Bush Pulls Back from Meeting with Gays

Confusing Comments Raise Larger, More Serious Questions About Bush; The Man is Not Living Up to the Image, Says Log Cabin Republicans

November 22, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – After months of cultivating an image as an inclusive Republican who reaches out to minorities, in his first major network television interview Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) said yesterday that he would "probably not" meet with Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest gay GOP organization, while insisting that he is "someone who is a uniter, not a divider."

"I don't believe in group thought," Bush said to Tim Russert on NBC-TV's Meet the Press, "pitting one group of people against another. And all that does is create a huge political nightmare for people."

At the same time in separate interviews yesterday, Bush's two main rivals differed with him on meeting with Log Cabin Republicans. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) met with Log Cabin Republicans on November 8, and defended it on CBS-TV's Face the Nation, saying he believes "strongly in the party of Abraham Lincoln, and the Log Cabin Republicans are part of our party." Steve Forbes said on CNN's Late Edition that he, too, would be open to meeting with Log Cabin Republicans.

Bush's comments further muddled his image on inclusion within the GOP, and his specific positions on the role of gays in society. In April, Bush told the New York Times that he would have no problem appointing openly gay people to his administration, even as ambassadors, saying: "As a general statement, if someone can do a job, and a job that he's qualified for, that person, that person ought to be allowed to do his job." In September, Scripps-Howard News Service reported that Bush had pledged to a group of religious conservatives not to "knowingly" hire a gay person, but wouldn't fire someone who was later "discovered" to be gay. While Bush's campaign has sought $1,000 contributions from openly gay Republicans throughout the year, and appointed openly gay Republicans to state campaign steering committees, Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker was asked by the Dallas Morning News in October whether being openly gay would eliminate a person's chances for an appointment in a Bush administration, and replied: "I think so."

"What we saw in this interview is that Bush is not living up to the image of an inclusive candidate that his campaign has been pushing," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "He was all over the place in his responses. He meets with scores of groups, including the Christian Coalition, and lectures the Republican Party on the importance of reaching out to minority groups like Latinos and African Americans, and now says he won't meet with gays because we are a "group." His position on adoption was confusing, almost advocating a "don't ask, don't tell" child care policy."

"This raises serious questions about Governor Bush that go beyond the gay issue," Tafel said. "He's run a Rorschach campaign, reflecting back what donors and supporters want to hear even if the messages completely contradict each other. It has raised a lot of money, and brought in a lot of endorsements, but without core principles it falls apart."

"He said that meeting with gay Republicans would create a political nightmare for people, and the only people he could be referring to are those on the far right that his campaign is busy claiming Bush is not captive to," Tafel said. "This raises the most difficult questions for moderate Republican elected officials who have endorsed Bush."

Earlier in the year during the more intensive fundraising period, the Bush campaign had agreed to a meeting with Log Cabin Republicans, but one was never formally scheduled.