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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 16, 2010

 
Box Turtle Ben Emerges from His Shell

by digby

... and unsurprisingly says something stupid:

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would "please" much of his base by picking the "first openly gay justice." An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: "The fact that they've chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010." She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger "with a history of plagiarism" who was "applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers."

The network deleted the posting Thursday night after Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor. The flare-up underscores how quickly the battle over a Supreme Court nominee -- or even a potential nominee -- can turn searingly personal. Most major news organizations have policies against "outing" gays or reporting on the sex lives of public officials unless they are related to their public duties.

Everything I've heard is that Kagan is not a lesbian. Not that there's anything wrong with being gay, obviously, or anything shameful in being called that. But I know far too many straight, single women who are assumed to be gay simply because they aren't married or don't have an active dating life. It's hurtful to them, and not because they have any prejudice against gay people but because it's an assumption about them that isn't true. Everyone deserves to be seen the way they really are, whether gay or straight.
Marc Ambinder, a blogger for the Atlantic, wrote Monday about what he called "a baffling whisper campaign" about Kagan "among both gay rights activists and social conservatives. . . .

"So pervasive are these rumors that two senior administration officials I spoke with this weekend acknowledged hearing about them and did not know whether they were true. . . . Why is she the subject of these rumors? Who's behind them?"

Why? Because every woman who isn't married after a certain age is assumed to be a lesbian by some people, even if she isn't, especially if she doesn't look like a fashion model. And social conservatives and gay rights activists (for different reasons) have a vested interest in her being seen as gay. It's not an insult but it is a misconception and one that isn't entirely benign to the person who is the subject of it. If she says anything publicly to deny it, it sounds as though she has a prejudice against gay people and if she doesn't deny it, she becomes known as something she isn't. It's not fair.

Ben Domenech is right wing hit man and always has been. And he's succeeded wildly here. The rumors are now "out there" and Cokie's Law is in effect. How a known plagiarist came to be employed by CBS is the more interesting story, actually. Especially for a man who's known to hire hookers to powder and diaper him and then sing him to sleep. Or at least that's the rumor. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Update: I'm getting lots of emails on this. Some people are upset with me for failing to uphold the view that "it doesn't matter" if you're gay. Of course it doesn't. If you're gay you should be able to live openly and freely being who you are. But I believe that just as it's been painful for gays to be in the closet or forced to live as if they are something they're not, it's also painful for some straight people to be assumed to be something they're not. I maintain that people should be allowed to define themselves in the world honestly and live authentic lives, no matter whether they are gay or straight.

Anyway, yes, if it doesn't matter to you whether other people label you as something you're not then by all means simply say "whatever" if asked. But if your sexual identity is something that you think is intrinsic to who you are then you should be able say so regardless. I don't think it makes you a bigot or a closet case. In fact, think it's a fairly human thing that doesn't denote political cowardice or homophobia.

I also got notes from several men who say that they too face this question --- and are often assumed to be pedophiles to boot! Assumptions are bad.

Update II: Gay rights groups are not fools and know exactly what's going on. And Ben Domenech is a lying scumbag. He knows what he did and he did it on purpose. Despite his unctuous, insincere defense of gay rights, he knows very well that this will hugely gin up the fundraising and activism against her from the far right and make it more difficult to confirm her. I hope he extracted a big payment from his wingnut benefactors. He earned it.

Update III: None of this is meant as an endorsement of Kagan. I'm hoping the administration picks someone far less amenable to executive power than she seems to be. But this campaign is designed to force the administration to pick someone more conservative than she is on a whole panoply of issues. I hope the White House just picks the most liberal person they can find and forces the Republicans to filibuster the nomination if they can't wrap their minds around that.


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