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Bill Clinton, John Kerry camps at odds over 2004 statement tossing gays under the bus

Americablog nails this one cold. After referencing my recent post  on political consultant Bob Shrum’s assertion in his new book that Bill Clinton told John Kerry to back the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 (not simply back state amendments, which was reported in Newsweek), he decided to call both Bill Clinton and John Kerry’s offices to ask them about it.

Jay Carson, spokesman for President Clinton told me:

  “I checked and it’s completely untrue. He never advised John Kerry to support the gay marriage ban President Bush was pushing.”

A senior Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign staffer told me:

  “It’s definitely true. Newsweek had reported that Clinton had said Kerry should support some of the state [anti-gay] ballot initiatives. Clinton believed it would be this grand master stroke to neutralize Bush’s base.”

I went back to both President Clinton’s office and the Kerry-Edwards campaign official, asking them to reconcile the apparent discrepancy. Clinton’s spokesman stands by his denial – to the best of his knowledge, it didn’t happen. The senior Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign staffer also stands by their statement that it did happen, noting that Clinton’s denial was “typical Clintonian revisionism.”

OK. Someone is lying. Who do you think it was? This news does nothing to alleviate the suspicion that Camp Hillary will play games with the gay vote since her chief strategist, Mark Penn, was her husband’s as well when he ran for re-election.

More after the flip.Man, how can the Clinton camp folks deny it with a straight face, given the well-documented history of the lack of truth-telling? It’s their own fault that the assumption most thinking people have is that their Pinocchio noses are growing.

John goes on to show show the trail of pro-DOMA moves by the Bill Clinton re-election campaign in 1995, when he hired on Dick Morris and Mark Penn. After Penn joined on the Re-elect Big Dog bid, the campaign ran gay-baiting ads on Christian radio to capitalize on Clinton’s signing of DOMA.

After angry complaints from gay rights advocates, the Clinton campaign on Wednesday replaced an ad running on religious radio stations that boasted of the president’s signature on a bill banning gay marriages.

…The Clinton spot also touted his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, in spite of earlier White House complaints that the Republicans’ use of the issue amounted to “gay baiting.”

Well, well. That doesn’t sound like a friend of gays, does it? Does Camp Hillary have a comment about whether this is the kind of triangulation strategy we’ll see in 2008 under Mark Penn, or not?  For Bill Clinton, it was a no brainer. John:

DOMA wasn’t something Bill Clinton was forced to do, it’s something he chose to do, wanted to do, was happy to do. And that explains why Bill Clinton has never repudiated his support for DOMA. I thought at the time, and still thought up until a few days ago, that Bill Clinton was forced to sign DOMA. That the only reason he hadn’t repudiated that support – hadn’t said “look, it was GOP gay-baiting and I didn’t have a choice, no Democrat had a choice” – was because it might put Hillary in a bind, forcing her to also repudiate DOMA, something she of course would WANT to do but couldn’t because it might prove politically dangerous. But now it seems Clinton’s Choice was much clearer, and more calculated, than that. Clinton thought DOMA was a great idea for him then, and thinks it’s a great idea for his wife now. It’s not a necessary evil, it’s manna from heaven.

What about Hillary Clinton? I was glad to see her call for a partial DOMA repeal in her HRC questionnaire response:

“I support repealing the provision of DOMA that may prohibit the federal government from providing benefits to people in states that recognize same sex marriage. I strongly support ensuring people in stable, long-term same sex relationships have full equality of benefits, rights, and responsibilities,” she writes [in a HRC presidential candidate questionnaire].

Clinton spokeman Phil Singer adds, “Sen. Clinton backed the Defense of Marriage Act because it enabled us to fend off right wing attacks like the Federal Marriage Amendment by keeping marriage as the purview of the states. She believes DOMA served an important purpose in that respect. Marriage should be left up to the states.

There is great suspicion in the LGBT community that she’ll talk a good game to get us to open the wallets and give endorsements, but if push comes to shove, the Greyhound will roll over us if the a full-frontal political assault by the right occurs when the race gets tight.

Hillary Clinton would clearly be better than any Republican on gay issues of course; she’d also be better than her husband on those issues — only because the public poll winds on our rights have changed since Bill left office, not because of her commitment to our civil rights.  Otherwise she’d call for the full repeal of DOMA. She maintains a states’ rights position on marriage even as she calls for federal intervention on non-discrimination matters regarding employment with ENDA. Either you’re for civil equality in all realms or not.

Will this brouhaha about the discrepancy between the Kerry and Clinton reps over what occurred in 2004 be addressed by Camp Hillary now, given she shares the strategist on whose watch the gay-bashing tactics for her husband occurred?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding