Sunday, May 15, 2005

Oh, that's (Frank) Rich: A "queer" eye for the homophobic conservative guys

Although his weekly columns in the Times occasionally degenerate into repetition, one-sidedness, and an excessive effort to drive a point home (last year's columns on Mel Gibson come to mind (however much I agreed with his overall point), as well as his many references to Desperate Housewives as some sort of cultural barometer (in my view, an unwatchable, melodramatic prime-time soap)), Frank Rich remains a must-read for me (as he should for anyone who cares about the state of our culture). In fact, there is no other columnist, in the U.S. or elsewhere, whose work I look forward to more than his -- though E.J. Dionne at the Post and a few at Slate and The New Republic aren't too far behind.

Today's column begins as a review of the 1962 political thriller Advise and Consent, now available on DVD, a film about the confirmation battle over a nominee for secretary of state (Henry Fonda) that includes a "pivotal gay plot twist". I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that Otto Preminger's adaptation of the popular Allen Drury novel includes its share of gay-baiting by the nominee's political opponents, and thus, in Rich's view, it may be seen now "in a highly contemporary light":

[I]n the years since, even as it has ceased to be a crime or necessarily a political career-breaker to be gay, unprincipled gay-baiting has mushroomed into a full-fledged political movement. It's a virulent animosity toward gay people that really unites the leaders of the anti-"activist" judiciary crusade, not any intellectually coherent legal theory (they're for judicial activism when it might benefit them in Florida). Their campaign menaces the country on a grander scale than Drury and Preminger ever could have imagined: it uses gay people as cannon fodder on the way to its greater goal of taking down a branch of government that is crucial to the constitutional checks and balances that "Advise and Consent" so powerfully extols...

Which judges do these people admire? Their patron saint is the former Alabama chief justice Roy S. Moore, best known for his activism in displaying the Ten Commandments; in a ruling against a lesbian mother in a custody case, Mr. Moore deemed homosexuality "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature" and suggested that the state had the power to prohibit homosexual "conduct" with penalties including "confinement and even execution." Another hero is William H. Pryor Jr., the former Alabama attorney general whose nomination to the federal bench was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A Pryor brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography.

As I implied in a recent post, both the Bolton vote and the filibuster quagmire, however important in and of themselves, amount to a prologue to the main story of the upcoming summer: the battle over Bush's more controversial (because extreme) judicial nominees to the federal bench (and possibly a Supreme Court nominee and a nominee for chief justice when current chief justice William Rehnquist retires). These nominees are very much in the mold of Moore and Pryor. The other day, Post columnist Richard Cohen put it this way:

Senate Republicans... are threatening to do away with this hallowed senatorial procedure so that seven of George Bush's judicial appointments can be confirmed. They are the Odious Seven, men and women of such extreme views on matters such as abortion or the role of government that they -- and they alone of 229 judicial appointments the president has made -- are deemed unworthy by the Democrats to be elevated to the federal bench.

These nominees -- conservative activists all -- would dismantle certain of the pillars of the liberal state (as I argued recently). They would also reverse the progress that has been made in recent years for gay rights -- even worse, they would legalize some sort of sub-citizen (if not sub-human) status for gays and lesbians (indeed, for anyone who doesn't fit properly into their bigoted misconception of human sexuality).

The Republican Party's embrace of these nominees is yet another sign that it has become the party of religious fanaticism and political theocracy. This is precisely why Democrats must stand united -- and hope that a few moderate Republicans join them in doing the right thing.

Bookmark and Share


  • Personally,I adhere to "liberal" views on abortion and "conservative" views on homosexuality,and consider the "liberal" view on homosexuality and the "conservative" view on abortion to be utter poison to society.I gather you adhere to "liberal orthodoxy".I find myself faced with few public figures who I can support without seeing harm done to my conception of the public good!
    I am a Democrat,and opposed to theocracy...but treating a homosexual's refusal to be celibate as more deserving of societal approval than an alcoholic's refusal to be sober is by my lights an outrage to secular common sense.
    (On other "cafeteria liberal" issues,I am totally opposed to capital punishment AND to any form of assisted suicide/euthanasia).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 PM  

  • Yes, there aren't many political figures who share your views on these wedge issues. I'm not sure that consistency is even possible.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 8:24 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home