Thursday, April 07, 2005

Gay-Baiting Jerry Kilgore

There are early indications that Democrats and other Tim Kaine supporters are going to use innuendo, loaded questions, and sometimes outright accusations to raise doubt in voters' minds about GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore's sexual orientation. (Kilgore faces Warrenton Mayor George Fitch, who took the famous Jamaican bobsled team to the Winter Olympic Games, in the June 14 Republican primary.)

As far back as November 2004, Waldo Jaquith wrote:

Few who recall hearing Kilgore speak (and not many people in the state have) will forget the single most notable aspect of his speaking style. He sounds…well…gay. Perhaps a less controversial word to use would be “effeminate.” His speech pattern is stereotypically that of an effeminate gay man, and there’s really no getting around it.
Tweaking the issue just a bit, he added:
Perhaps the good news for Kilgore is that he may get a few progressive votes. While being perceived as effeminate (and, by extension, being perceived as possibly gay) might be a drawback among radical Republicans, some of my fellow progressives just eat that stuff up.

Then in February, Waldo again brought up the issue of Kilgore's high-pitched, nasal, "effeminate" voice. (To be fair, contemporary accounts of Abraham Lincoln's voice used similar adjectives.) Waldo wrote:
I’ve long been interested in the topic of Jerry Kilgore’s voice. Late last year, some media expressed a great reluctance to acknowledge the elephant in the Kilgore campaign’s living room — the man has a stereotypically effeminate voice. Now to be fair, there’s not a thing that he can do about it, no more than if he was born without a nose or had turned blue. Nor is there, I imagine, any reason why having a high-pitched, soft, nasal voice should keep him from serving as governor effectively. That said, it’s going to have an impact on who votes for him, because many voters will hear him speak and perceive him to be weak, unfairly or not.
Following up with a clarification, Waldo noted in a comment a couple of days later:
Of course, I’ve got no idea of the man’s sexuality (what with the wife and kids, there’s every reason to assume that he’s straight [ObSchrockLink]), but, that said, yes, he sounds like a parody of a stereotypical gay man.
Now the blog "Raising Kaine" raises the point less obliquely in an entry dated April 3:
Second, Jerry Kilgore may or may not be gay, but I have heard from numerous sources, including at least one gay male, that almost every homosexual’s “gaydar” goes off BIG TIME when they see and hear Jerry walk and talk. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the general consensus among the Virginia gay community about Jerry Kilgore is this: they have no proof he’s gay, but, as one said to me, “if he isn’t a closet case, there are no closet cases left.”
What puzzles me is why Virginia Democrats think they can succeed where the Kerry-Edwards campaign failed. In the presidential and vice presidential debates, both John Kerry and John Edwards used every available opportunity to remind voters -- and especially those on the religious right -- that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter.

As readers will recall, in the vice presidential debate on October 5, PBS correspondent Gwen Ifill asked a question about same-sex marriage. In his reply, candidate John Edwards said in part:
Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, want their children to be happy.

And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.
Dick Cheney, looking a bit peeved and prodded by Ifill to respond to Edwards' comments, said civilly:
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

IFILL: That's it?

CHENEY: That's it.
On October 13, during the third Bush-Kerry debate, CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer asked both candidates, "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?" Kerry opened his reply by saying:
We're all God's children, Bob. 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.
As the Des Moines Register pointed out,
Kerry's comments also drew a backlash from interest groups in Iowa on both sides of the issue.

"It was a cheap shot," said state Sen. Neal Schuerer, an Amana Republican who earlier this year led a debate calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Bill Musser, 46, of Decorah, who in 2002 was joined in a Vermont civil union with Otter Dreaming, 47, said Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney "felt just a little bit uncomfortable to me."
If the Kerry-Edwards strategy was to drive a wedge through the Bush-Cheney base, it failed. One reason was that to many voters, it was unseemly to bring in an unwilling participant -- Mary Cheney -- who was not a candidate herself (and a public figure only by association with her more famous parents).

Will the Democrats in Virginia succeed when the target of their gay-baiting is the candidate himself? Tim Kaine is a favorite of openly gay Democrats. (At a January 2004 Virginia Partisans event -- Virginia Partisans being the counterpart to Log Cabin Republicans -- Kaine received "a rousing ovation.") How do they feel about their fellow Democrats and fellow Kaine supporters using unvarnished gay baiting as a tactic to win election this November?

P.S.: Don't feel too bad for Mary Cheney. She's writing a book . According to recent press reports, she has "signed with Bush strategist Mary Matalin's conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster to pen a book on being 'a political target for the other side":
Besides sharing memories of working on her dad's campaigns since age 8, the former Coors executive finally will respond to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, who raised the issue of her homosexuality.

"She never wanted to be the poster girl . . . for gay issues," Matalin said. "She doesn't exist to be the lesbian daughter of the vice president."

But her sexual identity will be a major topic of the tome, which will try to appeal to conservatives, liberals and gays, Matalin said.

