1. Hillary Clinton:
Perhaps the most personal question of the evening was posed to Sen. Hillary Clinton by [Melissa] Etheridge, who told Clinton that she had felt personally hurt and abandoned by the Clintons after President Bill Clinton's inauguration....There was a lot of honest effort going on by the President... Why does that seem so funny? It's not just that Bill Clinton and "honest" fit together so poorly or that "honest effort" might get us thinking about sex. It's the sheer strangeness of the locution. She could have said, most directly, the President tried. But she buffers Bill with a lot of mushy verbiage -- "I believe that there was a lot of honest effort going on" -- and with an amorphous set of helpers -- "the vice president and the rest of us." And there's this odd picture of a political activity as impersonal energy -- momentum -- that various groups of people might try to affect. Doesn't one person ever do something? I think we can gain some insight into the mind of Hillary Clinton by thinking deeply about the rhetoric in that one sentence.
"I remember when your husband was elected president. I actually came out publicly during his inaugural week. It was a very hopeful time for the gay community. For the first time, we were being recognized as American citizens. It was wonderful. We were very, very hopeful, and in the years that followed, our hearts were broken. We were thrown under the bus. We were pushed aside. All those great promises that were made to us were broken. ... It is many years later now, and what are you going to do to be different than that? I know you're sitting here now; it's a year out -- more than a year. A year from now, are we going to be left behind like we were before?"
Excerpt of Clinton's response:
"Well, you know, obviously, Melissa, I don't see it quite the way that you describe, but I respect your feeling about it. ... I think that we certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I believe that there was a lot of honest effort going on by the president, the vice president and the rest of us who were trying to keep the momentum going."
Go back and reread Etheridge's words. Look how simple and straightforward they are by comparison. Well, you may think Hillary is smarter or Hillary has a much more difficult task, positioning herself just right for the primaries and the election. But Melissa should be prepared to have her heart broken all over again. Unless somehow the momentum decides to do something different next time.
2. Bill Richardson:
At least one candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, seemed to stumble when asked by Etheridge if he believed homosexuality was a choice or biological.Was that really a "stumble"? Maybe Richardson did waltz into a forum on gay rights unprepared to deal with the most basic gay rights subjects. I seriously doubt that. He's no fool. So what's up? It's possible that he takes science seriously -- as opposed to ideologically -- and he's refraining from making declarations about things that he doesn't know to be scientific fact. It's possible that he may mean -- and I think this is the best position -- that even if homosexuality is a matter of choice -- "preferences" -- gay people deserve equal rights. But I suspect that Richardson is interested in maintaining the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. People who care about gay rights ought to follow up on that, because it's the foundation for justifying discrimination.
"It's a choice," he said at first. "I'm not a scientist. I don't see this as an issue of science or definition."
When pressed on the point that opponents of gay rights often assert that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, Richardson said, "I don't think it's a matter of preferences, I think it's a matter of equality."
His campaign later issued a statement "clarifying" his position: "Let me be clear -- I do not believe that sexual orientation or gender identity happen by choice."