Okay, that was an admittedly sensational headline….but you will see my point after I’m done I hope.
In its Sunday edition, The New York Times published transcripts of secret tapes of then-Governor George W. Bush. The tapes were made by a former Bush aide, Doug Wead, who apparently recorded Bush without his knowledge. In my neck of the woods, by the way, that is illegal.
LittleGreenFootballs has a good sum-up. (Hat tip to GP Reader, V the K)
The Times highlights a very important struggle Bush was having with conservative Christian leaders over gays in America.
Bush’s words are very insightful, and frankly not surprising to me since I have always believed that Bush is a good man.
But Mr. Bush also repeatedly worried that prominent evangelical Christians would not like his refusal “to kick gays.” At the same time, he was wary of unnerving secular voters by meeting publicly with evangelical leaders. When he thought his aides had agreed to such a meeting, Mr. Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, “What the hell is this about?”
The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush. Many of the taped comments foreshadow aspects of his presidency, including his opposition to both anti-gay language and recognizing same-sex marriage, his skepticism about the United Nations, his sense of moral purpose and his focus on cultivating conservative Christian voters.
Who have thunk it?
Early on, though, Mr. Bush appeared most worried that Christian conservatives would object to his determination not to criticize gay people. “I think he wants me to attack homosexuals,” Mr. Bush said after meeting James Robison, a prominent evangelical minister in Texas.
But Mr. Bush said he did not intend to change his position. He said he told Mr. Robison: “Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I’m not going to kick gays, because I’m a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?”
Later, he read aloud an aide’s report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: “This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It’s hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however.”
“This is an issue I have been trying to downplay,” Mr. Bush said. “I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.”
Told that one conservative supporter was saying Mr. Bush had pledged not to hire gay people, Mr. Bush said sharply: “No, what I said was, I wouldn’t fire gays.”
As early as 1998, however, Mr. Bush had already identified one gay-rights issue where he found common ground with conservative Christians: same-sex marriage. “Gay marriage, I am against that. Special rights, I am against that,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead, five years before a Massachusetts court brought the issue to national attention.
So glory be… it is indeed possible to oppose gay marriage on moral and policy grounds and yet not hate gay people and think they should be thrown in concentration camps.
(For the record, I am lukewarm on gay marriage, support civil unions, oppose FMA, oppose court-ordered gay marriage, and believe gay marriage — as an issue — needs to wait as a priority for this nation. We are in a war, people.)
It is now quite clear based on the President’s private comments dating back seven years that he is not the anti-gay devil that the fundraisers in the gay community wish he was.