Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Barney Frank got back at a GA pol for years of Senate homophobia

Politico's long excerpt from Barney Frank's new autobiography, Frank; a life in politics from the Great Society to same sex marriage, is fascinating.
     Included is how Frank placated both of the gay journalists from the Boston Globe vying to break his self-outing, how he threatened a nuclear outing of GOP closet cases if Lee Atwater didn't stop his dirty tricks whispering campaign against Rep. Tom Foley, and how he decided that two prominent Democrats were fueling a whisper campaign against House majority leader Tom Foley.
     But here's the part in which Frank paid Sen. Sam Nunn back for years of homophobic actions in the Senate:
     ...There is a postscript to the fight over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that I promised Clinton I’d keep secret. But I now feel free to reveal it because Clinton himself brought it up in a conversation with Taylor Branch that would be published with Clinton’s consent in Branch’s book The Clinton Tapes. Branch, whose work on Martin Luther King Jr. is brilliant journalism that I wish every activist would read, is a strong admirer of Sam Nunn and apparently asked Clinton why he had not appointed Nunn to a major national security post in his second term. Nunn had in fact hoped to become secretary of state. Clinton replied that it was my fault, referring to a memo I had sent him.
     I am delighted to plead guilty as charged. After the 1996 election, one of Clinton’s top aides called to warn me that the president was on the verge of making Nunn secretary of state. I started to complain, and the response I got was, “Don’t complain to me. I agree with you, but I haven’t been able to stop it and that’s why I am calling you.”
     I immediately composed a memo to Clinton in which I said that Nunn had a consistent record of homophobia. He had fired two men from his staff because they were “security risks” back at a time when the anti-gay order was still in effect. He had vigorously led the fight against allowing us to serve in the military, and in 1996 when Ted Kennedy cleverly forced a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, Nunn was one of only five Democrats to vote against us.
     In other words, I wrote to Clinton, Nunn has been one of the most effective and dedicated opponents of fair treatment for LGBT people. I have defended you, I went on, against those who have unfairly, in my judgment, accused you of selling us out on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell issue. But if you appoint this man, who has done so much to harm us, to the most prestigious position you have to give, you will do more to validate those criticisms than I could do to rebut them. I passionately told Clinton that he should not do this to those of us who had been his strongest supporters.
     I must acknowledge that I got some personal satisfaction from apparently frustrating Nunn’s aspiration to be secretary of state. But I also thought that something crucial was at stake: Being a leading opponent of fair treatment for LGBT people should be considered a disqualification for high honor within the Democratic Party. No comparable opponent of fair treatment for African-Americans, women or any other group would have been considered for such a post. I am proud that I helped establish the principle that we should receive equal consideration.

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