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Well, If It Affects Me, That’s Different!

[ 187 ] March 15, 2013 |

Rob Portman has decided that he’s only comfortable denying fundamental rights to strangers:

Sen. Rob Portman has renounced his opposition to gay marriage, telling reporters from Ohio newspapers Thursday that he changed his position after his son Will told the Ohio Republican and his wife Jane that he is gay.

This is a classic example of what Mark Schmitt calls “Miss America” compassion:

Second, I’m tired of giving quasi-conservatives credit for what I call Miss America compassion (I’ll explain in a minute). Smith’s son’s suicide led him to support more funding for suicide prevention and for mental health care generally. Great — my life has been affected by suicide also, so I’m all for that. Similarly, Senator Pete Domenici’s daughter’s mental illness made him an advocate for mandating equitable treatment of mental and physical well-being in health insurance, a cause in which he was joined by Paul Wellstone. Again, I’m all for it, and I have no doubt that Domenici was at least as personally sincere and driven about it as Wellstone, and watching the two of them pair up on this cause and learn to work together was a good example for the potential of democratic institutions to create understanding.

But what has always bothered me about such examples is that their compassion seems so narrowly and literally focused on the specific misfortune that their family encountered. Having a child who suffers from mental illness would indeed make one particularly passionate about funding for mental health, sure. But shouldn’t it also lead to a deeper understanding that there are a lot of families, in all kinds of situations beyond their control, who need help from government? Shouldn’t having a son whose illness leads to suicide open your eyes to something more than a belief that we need more money for suicide help-lines? Shouldn’t it call into question the entire winners-win/losers-lose ideology of the current Republican Party? Shouldn’t it also lead to an understanding that if we want to live in a society that provides a robust system of public support for those who need help — whether for mental illness or any of the other misfortunes that life hands out at random — we will need a government with adequate institutions and revenues to provide those things?

And that’s what I mean by “Miss America Compassion.” These Senators are like Miss America contestants, each with a “platform”: Mr. Ohio: “Adoption Assistance.” Mr. Oregon: “Suicide Prevention.” Mr. Minnesota: “Community Development.” Mr. New Mexico: “Mental Health Parity.” Mr. Pennsylvania: “Missing children” The platform is meant to show them as thoughtful, deep and independent-minded, but after the “platform segment” they return to play their obedient part in a degrading exercise that makes this country crueler and government less supportive.

And, of course, as with Miss America contestants’ “platforms,” there are a few approved topics and many more that simply couldn’t be considered. It’s not too likely that you’ll see Miss Alabama adopt “Income inequality” as her platform or Miss Colorado, “Corporate tax evasion.” Nor is a Senator likely to have a family experience with lack of health insurance, or personal bankruptcy, or Food Stamps.

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  • Arouet

    Yah, it sucks, but it’s one more vote towards repealing DOMA, assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t take care of that first. Reason won’t work on these people, so I say take your victories where you can find them.

    • Orpho

      It has the unpleasant side effect of making you nearly wish for very particular personal tragedies to happen to those in power, though, and that’s a disturbing place to be.

      • rea

        Not that having a gay son ought to be a personal tragedy . . .

        • Warren Terra

          I think we can assume that Orpho was referring to the health care needs of Domenici’s daughter, and more generally to things of that sort, and not to Portman.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        What do you mean “nearly”?

        • Anon21

          I’m not wishing suicide on any Senator’s family members.

  • Unless something has affected a Conservative personally, they’re actually not allowed to care about it — that’s in their rulebook!
    They would be drummed out of the Con Supporters Army if they dared to show actual altruistic compassion for anyone without a personal connection. Their only excuse is when they can point to some relative or neighbour to justify their disloyalty to the Con worldview.

    • Loud Liberal

      Bingo! It’s a repeating theme. Take Canadian style universal medical coverage. It’s a communist conspiracy by those who hate freedom, until a republican’s lifetime cap is exceeded. Then, it suddenly becomes a human rights imperitive.

    • The Teri Schiavo case being the exception that proves the rule.

    • BlueLoom

      It’s not always just conservatives. Our very liberal Virginia 8th district congressman (Jim Moran) had his conversion on the road to Damascus when his then 5-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I believe he said words to the effect that “no family should have to go thru what we’re going thru” (this was 10 or more years ago, so I’m paraphrasing), and put in legislation to help families of children with leukemia. This kind of behavior simply doesn’t pass the sniff test, regardless of party affiliation. If you care about children with leukemia, you should care about all children with leukemia, regardless of the health status of your own children.

      • You should care about all sick children; you should care about all sick people.

      • mds

        This kind of behavior simply doesn’t pass the sniff test, regardless of party affiliation.

        Just as a minor clarification, how much anti-children-with-leukemia legislation had Rep. Moran previously sponsored? How many cuts in federal cancer research funding has he championed How many Democratic Party platforms endorsed by Rep. Moran have included “Deny rights and support to children with leukemia”? How many “Protect traditional families from children with leukemia” referenda has Rep. Moran even tacitly supported to boost Democratic fundraising and turnout?

