CommunityPam's House Blend

When allies zero in on the cozy relationship between the WH and HRC, it's game over

Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher is saying what we uncouth LGBT bloggers of dissent have been saying all along — the cozy relationship between the HRC and the Obama administration serves to primarily to boost Democratic party interests ahead of policy advances for the LGBT community.

Michael Petrelis made this observation about the Valerie Jarrett “lifestyle choice flap:

On Wednesday when Jarrett’s comments roiled the gay community and progressive bloggers, thousands of words were spilled from all sides about her remarks, but America’s largest gay Democratic advocacy org, the HRC, had not a peep to say about it all. Of course, no sane person would expect HRC, after slavishly avoiding even the mildest and meekest bit of criticism against the Obama administration’s screwing of the gay community without a rubber or any lube, to issue a rebuke to Jarrett. She is after all, a Democrat and HRC executives would rather walk barefoot on glass than slam a Democrat.

Jane echoed the same sentiment below.

The much greater problem is that the comments do reveal Jarrett to be unfamiliar with the discourse in the LGBT community for the past 40 years. Which doesn’t make her a leper either – it’s hard to be up on the crosscurrents of every community all the time. The problem is that Jarrett is ultimately in charge of LGTB relations at the White House. Brian Bond, the LGBT liaison and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, reports directly to her.

Josh Gerstein writes today that Rahm Emanuel was the one in the White House who “sought to avoid a showdown with the military over the issue.” As Obama was making critical decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan, he “didn’t want the process derailed by the culturally freighted gays-in-the-military fight.”

So when White House senior staff were discussing how to proceed on DADT, who was the one tasked with representing the concerns of the LGTB community? Who answered Rahm on their behalf? Ultimately in the White House food chain, that was Jarrett.

And once again, this brings us back to the problem of the veal pen. The White House chooses “friendly” groups who won’t force them into uncomfortable positions to represent the concerns of various constituencies. The Center for Biological Diversity isn’t invited to the Tuesday Common Purpose meetings, the Sierra Club is. If choice groups want to express their concerns to the White House, they have to go through NARAL’s Nancy Keenan. And when the White House wants to interact with LGBT groups, they communicate with (and through) the HRC.

Which is why it’s extremely troubling that the HRC goes after Republican Joe Buck for his comments on “lifestyle choice,” but doesn’t speak up when Jarrett does the same. I agree that Buck uses the words with the same intent as Tony Perkins – to demean gay people and justify his support for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s much, much worse than anything Jarrett did. But Joe Buck isn’t in charge of anything.

HRC covers Obama’s left flank. They are the principal communicators with the White House, and they’re not communicating. They use their clout and resources to marginalize LGTB activists who criticize the White House, branding them as “extreme” and “irrational” within the community. They clearly see their roles as Democratic operatives who insulate the White House from the heat being applied at the grassroots level, and use LGBT issues to advance the Democratic Party’s agenda.

When the progressive allies of our community (who are dealing with the failures of this administration to properly address myriad issues) are blogging about how rank and blatant the LGBT shell game is that is going on, it really is game over. Joe and Co. at HRC have pulled the wool over the eyes of no one (save the die-hard Obama supporters) during these last two years.

And this is why we have written criticism about this WH and Gay Inc. on the Blend at length and in detail for quite some time. What is extremely trying is having to deal with apologists who want to, in advance, blame the messenger for reduced turnout at the polls or suppressing voter interest.

Ahem — it’s the actions of those purportedly working on our behalf in the WH and lobbying the Hill that have let us down. Discussing those shortcomings on this blog has always been accompanied by calls to vote, to go out and support pro-equality officials running for office — and to keep the gAyTM closed for organizations that aren’t doing their jobs and holding feet to the fire of those in the White House who are obstructionists. You’d think that for all of the millions HRC pulls in each year it would at least educate Jarrett and other people of influence who are woefully out of touch with the problems we face out here.

HRC continues to churn out nice press releases and e-blasts, and focus on NOM and other non-legislative matters, hoping to distract from the very fact that its DADT repeal strategy has failed; we’re left with only the courts moving the ball forward, and a Senate that has no chance of passing the weakened measure in the Def Auth bill that doesn’t even stop the discharges. ENDA is dead for this year, DOMA’s going nowhere (other than becoming an issue because of DADT).

What we’ve pointed out is that the system is broken – not that we don’t need a HRC, but that the leadership has failed, and when that happens in the real world, heads roll, there’s a shakeup within, and those who are working at the ground level have to have their morale restored by seeing assertive leadership that will challenge the White House. The question I always think about is this clear ambivalence we see – does HRC believe the LGBT community has clout or not– which is it? Going by what we’ve learned, through leaks and reporting by the LGBT media, it’s not clear.

The WH certainly wouldn’t know that we’re anything other than we’re an ATM; no threats are made. We don’t even know if HRC believes it could marshal a serious threat that the WH would take seriously. So it’s back to the niceties said at the annual dinner, the invites to the next social function that takes precedence. We’re left with the goose egg on the big ticket items and some appreciated, but almost all non-permanent Cinderella Crumbs as a consolation prize.

Does the HRC board believe in accountability and performance? This year presents a challenge — if they’ve been paying attention at all. There are really “no excuses” left, to use a phrase appropriated by HRC for its campaign from The Dallas Principles to sell more T-Shirts. It’s always about smoke and mirrors to make it look like something politically fierce is going on. Of course there’s nothing wrong if something is actually going on, but watching the back-patting, for instance, regarding the back-channel compromising on DADT to save it from complete death is the symptom of the problem. No fear, no gain. Ask the NRA.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding