Ken Mehlman in July 2005, during his stint as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
So, the word got around this week that President Bush’s 2004 campaign manager and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman has come out of the closet. “It’s something I wish I had done years ago,” he said.
We do, too—because, as The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder points out, Mehlman held such high-ranking positions within Republican ranks during key moments when he could have done his part to push back against anti-gay sentiments and initiatives fomenting within the party. And his puzzlement about gay voters’ reluctance to join forces with the GOP over Islamic oppression is just plain strange. —KA
Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities—such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, 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 Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.