        Being blithely unaware of inadequacies in something until it affects you personally, and actively mobilizing against the very existence of something until it affects you personally aren’t even in the same library building, let alone the same page. It’s a good thing I’m feeling charitable today, or I would invite you to cram your bullshit false equivalence up your ass. Oh, and there should be more support for families of rectal cancer sufferers.

        • brewmn

          Thanks for slapping this comment down. Portman’s change of heart seems to be giving rise to an awful lot of false equivalence on the interwebs today.

        • Loud Liberal

          Alrighty then!

      • Loud Liberal

        Liberal is a relative term, especially in Virginia.

    • The irony that strikes me is that so many of them profess to be devout Christians — and one of Christ’s most important lessons was empathy, not just for one’s own, but for strangers.

  • Mike Schilling

    It beats the hell out of being someone who can’t learn from personal experience (and yes, Mr. Keyes, I am looking at you.)

    • Malaclypse

      True, but they don’t learn enough from their personal experience to be able to generalize to the idea that problems that are not just like theirs might also need addressing.

      • Manju

        My favorite civil rights quote goers something like this: “Blacks aren’t opposed to slavery, we’re opposed to being the slaves.”

        Contemplate that.

        • John W Campbell Jr. said the only ones directly responsible for slavery are the slaves.

          • Manju

            I don’t know who JWCJr is. I’ll defer judgment until Sofia Vergara weights in.

          • LeeEsq

            I thought that was Nietcheze.

            • Manju

              The Genealogy of Morality

          • I’d love to know where that came from — it doesn’t really sound like Campbell to me.

            (For Manju: Campbell was a scholar of comparative religions and arguably the foremost mythographer of the twentieth century. Probably his most fundamental work was The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which ties together myth, religion, folklore and storytelling.)

            • I was referring to John W Campbell Jr, the SF editor and editor of the SF magazine now known as Analog until his death in 1971, which he took over in the late 30’s under the title of Astonishing Science Fiction.

        • Warren Terra

          That’s really your “favorite civil rights quote”? Ever considered joining the human race?

          I mean, I know we’re supposed to “respect the character you’re playing” and all, but damn

          • Manju

            Yes it is. I got it from T-A Coates, and would really like to source it.

            Allow me to re-phrase it in a way that might persuade you: MLK’s dream was not realized with the election Of Barack Obama. But it will be realized with the elecion of an Af-Am President as unqualified as George W. Bush.

            Capice?

            Its perverse, I know. But this is really what it means to view a group as fully human.

            • Malaclypse

              I got it from T-A Coates

              I’m stunned that Teh Google can’t find it on Coates’ site. I blame Liberal Racism for the oversight.

              • Manju

                Have you ever caught me lying about stuff like this? Do you think I could survive on doing what I do (“liruls are the real racists”) if my sources weren’t impeccable?

                As I said. I heard it from Coates. If he says I wrong, I’ll concede the point.

                • Malaclypse

                  As I said. I heard it from Coates.

                  Link please.

                • DrDick

                  Why, yes, yes I do, given that you routinely misrepresent the sources, or are incapable of understanding them.

                • Pseudonym

                  Manju confessed to copulating with caprines. I heard it from “T-A” Coates. If he says I wrong, I’ll concede the point.

              • Manju

                Why, yes, yes I do, given that you routinely misrepresent the sources, or are incapable of understanding them.

                Forgive me if this “not very bright 14 year old” dismisses the opinion of old Southern White Man who cannot understand what it means when a Senator votes against the 1970 Voting Rights Acts:

                Also that first statement is entirely correct. [Robert BYrd] voted for the 1968 Civil Rights Act and consistently voted for Civil Rights afterward. Reality is not your friend.

                http://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2012/10/what-a-pathetic-operation-tucker-carlson-is-running

                I’ve provided my source and as you can see, I am correct.

                • Manju

                  HEY.,

                  S M…and swearing him off is what I’m doing!

                • DrDick

                  I read your source and you clearly do not understand what is being said.

                • Manju is a good person

            • Wait. You’re saying W. was fully human???

              • Snarki, child of Loki

                Of *course* W was fully human! You don’t think W’s pig-ignorance and incuriosity is out of the mainstream of humanity, do you?

                Now, as for the alien entity that wore Cheney’s meatsuit, that’s a different matter.

            • Manta

              Can we settle with not electing again a white presidents as unqualified as W. Bush, instead?

              • witless chum

                Probably not, unfortunately.

            • Loud Liberal

              In other words, you think liberals are as stupid, irrational and brainwashed as conservatives are. Sorry, you just lost the argument. Liberals may be stupid and irrational, but, not enough to vote for Herman Cain.

            • Mike Schilling

              That is, your algebra TA at Ole Miss, Jackson Lee Coates.

        • Malaclypse

          Interestingly, the only result Teh Google has for that quote is you, here.

          • Manju

            Wow, glad I said:

            “Yes it is. I got it from T-A Coates, and would really like to source it.”

            Perhaps someone here knows how to get in touch with Coates?

            • Malaclypse

              You got it from Coates, yet it is not on his web site? Were you out drinking with him, and he just said it, perhaps?

              • Coates does publish things in print, and may not get all of them on his website. (Not that I think that’s what’s going on here.)

