IF YOU DRIVE a Volvo and you do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat," the Bush-Cheney
campaign manager Ken Mehlman—soon to be the head of the Republican National Committee—reportedly
told a meeting of Republican governors last week. "If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun,
you’re voting for George W. Bush."
Since he’s so confident labeling people based on outward characteristics,
Mehlman must understand why his being a 37-year-old "bachelor" who refuses to answer questions
about his sexual orientation is a tip-off to many that he’s a pathetic closet case, and a pretty vile
one at that, having used antigay hatred (aka "moral values") to help elect Bush. Mehlman was actually
boasting to the governors about his slick new strategies, telling them that the Bush-Cheney campaign
studied voters’ consumer habits—basically snooping into voters’ personal lives—in
"We did what Visa did," Mehlman bragged. "We acquired a lot of consumer
data. What magazine do you subscribe to? Do you own a gun? How often do the folks go to church? Where
do you send your kids to school? Are you married? Based on that, we were able to develop an exact kind
of consumer model that corporate America does every day to predict how people vote—not based
on where they live but how they live."
Surely Mehlman can’t complain now that people are talking about his
marital status and how he lives—right? Last week, the blogs were abuzz with stories about
Mehlman, who refused to tell the Washington Blade when asked several weeks ago if he or others
who worked in prominent positions in the campaign are gay. Reporters, according to long-time activist
John Aravosis on his Americablog.org, have in recent days been popping the question to White House
officials, now that Bush has chosen Mehlman to lead the RNC. They’re apparently being told off the
record by the White House that Mehlman is straight, and thus the reporters aren’t running with anything.
But if Mehlman really is heterosexual, why wouldn’t the White House—and Mehlman—say
so on the record? It would certainly end the speculation and calm the suspicions and fears of the
irrepressible leaders of the Christian right , who now believe they’re in the driver’s seat.
Of course, if the White House or the RNC went on record saying Mehlman
is straight, it would invite the media to study the issue further and report facts they may find to
the contrary. By not saying anything, the White House keeps the topic off-limits entirely. The
scared-shitless press corp wouldn’t dare go there and thus be accused of invading Mehlman’s privacy.
And that still invites the question: What is the White House hiding, and why don’t reporters see
it as relevant to discuss in a year in which the Republicans gay-bashed their way to victory?
More than 20 years ago, the noted journalist and former Washington
Monthly editor Taylor Branch wrote a piece in Harper’s headlined, "Closets of Power,"
in which he predicted a future "war of outage" launched by gay activists. That was 1982, almost a
decade before the term and practice of "outing" arrived on the scene, and long before the internet
would become outers’ greatest tool to circumvent the arrogant corporate media.
"If the ‘war of outage’ comes, and readers suddenly look up to find a homosexual
on every street corner and a prominent official coming out of every closet, journalists will more
than likely join in a panic they could have helped avoid," Branch wrote, prophetically. Last week
the "war of outage" indeed arrived at the RNC, and journalists were certainly scrambling to figure
out what to do. In addition to the speculation about Mehlman in the week that it was announced Bush
chose him to run the RNC, a lurid story surfaced about Dan Gurley, the RNC’s deputy field director,
spurring a whole new round of phone calls and no doubt making Mehlman and the rest of the bunch very
Both Blogactive.com and Rawstory.com ran stories claiming that Gurley,
whom both sites said oversaw antigay mailings that went out from the RNC, was seeking multiple-partner
"bareback" sex online with other men. Both sites have a track record on outing, and have made an impact
in recent months outing closeted members of Congress and RNC staff. John Byrne at Rawstory.com
reported that California Republican Congressman David Dreier (who would not tell me in an interview
on my radio program whether he is gay or straight) was involved with his male chief of staff, with
whom he shared a residence. Dreier, who’d been a primary surrogate for the Bush campaign, seemed
to suddenly curtail all public appearances after the story was picked up in L.A. Weekly,
and he refused to address the story or the question of his sexual orientation. Mike Rogers at Blogactive.com
had posted the audio of Virginia Republican Congressman Ed Shrock’s gay phone-line personals,
forcing Shrock to resign in September.
Gurley had actually been outed as gay by Rogers on Blogactive.com several
weeks ago, and confirmed to the Washington Blade that he is indeed gay after the weekly newspaper
inquired. He’d said he saw no conflict being gay and working for the RNC in such a prominent role,
which is about as deep in denial as one can get. That may be why, if the story of his online sexcapades
are true, he was trawling the web last week, complete with face photos of himself that identified
him completely, looking for unprotected sex and announcing that he’s in an open relationship,
which certainly doesn’t square with the RNC’s "moral values" crusade. Blogactive.com and Rawstory.com
had screen shots that depicted a Gay.com personals page with Gurley’s photos and all of his sexual
interests, including well-known abbreviations, such as b/b ("bareback"). When Byrne from Rawstory.com
interviewed Gurley about it, he admitted that the Gay.com screen name was his, but said he’d canceled
it weeks ago and that this was someone who’d recycled his screen name and was pulling a horrible prank.
But Byrne confirmed with Gay.com that screen names there are always retired forever when someone
cancels them, never able to be used again.
Bizarrely, Gurley took a call from Mike Rogers last week too, who pointed
out to Gurley that Gay.com screen names can’t be recycled, to which Gurley had no adequate explanation.
Rogers taped the conversation—and told Gurley several times it was all on tape—and
played the tape for me, which included a receptionist or assistant at the RNC answering the phone
and then putting it through to Gurley, who took the call. Gurley, who seemed completely rattled,
stayed on the phone for 17 minutes, strangely trying to spin the information even as he denied it
was his personal page. He noted that he’d soon be leaving the RNC, now that his work on the campaign—and
helping to elect George W. Bush—was complete. No doubt Ken Mehlman and the gang are glad he’s
going, if indeed they didn’t push him out. But the "war of outage" at the RNC looks like it is only just