Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

A Preview of Things to Come

The nutjobs on the “religious” right are coming out in full force. The age of reason apparently hasn’t reached this constituency yet.

Given the heat that the President’s endorsement of marriage equality is generating, we can expect more of this irrational, fact-free rhetoric coming from the right. The fear that the world is changing around them seems to have provoked Perkins and others to behave in even more absurd and backwards ways.

Fortunately, there are folks like Barney Frank who can approach subjects logically and rationally. Is it wrong for me to giggle when Barney Frank makes mincemeat out of Tony Perkins?

If we’re lucky, Congressman Frank will be even more outspoken when he’s no longer in Congress. And if we’re really lucky, Tony Perkins and his kindred spirits will just go away.

America’s Gay Rights Patchwork

Those who are in favor of small federal government often espouse that states can handle legislation more efficiently.

If you ever encounter someone who uses that line of reasoning, please direct them to the interactive graphic that The Guardian published today.  It identifies what laws are in effect to protect LGBT folks on a state-by-state basis.  It’s the most convoluted patchwork of laws that would take a social scientist to decipher.

Click on image to view interactive graphic

It’s mind boggling to think of the legal costs associated with all of the possible cases that might arise from this byzantine mess of legislation.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better argument in favor of a legislating marriage equality, as well as other human rights issues, at the federal level.

View the interactive graphic and the analysis:

Punishing the Victim in Indy

At Arsenal Technical High in Indianapolis, Indiana, bullying is OK but standing up against bullying isn’t.  In its infinite idiocy, the school expelled Darnell “Dynasty” Young when he fired a stun-gun into the air after being surrounded by six people who were bullying him.  The bullies became afraid and left the scene, and Young was safe.  No one was injured.

Young had reportedly been bullied repeatedly since the start of the school year.  When he and his mother reported the bullying to the school authorities, he was told that the bullying basically was his own fault because he was so flamboyant.  If he wanted the bullying to stop, he could adjust his behavior.

So far, none of the bullies has been expelled.

The callousness of the school authorities is stunning but not surprising.  In so many places in the nation, bullying is ignored or tacitly sanctioned by schools, churches, and other institutions who consider bullying to be merely a part of growing up. It’s a pretty safe bet that these institutions are run by people who weren’t on the receiving end of bullying when they were growing up.

There may be Pink Houses in Indiana, but there sure isn’t a pink consciousness.

Read more:

Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

The Vice President, in an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, became the highest ranking U.S. official ever to have endorsed marriage quality. He described himself as “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

The right wing is undoubtedly going to twist Biden’s words around and have a field day with this, but Biden describes the issue in the most understandable way possible.

ACTUP=UNF?

It only took sixteen years.The ‘Silence = Death’ message of the AIDS activist organization ACT UP was a little too unpalatable for its time. The slogan was formulated in response to the Reagan administration’s failure to acknowledge the disease or devote any resources to finding a cure. Back then, it was all but impossible to rustle up any interest in the subject of AIDS.

But flip the pages of the calendar forward a sixteen or so years, and we now see a slightly soft-pedaled variation of that same message – ‘Apathy is Lethal‘ – as a cornerstone of the United Nations Foundation’s campaign to stem this global epidemic. It seems the world view is now virtually identical to the view that the AIDS activist visionaries of the ’80s were professing. Tragically, the delay in adopting such awareness has cost many millions of lives.

I don’t care how sorry anyone now feels for the bumbling old coot. Can anyone still say with a straight face that Reagan wasn’t evil, down to his core? Wouldn’t it be safe to say, since his administration did absolutely nothing regarding AIDS, that ‘Reagan is Lethal’?

Lying Sack of Shit Alert

Under grilling from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Attorney General designate John Ashcroft denied that the fact that sexual orientation had anything to do with his preventing a 1997 senate hearing which would have confirmed James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, who is openly gay, was highly regarded as an ideal nomination by virtually everyone, with the exception of Ashcroft’s co-conspirator, Jesse Helms. Helms managed to hop off his Li’l Rascal just long enough to help contaminate this process. The two wielded their power in order to refuse to allow the nomination come to a vote on the floor of the Senate. At the time, the only reason they gave was that Hormel was gay and that he was therefore not qualified to represent U.S. interests in Luxembourg.

However, when questioned today about this nomination, Ashcroft first said “I don’t believe I put a hold on Mr. Hormel’s nomination.” Then, he repeatedly stammered that his decision to deny this hearing had to do with “the totality of [Hormel’s] record.” Sadly, neither Leahy nor any of the other Senators on the committee pressed Ashcroft any further about what in Hormel’s record, if not the fact that he was gay, would have disqualified him. It is doubtful that Ashcroft could have named any one thing that was objectionable in Hormel’s record, who by all other accounts was pretty much above reproach.(Ultimately, Pres. Clinton did an end run around this travesty and appointed Hormel ambassador while the Senate was in recess.)

You can see the transcript of the hearing in the Washington Post.

P.S. I’ve been threatening for years to dance in the street when Jesse Helms takes his dirt nap. And my dance card is filled to capacity. Will someone please cue up Martha Reeves and the Vandellas?

 

Hey, Norton!

As part of Scary Right-Wing Bitches week, let me respectfully remind you to write your senators to request that they object loudly to George W.’s nomination of former Colorado State Attorney General Gale Norton for the post of Secretary of the Interior. (You can find out how to contact your senators on SayNoToNorton.org.)

Many environmental organizations, including The Sierra Club, have been objecting to her on her environmental record, which in and of itself should be enough to disqualify her from being the chief steward of our natural resources. But don’t forget (or perhaps you didn’t know) that, early in her term as State Attorney General, Ms. Norton was one of the driving forces behind Colorado’s now-overturned Amendment 2, the legislation attempted prohibited individual communities from passing any non-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians. Do we really need this kind of hate-monger in office?