                • Manju

                  (Not that I think that’s what’s going on here.)

                  What do you think is going on here?

              • Manju

                You got it from Coates, yet it is not on his web site?

                And also said, “and would really like to source it” as well as; “My favorite civil rights quote goers something like this…”

                I used qualifiers for a reason. I’ll try to source it.

                • Manju

                  How, exactly, is that a “civil rights quote”?

                  Coates is responding to Dan Savage, who is angry about the Af-Am vote on Prop 8.

                  Savage is posioning blacks like you position conservative who have been personally afected by oppression…the didn’t “learn enough from their personal experience to be able to generalize to the idea that problems that are not just like theirs might also need addressing.”

                  I agree on one aspect. The connection between civil rights for A-Ams and for gays is fairly obvious. But he vicitms of the former are actually a laggard in support of the latter.

                  But why expect that? As Coates says, “Groups of people who end up on the bad end of history aren’t heroic, they aren’t better for it”

                  As perverse as it sounds, this is what it means to accept people as human.

              • Manju

                You got it from Coates, yet it is not on his web site? Were you out drinking with him, and he just said it, perhaps?

                Coates:

                “What’s the old saying? Black folks didn’t object to slavery, they objected to being the slaves. Heh…”

                http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2008/11/more-on-prop-8/6213/

                • Uncle Kvetch

                  Ah, I get it: it’s directed at the straw-liberals of your imagination who think that being a member of an oppressed minority group conveys a kind of saintliness, and who have never encountered homophobia among African-Americans, or racism among gay men, etc.

                  And that’s your favorite civil rights quote.

                  Stop trolling, Manju. It’s boring.

                • DrDick

                  And once again you take the evidence out of context and grotesquely misrepresent it. Same old game as always. You remain a not very bright or entertaining troll.

                • Malaclypse

                  How, exactly, is that a “civil rights quote”? Fascinating choice for a favorite, whatever it is.

                • witless chum

                  I’m with Manju, that’s a great quote, because people suck. The insight of anti-racism is that our suckitude is not determined by race.

                  I like to say that we need to solve race-based inequality in this country so Harold Ford, Jr. can go be a Republican already.

                • delurking

                  Wow. Total misreading and/or deliberate misrepresentation of what Coates is saying.

                  Nice work there.

                • Hogan

                  See also:

                  Slaves aren’t opposed to slavery, per se, they are only opposed to their own enslavement.

                  Culled from stormfront.org, so still not exactly a civil rights quote.

                • John

                  Harold Ford, Jr., is so 2008. We have the newer model in Artur Davis, who actually has gone and become a Republican.

                • And of course, Coates misquoted (at best) and made that up (at worst) to deflect criticism.

                  Nice try, Manjie

      • DrDick

        They appear to lack the empathy gene or else it is overwhelmed by the selfish gene.

    • Warren Terra

      Mr. Keyes doesn’t have a gay child. I hear he used to have a daughter …

      (snark aside, I suppose we can be grateful for the small mercy that Portman has chosen to side with the angels here, however small-minded his reasons; he could have done as Keyes did: doubled down on the bigotry and declared he had no son)

      • John

        Portman and Keyes are not the same kind of politician (to the extent that Keyes is a politician, which is limited). It is utterly unsurprising that a politician like Portman’s response to having a gay son would be to embrace gay marriage, and it is also utterly unsurprising that a politician like Keyes’s response to having a gay daughter would be to disown her.

      • JL

        snark aside, I suppose we can be grateful for the small mercy that Portman has chosen to side with the angels here, however small-minded his reasons; he could have done as Keyes did: doubled down on the bigotry and declared he had no son

        Yep. His choice here is certainly better for his son, too. I’ve known too many people whose parents doubled down.

  • Good and smart guy, Mark Schmitt. I’d forgotten this one, but nice cite.

    Disclosure: I know Mark, but don’t hold that against him by any means. I’d vouch for his decency, integrity and analytical skill under oath, not to mention a great deal of knowledge about how Congress actually works. That DOES NOT mean that he’d endorse the various obscene things I’ve said “anonymously” about [REDACTED]s like Mitch McConnell. I mention that for the benefit of evil shitheads like Ben Shapiro and Fucker Carlson, just in case they start thinking like journalists rather than smear merchants.

  • Anonymous

    That “Miss America” tangent is irritating.

    • Manju

      Yes, for many reasons. Not the least being that I’m going to have “look at Miss Ohio…she wants to do right but not right now” in my head all day long.

    • Barry

      “That “Miss America” tangent is irritating.”

      I thought that it was a very good analogy.

      • Manju

        Don’t be so obedient, Barry. Its degrading.

        • DrDick

          Unlike your sad, tired schtick.

    • I think it draws a distinction, one I would take issue with. To say that Portman is now “Mr. Gay Marriage” in the Miss America tradition is kind of silly. Many of those positions those “senators” staked out were cynical political calculations designed to soften their image, where Portman had an actual event happen in his life that opened his eyes.

      • This. The fact that his son apparently came out 2 years ago, yet Portman himself only now supports gay marriage, makes me wonder if he was waiting to see how the 2012 VP nomination shook down.

