Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm Not Judging You, But You're Going to Burn in Hell

David Gregory is mostly awful, but he's correct here to press Michelle Bachmann on her anti-gay views:

Here's the transcript (you can also watch the full interview, if you like):

MR. GREGORY: OK. I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same sex marriage is defining a political debate in this country. You're opposed to it, you'd like to see a constitutional ban against it in this country. And during a speech that you gave in 2004 at an education conference, you spoke openly and in detail about gays and lesbians. And I want to play just a portion of that speech and have you react, react to it.

(Videotape, November 6, 2004)

REP. BACHMANN: It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It's anything but gay. ... It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that's why this is so dangerous. ... We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I'm not running to be anyone's judge. I do stand very...

MR. GREGORY: But you have judged them.

REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I don't judge them. I don't judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.

MR. GREGORY: Is that the view of gays--gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, my, my view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that's what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think that gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that's, that's honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?

REP. BACHMANN: I am not anyone's judge...


REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not standing in as anyone's judge.

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you have--I mean, do you think anyone hears that and thinks you haven't made a judgment about gays and lesbians?

REP. BACHMANN: That's all I can tell you is that I'm not judging.

MR. GREGORY: So your words should stand for themselves?

REP. BACHMANN: I'm running for the presidency of the United States. That's what's important.

MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint a gay, an openly gay person, to your administration, to your Cabinet, or name them as a judge?

REP. BACHMANN: My criteria would be the same for that--for, for--which would be, where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views. That's my criteria.

MR. GREGORY: But those views are, are, are pretty clear. So you would, you would--as far as judge, you talked about that, an openly gay person is acceptable as a matter of your administration, as a member of your administration?

REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I have, I have my criteria for what I--my appointments would be based on, and it's whether you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you share my views.

MR. GREGORY: So it would not be a factor?

REP. BACHMANN: I am not out asking any other questions.

MR. GREGORY: One last one on this. Can a gay couple with--who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?

REP. BACHMANN: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that's, that's been my view, and I think that's important.

MR. GREGORY: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?

REP. BACHMANN: You know, all of these kind of questions really aren't about what people are concerned about right now. This isn't what--this isn't...

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you said it...

REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not judging them.

MR. GREGORY: You said that any, any candidate for president should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statement. These were defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You're the one who said that same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004. So I'm just asking you about your views on something that has animated your political life.

REP. BACHMANN: Right. I think my views are clear.

The only clear thing is Bachmann's refusal to answer the question, and reluctance to reveal her anti-gay views on national television. Apparently, she thinks viewers are too dumb to suss out her views if she dodges the question. Sure, apart from connecting being gay to Satan and slavery, she's not being judgmental at all.

To my mind, bad "gotcha" journalism involves taking two statements (or positions) from a politician and juxtaposing them without context, presenting a complex issue in a simplistic, black-and-white way that might make for a good headline, but an awfully dumb, shallow discussion. However, often a politician's statement, or shift on a policy, is extremely important and revealing. The point is to get to the truth of the matter and a deeper understanding, whether that be about a politician's hypocrisy and opportunism, or why s/he changed a position for good reasons, or just to make clear what the candidate's true position actually is. Bachmann's been proud of these views in the past. Gregory's right to push her here. Bachmann holds very strong anti-gay views, extreme even in the Republican Party. She should own up to them. If she wants to court her fellow theocrats and bigots as she has in the past, fine, but it's gutless to deny her actual positions. (It reminds me of the cognitive dissonance or ludicrous dishonesty in some racist anti-Obama videos I've seen; fodder for a future post, perhaps.)

This video clip comes via mistermix at Balloon Juice, who was tipped off by Dan Savage, who writes:

Don't ask Michele Bachmann whether gay couples with kids are families. That's not a question Bachmann is willing to answer because she's running for president and that's not an important presidential-type issue question, David Gregory. But a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and deprive kids with gay parents of the benefits and protections of having married parents? That's a presidential issue right there! Ask away! Bachmann will also answer questions about whether gay people should serve in the military—guess what? She's going to singlehandedly reinstate DADT if she's elected president.

Bachmann doesn't want to irritate the conservative base, which is (with few exceptions) strongly anti-gay. But she's bright enough to realize that hating the gays doesn't play with a larger audience. It's not a coherent position, it's not a tolerant position, and it's not a principled position - so let her squirm. I hope more reporters press the candidates for honest, full answers on social issues such as gay rights, abortion and reproductive health. (While we're at it, throw in economics.) Candidates with nutty or dangerous ideas have every right to make their pitches, but they should be forced to own up to their actual positions, and fact-checked on them.

No comments: