrat" meme often implied in many Democratic circles? Is this a classic Clinton two-fer: Slam the guy who is criticizing his wife and also go after him for being both gay AND Republican?

Then the more I thought about it, it strikes me that this is different from the Mary Cheney situation. For one, Cheney was a behind-the-scenes staffer on the campaign, hardly a lead figure like Finkelstein. Furthermore, she has said barely a word about administration policies.

That can't be said about Finkelstein. He was rather outspoken in his criticism of the Republican Party -- particularly on social issues. Indeed in an interview with an Israeli paper, he said that George W. Bush had turned the election “into a referendum on the religious and cultural nature of America.” He added that the party had essentially been captured by the "Christian right." Indeed, Finkelstein's comments were considered so radioactive that he was canned by his longtime client George Pataki.

Given that opposition to gay marriage was a an important issue for Christian conservatives in the last election, Finkelstein seemed to be making a clear political statement with his decision to marry in Massachusetts. Finkelstein's words -- about the GOP -- and actions make him something of a legitimate political target.

In short, Clinton's bringing up Finkelstein's being gay isn't as really the out-of-the-blue cheap shot, pseudo "gay-baiting" that John Kerry's debate comment was.

UPDATE: Thanks to Andrew and Josh for sending folks over here. Josh, I may already have cost you readers, as a few people are wondering where you got the idea that I was sane. C'est la vie. Just to be clear to some folks, the "Kedwards" line is in the original article. I don't think that Edwards, in the VP debate, was "gay-baiting." He was following Cheney in responding to a question about same-sex marriage. Edwards spoke directly to Cheney and said that he admired his embracing of his daughter. On the other hand, in response to a question about whether being gay is innate or a preference, Kerry -- debating Bush -- just brought Cheney's daughter up in a rather gratuitious manner. In short, he seemed more than happy to use her identity as a cheap political point.

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