      • Sorry – misread your original. To rephrase:

        I want to believe this was an issue that “opened his eyes,” but the fact that he waited 2 years [with an election on the horizon] before finally supporting gay marriage can’t help but raise the suspicion/fear it actually was kind of a cynical move, even if it ultimately ended up being the right one.

        • I was not aware of the time lag.

          In that case, fuck him

    • I haven’t watched the show in decades, so I don’t really know, but I also wondered if perhaps this wasn’t unfair to the various Misses America.

      But it’s a great post and a great point; I remember reading it at the time, but thanks for reprising it.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      The mental combination of Senators and Swimsuit Competition is best left unimagined.

      • After that stomach-churning rendition of “God Bless America” on the capitol steps, there’s really nothing unimaginable left.

  • tt

    I think this is a pretty convenient excuse for changing positions in the face of changing public opinion. I don’t think Portman would have done this in 2004, gay son or no.

  • Manju

    Say what you will about Strom Thurmond but give him this: he never let what was better for his eldest child affect his political positions.

    • Yep, Manju, his hypocrisy was admirable for a conservative, wasn’t it?

      • Manju

        DA, please stop attaching your clueless commentary to my brilliant Performance Art. Thankyouverymuch. -M

        • DrDick

          You are a not very bright adolescent who thinks he is being clever when he is actually just annoying the grown ups with his puerile stupidity.

          • John

            I’d say Manju is intermittently clever. This comment drew a chuckle.

            • witless chum

              He’s mostly pretty clever.

              • spencer

                Yes, agreed.

            • DrDick

              Meh. He occasionally manages the kind of cleverness 14 year olds are capable of, but mostly he just spouts stupid bullshit the reveal a puerile mind.

        • Anonymous

          Manju, is their any particular reason that you seem determined to ignore and downplay racism on the right-wing and Republican side of politics, while highlighting every bit of real or perceived racism when it comes from a “Democrat”, however right-wing?

          Look, I know that admitting ideological sins can be hard. I realize that you may feel unfairly targeted by discussions of racism. Nonetheless, it is better to admit them upfront. Hell, I’m a socialist, yet you won’t find me denying that there were people on the left who, for instance, apologized for Stalin.

          You have, in the past, described yourself as non-partisan and as a moderate. What, then, possess you to do this? And why is it that you always seem to attack Democrats and minorities for racism? This doesn’t seem like something a moderate would be doing.Is there something that I’m not getting?

          It would be better if you would stop playing these games and admit what your convictions are. I might not agree with you, but I would respect you a lot more.

          Thanks.

          • sparks

            He can’t admit convictions he doesn’t have. Except criminal ones, of course.

          • Manju

            Manju, is their any particular reason that you seem determined to ignore and downplay racism on the right-wing and Republican side of politics, while highlighting every bit of real or perceived racism when it comes from a “Democrat”, however right-wing?

            Have you read the comment to which you are replying?

            I understand that it sounds as if I’m complimenting Strom, but that’s critical to the joke. Do I really need to spell it out?

            Strom’s eldest child is Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Once you put 2 and 2 together, I’m sure you will agree that this problematizes your very fist assertion. Since the rest of your assertions appear to depend on the accuracy of the first, I assume you don’t need me to go any further.

            • Yeah, I read Manju’s comment as critical of Strom, as well. I don’t see any other reasonable reading (it is put ironically, of course).

              • Hogan

                Same here.

      • DrDick

        In Manju’s world, only liberals can be racists. Yes he is that stupid and delusional.

        • Manju

          In Manju’s world, only liberals can be racists.

          And yet you are responding to a quote from mine that takes the 2 x 4 to one of the actual conservative segregationists.

          And I would like to reiterate my objection to your continued use of euphemisms of “boy” to describe me.

          • If your thoughts that you post here reveal an immature POV Manju, what’s would be an appropriate term?

            Instar,or pupa?

            • Hogan

              Ephebe?

          • DrDick

            It is not a euphemism, it is my honest appraisal of who and what you are, an adolescent. At the very least, your reasoning and thinking are, at best, adolescent.

            • David Nieporent

              Coming from someone who makes Grandpa Simpson look like a deep thinker, I’m sure that wounds Manju greatly.

  • Warren Terra

    This incident and the many similar ones make me think there may be an interesting twist on the old saw that “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged”. Bear with me here: at least for the purposes of that cliche, a liberal believes in a set of ambitious, often somewhat forgiving or idealistic social policies, especially regarding crime and the disadvantaged people who often turn to crime – policies that perhaps don’t go as far as they could to repress or oppress the potentially criminal element, or to wreak vengeance upon actual criminals. In the cliche, a conservative is someone who once held such high ideals, but having been personally subjected to criminal abuse they generalize from the one incident in a way that overrides their ability or willingness to look at the wider society with clarity and detachment, and insist that their personal grievance is the appropriate frame through which to view the world and the correct basis on which to set policy.

    Viewed that way, that often irritating cliche is perhaps transformed: a conservative isn’t just any liberal who’s been mugged, it’s the result of mugging a particular sort of person (who happens, but only happens, to be a liberal prior to the mugging): a narcissist, someone who’s unable to see beyond their own self.

