Saturday, April 18, 2009

Taken to Task over Steve Schmidt

My post yesterday about Steve Schmidt, along with one from the HuffPo's Mark Nickolas, did not sit well with Mr. Bispo.

Schmidt called yesterday for the Republican Party to support same-sex marriage. Mr. Bispo did not like Nickolas's or my dubiousness about Schmidt's motivations. Mr. Bispo argues on behalf of Schmidt's history of sincerity on this issue with a fair amount of supporting documentation, and says, regarding me:

It's shame that I need to defend Schmidt from a liberal.

He adds that Nickolas and I should have done research about Schmidt's stance on this issue before mouthing off.

Points taken.

I would say in response, first, that I stand firmly behind my original hedging:

Of course, Steve Schmidt is right out of the Karl Rove mold, so for him, it's just as likely he only cares about this in the context of it being a winning or losing issue.

Emphasis added.

As to the question of research, eh. In a world of infinite charity toward all, yes. But given Schmidt's record of employers, one of whom (George W. Bush) ran for president in coordination with a vicious anti-gay marriage message that meshed with a multi-state ballot initiative to ban it (coordinated by Karl Rove), not to mention Schmidt's well-documented repugnant style during the past campaign, I'm not going to feel overwrought that I failed to consider the possibility that he's got his head on straight right concerning this one issue. Still, though, maybe he does. Mr. Bispo makes a good case, at least.

So, Mr. Schmidt, if you're reading this and Mr. Bispo is right about you, I apologize if I seemed dismissive of your sincerity on this issue in my last post, and I wish you the best of luck in continuing to push for support of same-sex marriage and in dealing with the haters on your own side.

I should also be say that I (like Nickolas) wrote in response to reports that you were planning to speak, not in response to what you said. In light of that, I am happy to point readers to what appears to be the full text of your delivered remarks: Look for the heading, "Steve Schmidt speech April 17, 2009 to Log Cabin Republicans," partway down the page on Box Turtle Bulletin.


ArtSparker said...

Not personally acquanited with these people, but I would argue that self-interested pragmatatism is a step up up from apocalypse-happy "If I can't have this country, nobody else can" talk/incitement to the base.

bjkeefe said...

My first instinct is to agree. No, who am I kidding ... my first instinct is always to disagree. But my second instinct was to agree, and now here is my third thought (?).

There is something to be said for your outlook. Certainly, it is no fun trying to deal with someone whose attitude is my way or the highway, and when the issue at hand is one of civil rights and basic human decency, it's really quite noisome to have to suffer those who insist upon remaining stridently against.

There's another piece in your favor, too: If you get the leaders of a movement to stop hammering on an issue, at least some of the followers are going to relax about it. They'll stop looking for "reasons" to stay opposed, they'll stop hunting for excuses to be outraged, they'll get on with their lives and maybe even eventually realize that's all that was being asked of them -- that everyone be allowed to live their own lives. One could doubtless come up with plenty of analogies from the past, in which strident opposition to the rights of other groups was dropped as a plank in the platform, time went on, and almost everybody (or their kids) came to realize it was no big deal, to the extent that they later thought about it at all.

And, of course, our own pragmatic considerations here make us happy -- that Steve Schmidt is (finally) reading national trends correctly and sees changing his party's tune on this issue as better for them means we get what we want that much sooner. Another win for liberalism. And maybe we can all move on to address some real problems.

However, in the case of a top political operative like Steve Schmidt, "self-interested pragmatism" is precisely what one worries about. I have a gut feeling, strengthened by many anecdotes, that Karl Rove and for that matter, George W. Bush, are not particularly homophobic. It was, instead, their very pragmatism that led them to identify opposition to same-sex marriage as an issue that could be used to rally a chunk of the population. That is, personally, they were not ever morally opposed to same-sex marriage; they are largely amoral, and their only real driver is the quest for power.

It has long been the case that most of the leadership in the GOP view the religious right only as a group to be used. However, given what the GOP tends to do once they get themselves into power (wreck the budget with tax cuts for the rich, screw up the economy in general, de-fund worthwhile programs, start wars, etc.), there is reason to worry when a guy like Steve Schmidt proposes what is easy (if maybe incorrect) to see as just another instance of trying to put a kinder, gentler face on the Republican Party. For as obnoxious as it is to have to defeat the forces of intolerance, the advantage for our side from a larger perspective is that bigoted attitudes are in the minority, which means as long as the GOP keeps themselves tied to the extremists and haters, we get to keep all of the rest of their bad ideas from being implemented, too.

Aaahhhh, I guess I don't really find that a compelling argument, having thought about it out loud. It is a an attempt to rationalize an emotional reaction (to Schmidt) to some extent. So here is my fourth reaction:

Good point.

ArtSparker said...

Thanks, I have a list of people who push my buttons too.