The Magazine

Log Cabin Blues

Bush, McCain, and the controversy over gay Republicans

Dec 20, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 14 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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Tafel and Ivers say that it was around this time that Rove stopped returning their calls. Then came the Russert interview. Tafel's theory is that once Bush had raised all the money he could from gay supporters, there was no political benefit to be gained (and much political risk) from associating with the Log Cabin Republicans: "They were in fund-raising mode," Tafel says, "and they ran a fund-raising campaign first. Then it became a policy campaign."

Karl Rove snorts at the theory. The real reason Bush refused to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, he says, is that they are media hounds with a hidden agenda and a penchant for embarrassing front-runners. (Bob Dole, you'll remember, reaped an enormous amount of bad press in 1996 as he deliberated over whether or not to return the group's $ 1,000 donation.) For over a year, says Rove, Tafel and Ivers demanded a meeting with Bush in Austin. "They were very insistent when the legislature was in session that they needed to come immediately. And it was all because there were issues in the legislature. Ivers was very direct about it: 'Rich wants to come down and have a dialogue with the governor about hate crimes.'"

When Rove explained that Bush was too busy, he says Ivers gave him a lecture about the importance of the gay vote: "'We think you're making a terrible mistake. There are 1,000,000 gay Republicans.' And they have their little litany about how significant this vote is and what needs to be done to cultivate it, and you know, through them is The Way." Rove wasn't impressed. "We've got a lot of gay Republicans involved in the campaign, on task forces and steering committees and so forth. But our thought was that it was not a high priority to meet with these two guys because their interest was in generating publicity for themselves." Not only that, says Rove, Log Cabin never planned to support Bush anyway. "They're doing a fund-raiser for John McCain."

It's true that Log Cabin is holding a McCain fund-raiser. McCain first met with Log Cabin representatives in mid-November. At the meeting, Ivers says, McCain's staff asked Log Cabin to raise money for the candidate. But Ivers swears it was only after Bush insulted the group on television that Log Cabin agreed to do it. As it stands, the fund-raiser is scheduled for December 14. Log Cabin members from around the country will meet over the Internet and make their donations by credit card. "McCain is going to address everyone by speaker-phone," Ivers says excitedly.

Howard Opinsky, McCain's campaign spokesman, says he is unaware of the fund-raiser, but makes the point that McCain has not been a noted gay rights activist during his years in the Senate. McCain (like Bush) opposes gay adoption and gay marriage. He supports the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. "On an issue by issue basis, he doesn't line up on most of their issues," Opinsky says.

Still, a fund-raiser is a fund-raiser, and even Karl Rove doesn't seem eager to dismiss the idea of reconciliation. "The governor did not say he would not meet with them," Rove points out. "He said 'probably not.'"

Tucker Carlson is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.