    • William Burns

      The best flip of that was from Tom Wolfe, of all people, in Bonfire of the Vanities “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.”

      • Decrease Mather

        I didn’t think Wolfe was the first one to use that. Was he?

        • Dave W.

          It’s questionable. James Kunen referred to the phrase in his 1985 book “How Can You Defend Those People?”, in a way that suggested the phrase was already popular at the time. Tom Wolfe’s novel was published in 1987 – but it was based on his Rolling Stone serialization from June 1984-August 1985. Now the novel was supposedly heavily revised from the serialization. So for the phrase to be original with Wolfe (or at least original with Vanities), it would have had to appear in the serialization early enough to diffuse to Kunen at the time he was writing his book. Odds are that there was an earlier source that they both picked up on, but it might barely be possible for the timeline to work here.

          • Dave W.

            So if the phrase doesn’t appear in Wolfe’s serialization (as opposed to the book), then that would be pretty conclusive that Vanities was not the original source. If it did, then the question might still be open. But that’s more research than I want to devote to this right now.

      • JL

        How have I never heard that before?

        I can even think of two examples off the top of my head (note: at the first link the example is not the author, it’s “Tyler” in the story).

  • Lefty68

    Fair enough, but Republicans these days are so apeshit crazy that I’ll take whatever reasonableness I can get from them.

  • Funkhauser

    If only Rob Portman had a daughter who was poor or who was going to face extreme droughts due to climate change. He might develop actual empathy.

    • Njorl

      I wonder if southerners will move left in general as temperatures rise, disproportionately affecting the south, or will they merely recognize global warming.

      • BigHank53

        Given how much they like lost causes, I suspect they will move to abandoned beachfront property and attempt to turn back the tide. Or maybe somebody with a couple spare sets of manacles will do them the favor.

  • On the other hand, it’s a start, Scott.

    Perhaps Portman will now evolve on other issues. This could be his “coming to Jesus” moment, which could be a good thing. It’s happened before (David Brock stands out in my mind)

    But believe me, I ain’t holding my breath.

    • evodevo

      There was another famous one – conservative columnist James Kilpatrick. He was famously anti-abortion, until his niece was raped during a burglary. Pro-choice after that !

    • Blinding light on the road to Damascus, OH

      Rob, Rob, why do you persecute me … when there are soooo many pregnant women out there who need to be denied access to abortions?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Perhaps Portman will now evolve on other issues

      And perhaps The Donalde will write the greatest work of political theory since Leviathan, but that’s not how to bet.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    they get it from saint ronnie. did he not deny aids existed – til rock hudson announced he was ill?

  • kerFuFFler

    Doesn’t it kinda make you wonder what it’ll take to make them rethink a pro-assault rifle point of view?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      But wouldn’t it take a séance to get their new, evolved, opinion known to their congressional colleagues?

    • rea

      Well, Gabrielle Giffords, though a Democrat, has become a lot more sympathetic to gun control since being shot.

      • JKTHs

        Yeah, I think it would work the opposite for most Republicans.

        • DrDick

          IIRC, Reagan got a lot more pro-gun control after the assassination attempt.

          • He was pro-gun control in CA when he was governor, and signed into law a bill that made open carry illegal in California, because of the Black Panthers carrying weapons in public even in the Capitol in Sacramento.

      • Phoenix_rising

        I’m not sure that’s accurate. As Far as I can recall (no time for Wayback this AM so correct me) Giffords was in favor of an assault rifle ban & background checks, and against AZ’s moronic open carry law, before she and her closest staff were shot.

        Her positions have not changed. However, her capacity to promote those positions was altered.

        Belaboring this only because it’s different from Portman’s situation.

  • Aaron Baker

    Since Republican politicians often have NO moral imagination, I’ll take the little I can get.

    • TT

      I think from a purely transactional/legislative point of view, personal experience that results in greater advocacy, awareness, and funding for “positive” rights (health care, education, environment, et al), while certainly not at all optimal, is acceptable in that exact narrow sense, i.e. we take what we can get because it helps advance the ball, however imperfectly.

      However, I find these matters far less forgivable–if forgivable at all–when it comes to trampling on “negative” rights or fundamental human rights. I put Portman in this category.

      I’m not sure if the whole positive vs. negative rights distinction works or makes much sense in this regard, but I do feel that there is a discernible distinction here.

    • Tybalt

      Yeah. But on the other hand, just as I don’t care about motives (and I don’t, not a whit) I don’t care about words either. We’re going to wait a very, very long time before Rob Portman undertakes a single action in support of gay marriage. Until then, all this is meaningless.

  • It’s all talk until one of them actually does something. If Portman introduces legislation to repeal DOMA then I’ll believe it. I haven’t seen Dick Cheney in any Pride parades, and as a recall it when the fact that Liz Cheney is gay was brought up in the VP debate it was spun as a scurrilous, underhanded tactic. Domenici tried to do something– he learned from his family’s difficulty. That’s pretty rare for a conservative. Think about Rick Santorum’s child: like, supra, Strom Thummond, he doesn’t allow his personal life to color his policy, to the detriment of all.

  • Cathy Cabrera

    How is it that these nut-burgers can imagine that our President is a Socialist Kenyan Muslim Atheist who has been plotting since kindergarten to destroy America, yet can’t summon the creativity to imagine what it would be like to be unemployed, homeless, hungry, pregnant and desperate, etc.? And woe betide the next person who tells me that he/she used to think only lazy leeches relied on the social safety net until he/she had direct need for it. I didn’t obsessively watch all seven seasons of BtVS without learning some mad attack skills.

    • Craig T Nelson

      And woe betide the next person who tells me that he/she used to think only lazy leeches relied on the social safety net until he/she had direct need for it.

      I’ve been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No.

      • sibusisodan

        That quote really makes me wish there was some kind of ‘basic self-awareness and/or logical reasoning test’ which could be administered prior to be allowed access to some kind of opinion-forming and/or disseminating apparatus.

        Sorta like Voigt-Kampff, for idiots.

        Ooh – or make the Total Perspective Vortex a requirement to hold office?

        • allium

          “My mother’s SSDI? Let me tell you about my mother’s SSDI!”

          • sibusisodan

            “Well, the tortoise is a moocher, see…”

          • rea

            No, your typical Republican’s position on SSDI: “I’ve been strongly in favor of it ever since Reagan proposed it!. We need a strong technological defense against nuclear-armed missiles!”

  • About 10 years ago, I sat in on a session of the Montana Legislature for about an hour. Some guy got up (not the guy who proudly had a coat made of coyote. That was a different loon.), an older guy from eastern Montana. He started talking about how much he hated government programs. Except this one program that helped his grandson be rehabbed from drugs or crime or something. That one deserved state funding.

    It was the most eyerolling political moment I’ve ever personally witnessed.

    • Phoenix_rising

      An hour? That was all you could take? Cowboy up, man.

      When you’re old and your retirement won’t let you afford cable, that’s when you’ll enjoy your state’s collection of village idiots for its entertainment value.

    • JKTHs

      It’s kind of the same thing with disaster relief. Republicans say “IT’LL TURN US INTO GREECE” if we spending any money helping people in the wake of a hurricane/tornado/drought…unless it’s in their area in which case it’s “OH THE HUMANITY”

      • Manta

        That is normal politics: even if a politician sincerely thinks that program X is a bad one, it is his duty to get as much money from program X for his constituents.

        • brewmn

          Christ, again with the false equivalency/everybody does it. Do you have anyhting else to add? Because, while grabbing every dime you can from a government program while at the same time campaigning against it as an example of the political failures of your opponent may not be the dictionary definition of hypocrisy, it comes pretty damn close from where I sit.

          • Pseudonym

            Would I be a hypocrite for thinking that, say, tax rates on long-term capital gains should be raised, but still only paying the current tax rate? Or supporting unemployment benefits but not using them myself while unemployed? I mean, if the government offered me a free lunch, I might take it, while still thinking that the government shouldn’t be offering me free lunches. The hypocrisy is that politicians campaign against every government program except the ones that benefit themselves and their constituents, i.e. disaster relief for me but not for thee.

    • FSR I listened to Boston conservative talk radio on home the day Ted Kennedy died. The hosts were smart enough not to say anything awful (that day) and mostly opened the lines to callers. It was an endless string of “I don’t agree with anything that commie did, except for the ADA because my daughter uses a wheelchair” comments.

    • DrDick

      Must have been a slow day if it took that long for one of our esteemed Republican legislators from east of the Divide to say something like that.

  • Halloween Jack

    It’s part of the GOP’s strategy to try to grab at least part of the Democrats’ constituency while retaining their own; they can now point to Portman as being progressive on this issue while mollifying the teabaggers, fundies and other homophobes that are part of their base by insisting that it’s personal with Portman and that that doesn’t reflect on the GOP in general. Expect more GOP senators in swing states to suddenly have a change of heart on account of a gay relative if they don’t get more of the gay vote in ’14.

  • Joe

    Oh come on. This is human nature. I know, I know, it stinks, but it’s human nature. As if no one around here didn’t change their mind about something notable since it happened to them. Isn’t the fact that “our loved ones are gay and lesbian” something cited by the pro-equality side all the time as what should drive us? Not just principle. I doubt it is merely some “conservative” trait.

    • Malaclypse

      As if no one around here didn’t change their mind about something notable since it happened to them.

      But, again, what is remarkable is that conservatives seem unable to generalize beyond the specific problem affecting their specific situation.

      • JL

        Right. There’s nothing wrong with personal experience being a gateway. It is for a lot of people on a lot of issues. The problem is when it’s an endpoint instead of a gateway.

      • Joe

        I don’t see this especially on issues they would not otherwise have an ideological or political reason to oppose.

    • sparks

      Geez, all it took for me to be pro-equality was the realization that they didn’t have it, and I was still a teenager at the time.

    • delurking

      Yeah, no. This might be true for some, but it’s not true for everyone. Not true for Sparks, for instance, and it’s not true for me. For me, it was watching the Civil Rights movement happen (on TV and in the news, since I was just a kid, under 12), and watching MLK Jr get shot. (No, I’m not black myself, and no, no one in my family is either.) That was enough to do it for me.

      And I could extrapolate from there, and did. When I was 13, our civics class took us downtown to visit a courtroom (this was New Orleans), where we saw gay men being arraigned for Crimes Against Nature. This led me to start finding out about the nascent gay rights movement. (No one in my family — then — was gay.)

      A few years later I found out about feminism. (Full disclosure — I do have women in my family.)

      My point — it’s possible to care about justice for all, to think justice *should* extend to everyone, without having a personal dog in the fight.

      • Joe

        If we are going to move to the personal level, moving past “liberal v. conservative,” or whatever, that’s a good step. Still, I’m not saying that this guy or anyone NEVER does something like that. It is that we ALSO are sometimes influenced by personal experience, especially when it is something like this. For instance, sometimes it takes a person to go to war to be against war. How can we not be?

      • DrDick

        Likewise, though I was older.

    • Karate Bearfighter

      New York Magazine has a good point about the difference between President Obama’s statement on coming out in favor of gay marriage and Portman’s.President Obama’s statement on coming out in favor of gay marriage and Portman’s.

      In short, even when your conversion is prompted by a personal experience, you should be able to imagine how your own personal experience is related to the experiences of others — and even in a carefully crafted PR statement, Portman doesn’t seem able to do that.

      • Speak Truth

        All you’re doing is trying to nuance some hair-splitting difference why Obama’s flip-flop on this issue is somehow a better flip-flop than Portman’s.

        It’s all a flip-flop…both Obama and Portman.

        This is sooooo…unimportant. That’s why I have not held Obama responsible (or Portman) when the real issue is JOBS!

        • Malaclypse

          Cool story, Jennie.

        • Pseudonym

          Obama’s flapjacks are much tastier than Portman’s, though, you have to admit.

    • Anonymous

      Yes and no.

      On the one hand, it is human nature, and there are lots of people who behave this way.

      On the other hand, plenty of people are quite privileged, and nonetheless realize that other people, through no fault of their own, are not. Plenty of privileged people realize the importance of helping out those who are not.

      Many liberal politicians, for example.

      Republicans like to trumpet their morality. This has always bothered me. The whole point of morality is to recognize that people other than yourself exist. It is to realize that your actions affect others, and act so that you help other people, rather than hurt them.

      Many Republicans seem not to understand this

      • Anonymous

        Furthermore, Christ himself is supposed to have said “If you only love those that love you, what good is that?”, and “Love your enemies”. Many people claim to follow Christ’s teachings, and to regard them as divinely inspired, yet they act in ways that are contrary to them. I assume Portman is Christian, therefore he is supposed to act in a less self-centered manner. Yet he does not.

        This is very disappointing.

      • Joe

        I agree with much of what you say here but see it as a general problem — non-Republicans are confused about morality too. I think there is enough to go around here and would not make it a ‘conservative’ thing. Let the person who never sinned cast the first stone & all that.

        • Anonymous

          That’s true. I was just pointing out that not all people are that self-centered, and a few people, even in public office, are able to rise above that.

          I tend to notice the hypocracy more in Republicans, simply because they tend to make a big deal of being Christian, which makes it more noticeable when they behave in, well, unchristian ways.

          That said, I’ve known several Republicans who were the nicest, most wonderful people. Conversely, I’ve known some Democrats who were utter bastards.

          • Anonymous

            Sorry, “hypocrisy”

    • tonycpsu

      No, it’s definitely a conservative trait, and it’s known as the self-interest exemption. It’s no accident that so many of these clowns cite Ayn Rand as a philosophical leader. The idea of government of/for/by the people was that you get involved in it to make other peoples’ lives better, not to advance your own interests, but “Fuck you, I got mine” is a central pillar of modern conservatism, and anyone who says it’s not is simply not paying attention.

    • Jamie

      Agreed. I canvassed for SEIU to talk to people about income inequality and the recession the summer before Occupy; did the same thing recently for another org to drum up support for raising MD’s minimum wage. The #1 way to get people to keep the door open and listen was to make it about them, how the issue, whatever it was, affected them as individuals. Very few of the people I spoke to were conservatives. The same thing raising money for Planned Parenthood in DC, which is full of Democrats. One of the most common reasons for walking by without donating was, “I’ve had my babies.” Human beings, regardless of political affiliation, are just really focused on themselves. Some take it to extremes of greed and those people tend to be conservative assholes, but for the most part, it’s just human nature. That’s why so much DNC’s organizer training is about crafting your “story” — making it personal so you can connect to the person you’re talking to and they can imagine whatever you’re talking about as affecting them.

      Would it be nice if Portman came to this realization earlier? Yeah, but as a bi woman, I’ll take it. Pretty sure there was a study that said that what changes minds on gay rights the most is when a family member or close friend comes out to them.

      • chaed

        In your example, it might just be that people don’t like talking to people who come up to their homes. A lot of people are just weird about that.