The publisher said Cheney will take a shot at "buffoonish" Republican Alan Keyes, who labeled her a "selfish hedonist."
I can't wait to see it. Will it have steamy lesbian love scenes like those in her mother's novel, Sisters, published in 1981? Or will it be a dull and wonkish book about working behind the scenes of a presidential campaign? I suspect it will be somewhere in between.

And I'll try to get an autographed copy of Mary's book to present to Jerry Kilgore -- just to hear his reaction.


Tim said...

(To be fair, contemporary accounts of Abraham Lincoln's voice used similar adjectives.)


Anonymous said...

Nicely put Tim. I had to chuckle at that too.

Anonymous said...

It seems the Democrats are just lifting a page from the Republicans' playbook. Remember the 1993 campaign? Here's how the Washington Post portrayed it:

"In Virginia, when then-Attorney General Mary Sue Terry was running for governor, her opponent, George Allen, suggested his status as a family man was one reason why he was better qualified; in an earlier race an opponent had attempted to challenge Terry with a crude reference to her 'five ringless fingers.'"

It didn't backfire then. Mary Sue Terry is a historical footnote and George Allen is on the fast-track to the White House.

Politicians use winning strategies regardless of whether they insult people, even among their strongest supporters. The Dems can take the gay vote for granted, just like they take the black vote for granted. Tim Kaine has nothing to lose if his operatives use anti-gay rhetoric to undermine his opponent.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "uh-oh" in reference to Abraham Lincoln?

Anonymous said...

Abraham Lincoln probably WAS gay. Bad example.

Also - Mary Cheney is a public figure. She chaired his campaign, I think in Colorado.

That whole incident, to right-wingers, was like someone outing an alcoholic daughter. Because homosexuality is like alcoholism. That's where their outrage came from.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that it is unfortunate to see either party (or, in this case, party-associated bloggers) gay baiting a candidate. I seem to recall a Western race in the 02 cycle where Dems gay-baited a Republican candidate because he had done some cosmetology video in which he applied some product or other to another man's face. Very juvenile.

However, I fail to see the parallel to Mary Cheney. Besides being the daughter of the vice president, she was a major figure in his campaign. That alone lends her some public figure status. But more importantly, she had a significant prior career as a public advocate for Coors in the GLBT community, in an attempt to restore that company's image after the boycott. Basically, she went around the country hocking Coors beer in gay bars. For lack of a better term, she was a "professional homosexual".

This was all hashed out quite thoroughly during the entire "Marygate" incident. While I think Kerry's personalized comment in the last debate was better left unsaid, what was really appalling was not his flub, but the sanctimonious reaction from an administration that was simultaneously advocating a constitutional amendment to abrogate relationship recognition for same-sex couples (like Mary Cheney and her partner) in the United States.

And as Americans are unlikely to give up there obsession with candidates' personal lives any time soon, I think we should be careful to criticize gay-baiting when we see it, and still recognize legitimate discussions of hypocrisy, even if it touches on the "taboo" topic of one's sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm uninterested in the non-starter of an issue of "OMG is Kilgore teh gay? LOL!@!@!~!" What I want to know is whether or not Kilgore's soft speech and feminine mannerisms will cause voters to perceive him as weak. I forecast that it will, and I don't doubt for a minute that this is a major factor in Kilgore's reluctance to debate Kaine.

I'll further forecast that Kilgore will not use his voice on his commercials, while Kaine will happily do so on his. Again, because Kilgore doesn't want to be perceived (unfairly, to be sure) as weak.

Anonymous said...

The Cheney thing has no similarity to this whatsoever.

The truth is that the Democrats don't need to attack Kilgore for appearing weak and gay. We're not talking about some kind of family connection or background that needs explaining. Every time that Kilgore steps up to the microphone the voters can see how very weak and femmy that the 'man' is.

The Dems don't have to do anything except point and laugh. Which is also what a majority of Virginians are going to do when they watch the debates on TV. Mark Warner sealed his win in '01 when his opponent took a cheap shot at him when they were each asked to say something nice about the other. Kilgore will similarly hand the race to Kaine the minute he opens his mouth.

Anonymous said...

Kilgore's sexual preference is relevant for one reason: He is a far right conservative who believes in unions between men and women only. If he is gay, it reveals what a hypocrite he is. Why don't you look at his hiring record at the Office of the Attorney General--majority young white unmarried males. Rampant rumors of many being gay. Do you think he was being an equal opportunity employer? Heck no. He fired at least 60 people before he hired all the "youngsters." Those he fired were predominately over 40, female, some physically challenged, one a Vietnam Vet. Kilgore doesn't care about anyone but himself. He sure doesn't care about Virginia or its citizens. Kaine should discuss Kilgore's record at Virginia's Attorney General--that's where Jerry fell down on the job and that's what will help Kaine win. Instead Kaine concentrates on issues no one cares about. He can't carry the rest of Virginia (outside of Northern Virginia) on non issues. He better pump it up or the one chance Democrats have to win in the South, is gonna go down the tubes--effeminate voice or not.