The Corner

The Outing

Jonah: Signorile’s article on Mikulski is despicable–although it appears to have had the desired effect, or at least can plausibly claim to have had it. My temptation is to ignore it, because Signorile’s goal obviously is to encourage gossip. I can’t allow a couple of his claims about my old boss, Linda Chavez, to go unanswered, however. Signorile says that Chavez was guilty of “gay-baiting” Mikulski in their 1986 Senate race because she accused Mikulski of being a “San Francisco Democrat.” This has become a piece of liberal mythology–i.e., anybody using the term “San Francisco Democrat” is a homophobe. Well, the term actually has a different pedigree. It came into vogue when Jeane Kirkpatrick, speaking as a registed Dem at the 1984 GOP convention, talked about the “San Francisco Democrats” who were weak on foreign policy. She mentioned San Francisco because that’s where the Democrats had gathered for their own convention to nominate Walter Mondale a few weeks earlier. Kirkpatrick’s words would be the equivalent of Zell Miller talking about the “Boston Democrats” this year. Given the recent ruling of the Massachusetts high court on gay marriage, I suppose that term would be considered anti-gay as well. For what it’s worth, Chavez had called Mikulski not just a SF Dem, but “a San Francisco-style, George McGovern, liberal Democrat.” That’s not gay-baiting, that’s accurate. Signorile’s discussion of Mikulski aide Teresa Mary Brennan is equally one-sided–Chavez was trying to make an issue of Brennan’s self-professed Marxism, not her sexual orientation. Finally, lest any of Signorile’s readers come away with the false impression that Mikulski’s campaign against Chavez was pure as the driven snow, it tried to make political hay out of Chavez’s marriage to a Jewish man. Writes Chavez in her memoir, An Unlikely Conservative: “It is hard to remember a political campaign since President John F. Kennedy’s when a candidate’s religion was made more of an issue than mine was during my Senate race–while all the groups usually quick to condemn such tactics remained noticeably silent.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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