Writings and observations

Personal knowledge, political dishonesty

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Check any dictionary in any language and you’ll usually find these two definitions for the word “politician” among the several listed. One will be “a person holding political office.” The second will use the word “devious” in some way. A descriptive word you’ll never find there is “love.”

While historically an honorable profession, our recent experiences have made us use other words to define politicians. “Self-serving.” “Deceitful.” “Dishonest.” “Uncaring.” “Ignorant.” “Out-of-touch.” And worse. Too often, they are apt.

I’d like to see that word – love – used in politics more often because it can be a great “leveler.” In recent days, it publically appears so for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), father of a gay son. Long an outspoken conservative voice opposing gay marriage and any other homosexual recognition efforts, Portman is now getting a lot of sympathy for changing his gay marriage stance. It’s no longer just another “safe” political topic to include in speeches to his “conservative” base. It’s become a personal issue dealing with a loved one. Well, good for him. Let’s show the Portman’s – father and son – a little love. But not too much for the Senator.

Portman is only the most recent ardent Republican foe of gay marriage to seem to have a “come-to-Jesus” moment on the matter. Probably the most notable figure to be similarly affected is former VP Dick Cheney. Early in his career in Congress, neo-con Cheney’s was just another contemptible voice loudly damning the country’s gay community. Then – BANG. Suddenly he had a teen lesbian daughter who “came out.” Cheney quickly did a 180 and said marriage should be allowed for “any two people who love each other.” Very similar to the Portman “conversion.”

Except for one thing. When Mitt Romney looked around for a vice presidential running mate over a year ago, Portman’s name was right there near the top of the list. To Romney, Portman was the quintessential, very compatible candidate. Experienced. Squeaky clean. Popular with the GOP base. Represented a large swing state. Matching positions on all the major issues. Including Portman’s oft-pronounced opposition to – wait for it – gay marriage and other issues of homosexuality.

Romney’s search team called him in many months before the election. He was vetted in all possible ways. It was then – over a year ago – that Portman told Romney’s people his son was gay. He was immediately dropped from consideration. Banished.

Which is why I said hold up a bit for all that love stuff. Because Portman’s high-profile and very public voice of opposing homosexual issues has been constant all these many months. Unchanged. Until March 14, 2013. When his son’s sexual orientation became public. But Portman admits his son “came out” to him more than two years ago.

Now the Senator is making the talk show rounds – portraying himself as a loving, understanding and accepting father. Which I’m certain he is. But he’s also “deceitful” and “dishonest.” And “devious.” The other words that too often describes today’s politicians. Because – in all those months – for more than two years – he maintained his public, anti-gay positions in the public conduct of his office. His “Damascus Road” conversion came only when the family secret was suddenly media fodder. March 14, 2013. But it was something he’d known for two years.

Whatever your views on gay marriage or any other issue, they’re your views and a part of who you are. You’re entitled to them. But – if you hold yourself out for elective office – if you repeatedly try to win public support to get and keep you there – if you espouse positions on issues political and social directly contrary to your personal practices – all those negative words apply. And more.

Portman’s conduct during all that time had less to do with love and more to do with covering his political butt.

I applaud Sen. Portman for loving and supporting his son. But there’s a bit of hypocrisy here that taints the story. Given the length of time he knew of the situation – while keeping his crafted public image of being a staunch opponent of the same reality he knew at home – that undermines the media trek he’s now on.

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