      • LFC

        I think there’s something in what Jamie says. I would put it a bit differently, though. Everyone tends to be self-centered to some extent — conservatives, liberals, radicals. Everyone has pet issues, particular causes they care about. This blog, for instance, cares a lot about poverty in the U.S. but says rather little about poverty in other countries and esp. in the ‘global South’ — at least, that’s my impression as an occasional reader. Now you might say, that’s understandable, the bloggers are mostly from the U.S. but still it represents a constriction of vision, a decision to care more about certain things than others.

        Portman’s a rather technocratic economic-policy-oriented Republican — used to be US Trade Rep and OMB director, iirc, before becoming a Senator — and he probably didn’t spend much time thinking about gay rights before 2011 (when his son came out to him), he just voted the party line. Can he be faulted for that? Certainly, but I would never have expected anything else from Portman.

        Re his column in The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch: is it a marvel of morality and compassion and empathy? Hardly, but it nonetheless manages to be touching in places. Perhaps one should just take this for what it is and move on.

        • Ronan

          This seems the most reasonable conclusion. I know plenty of decent, empathetic people who never had any sort of opinion on SSM, but their positions evolved. I think giving Portman the benefit of the doubt would be th decent approach..particularly considering this blogs various moral blindspots (particularly its US centricism)

    • mds

      Oh, for God’s sake. Do we really have to deal with multiple outbreaks of False Equivalence Horseshit Syndrome on this too? Rob Portman belongs to a political party that has vigorously and repeatedly worked to deny rights to gay people, clear up to supporting DOMA in court because the administration declines to do so. This is not, “Wow, I never realized that gay people had it so rough.” This is not, “I thought we lived in a post-Stonewall society.” This is not “I never really thought about it before.” This is, “Whoa, don’t worry son, I’ll make sure my own side’s jackboots won’t trample you.” His son came out to mom and dad in February 2011, and now Portman steps up? He must have had to bite his tongue really hard at all the usual homo-hating at the 2012 GOP convention to stop from blurting out his “Road to Damascus” story. So yeah, now he opposes DOMA in favor of “leaving it to the states to decide.” Wow, that’s mighty whitestraight of him.

      • Uncle Kvetch

        What mds said. And what Wonkette said, too. Fuck that guy.

      • Joseph Slater

        Post of the day on this issue, mds. Well-said.

      • Joe

        oh come on. How about all those DEMOCRATS who even though they belong to a party that supports equality and all that still supported DOMA and the like? Seems to me on some level they are WORSE than this guy.

        The OP took something that has universal application and made it some partisan issue. Ditto some here. Now it’s “conservative” to do something that crosses party line. That’s bogus. I did not research this guy’s position on this single matter. My concern is the greater principle that is supposedly shown here where a human trait suddenly is something “conservatives” do.

        • mds

          Seems to me on some level they are WORSE than this guy.

          Why don’t you develop a newfound empathy for masturbators? Go fuck yourself.

      • LFC

        As I suggest above, I would guess that before Feb. 2011 he probably had not thought about this issue much. Just an informed guess, based on what I know of his biography.

  • DocAmazing

    It hearkens back to Heathers:

    “I love my dead gay son!”

  • josh

    Respectfully disagree. Homophobia, racism, etc. are based on ignorance. I enjoy making fun of my own liberal guilt as the next guy, and our occasional silliness of taking pride in actually having gay and black friends. But that experience informs. The ignorance goes away. Perhaps we should all pop out of the womb enlightened but we don’t. Ask your average 80-year-old liberal if his or her views of an entire race are the same today as they were in 1955. These very good people might say, unfortunately, no. Learned experience over the years changed their views. And good for them.

    • Hogan

      Homophobia, racism, etc. are based on ignorance.

      Except for Data. His racism is based on statistics.

      • Malaclypse

        Imaginary statistics, but statistics nonetheless.

  • somethingblue

    What does he want, a cookie?

    • DrDick

      A unicorn, I believe.

      • somethingblue

        That’s silly. Everyone knows there are no unicorns. But Obama should give him one anyway, to show that he’s the adult in the room.

        • Malaclypse

          If Obambi were a real leader, he’d use the BULLY PULPIT to get some horses to grow horns.

          • Why hasn’t Obama produced a single unicorn in almost SIX YEARS of his administration????

      • spencer

        Would he settle for a unicorn-shaped cookie?

  • MAJeff
    • FLRealist

      Thanks for making me cry. Jerk.

      • MAJeff

        I actually chuckled a little when I read it. The P.S. was just too damned precious.

        • LeftWingFox

          I did both. :)

    • DrDick

      Saw that on FB earlier today. Had the same reaction as FLRealist. Reposted it.

  • Steve S.

    No, developing a greater awareness of mental illness or suicide after a personal experience with these things is not the same as actively opposing marriage equality and then changing your mind. Unless you also want to christen Mr. Hawaii-Illinois, who has straightforwardly written at length about how his personal experiences shaped the person he is and helped set his priorities. Analogy fail, sorry.

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  • Joe

    “Whoa, don’t worry son, I’ll make sure my own side’s jackboots won’t trample you.”

    And, every other same sex couple.

    The DOMA litigation has provided an opening for loads of people to put their opinions on the table here, especially now that it has reached the Supreme Court. Sen. Portman has done too & I welcome it. Others deserve our support much more, but he deserves a bit.

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