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Abe’s Been Outed; Minor Contest; The Results Are in!


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Jonah Goldberg

ABE’S BEEN OUTED
Now I know that many of my readers are somewhat torn about Abraham Lincoln. When I ran a poll asking whether Lincoln was a Hero or a Tyrant, opinions were pretty evenly split. Many readers were upset that I didn’t have a third category, “both,” because they felt he did heroic things in a tyrannical way (or was it tyrannical things in a heroic way?). I really don’t want to revisit this debate: my email box is overflowing already.

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But thanks to gay rights thug Larry Kramer, we have a new debate (actually an old curiosity wrapped up as a new debate) about the 16th President of the United States. Kramer, the founder of Act-Up and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is working on a new book according to the inestimable reporting of the New York Post’s Page Six. He got the idea for the book from Gore Vidal — a gay rape literary voluptuary (see Chris Caldwell’s brilliant review of The Essential Gore Vidal: A Gore Vidal Reader in the May 3 issue of NR).

Kramer claims that Lincoln was gay and “It’s been kept a secret by stodgy heterosexual historians.” This is not a new idea. Lincoln shared a bed for years with his best friend, Joshua Speed, when they were both young and beginning their careers. This was far from an unusual practice in days when rent attached to the bunk rather than the room and families often shared the same bed. But, Lincoln and Speed corresponded constantly to each other and sometimes the letters sometimes read more affectionately than what you would expect from, say, members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. Still, Lincoln was married had a son and never expressed even the slightest interest in gladiator movies.

Kramer claims he has found a secret diary of Speed’s under the floorboards of his old general store, which details the extent of their love that dare not speak its name. Now, Kramer is a master of political theater. He has been called a Brown shirt and thug by his friends. He wrote an open letter to former Mayor Ed Koch saying he would “torture” him. The writer Calvin Trillin — who considers himself a close friend — has written that Kramer could be “cruel” and that “you could argue that Kramer was a pain in the ass as a matter of policy.”

Kramer called virtually everyone not to his liking a “murderer” including many sympathetic liberal politicians. He tried to ruin the lives of career civil servants who merely tried to give accurate accounts of the AIDS epidemic. He was one of, if not the, chief cheerleader of the lying for justice school of gay activism. Nothing was the fault of the gay community itself, everything was attributable to the murderous policies of the homophobic heterosexual community. He has recently become a little more mainstream and tempered in his rhetoric but he still adheres to the old liberationist dictum that gays are disenfranchised political rebels. He told Playboy, “Gay men had nothing to call our own but our penises, and we tried to make a virtue of that.”

So, when Kramer says that he discovered a secret diary written by Joshua Speed which conveniently outs Abraham Lincoln, slap my wrist and call me Sally for not believing him on face value. Lincoln scholars have been scouring the trail for any new tidbit of Lincolnalia for generations. So the image of Kramer as a modern-day Indiana Jones beating the straight academic Mafia to the punch is hard for me to accept. The fact that he won’t let anyone verify its authenticity sounds pretty convenient too. But he does seem to be honest about what he thinks the lesson must be if people were to buy his “research”: “It would be harder to bash, oppress, condemn or kill gay people if the most beloved president of this country is recognized as having been gay.”

He may be right about that. Who knows? But so far the Left’s attempts to re-write history have not yielded much fruit, so to speak. For example, the deeply politicized “discovery” of Sally Hemmings’s relationship with Thomas Jefferson does not seem to have changed many peoples minds on racial issues.

Besides, modern ideological and identity-politics notions are almost impossibly inadequate when discussing the cultural climate of a century ago. Today we treat Indians as one group, for example. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Indians did not define themselves in contrast to white men — they defined themselves, often, by how many other tribes feared them. It was a rare (and elitist) woman who practiced gender politics over class or religious politics.

I am sure there were plenty of “gay” men in the 19th century, but I’m also sure they didn’t feel that “the only thing” they “owned” were their penises. I mean Lincoln did have that cool hat.

And what if Lincoln was gay? Is the lesson to be drawn that gay people can achieve whatever they set their minds to? Well, I suppose, maybe. But couldn’t an equally plausible interpretation for a young man struggling with his sexuality be that it was only because Lincoln was “in the closet” that he was able to be so successful in the first place?

This sort of silliness will only contribute further to the marginalization of “gay issues” and put the Left in precisely the position they hang on the Right in regards to Clinton. They’ll be arguing about what Lincoln did with his pants off, everyone else will be arguing about what he did with his pants on – as a hero or a tyrant.

MINOR CONTEST!
What is the most relevant specific episode or a certain television series to the discussion in the column above. Send answers to [email protected]

THE RESULTS ARE IN
First I want to congratulate all of the various loyalists of the various presidential aspirants. You cheated with style and panache. Everyone who fought hard for the high ground held it for a while. Forbes, McCain, Buchanan, Quayle and, for a while, Keyes stopped at nothing to steal victory from the clutches of legitimate defeat. My sense is that Buchanan probably would have won if the poll had been totally honest, but the honest-voter turnout seems to have been impressive for everybody. In the end though, Forbes took it. Congratulations Steve!

Some of you took exception to the fact that I did not include a Democrat in the polling but I did include a totally anonymous Chicagoan (Chicagoite? Chicano?). Since that’s a Democratic machine city of ever there was one, I hereby declare that he was the Democrat. I am delighted, by the way, that my readership is bipartisan.

As for the meek, shy, and haughty partisans who believed they were too good to sully themselves with a baldly rigged voting process: well, I say if you don’t have the fire in the belly to accept a challenge to cheat for bragging rights you may not have what it takes to be President in Bill Clinton’s America.

Here are the results:

THE JONAH POLL: Who would you most like to see get the Republican nomination and become President of the United States?

Forbes (91146) ( 32.0%)

McCain (89411) ( 31.4%)

Buchanan (33899) ( 11.9%)

Keyes (31885) ( 11.2%)

Quayle (31700) ( 11.1%)

Bauer (2681) ( 0.9%)

Kasich (1795) ( 0.6%)

Smith (790) ( 0.3%)

The 503,376th name in the Chicago phonebook (680) ( 0.2%)

Alexander (669) ( 0.2%)

Bush (423) ( 0.1%)

Dole (96) ( 0.0%)

Total Votes: 285175 Date Started: 4/29/99



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