The bi-curious case of the closeted Neocons: Outrage ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 23, 2009)

If you want to know about the gay politician
If you want to know how to drive your car
If you want to know about the new sex position
You can read it in the Sunday papers, read it in the Sunday papers

-Joe Jackson

Speaking as the court jester, class clown, resident buffoon (take your pick) here among the otherwise accomplished and well-respected political writers at Digby’s Hullabaloo, what I am about to do could be construed as tantamount to biting the hand that feeds me, but I want you to know that I do this out of love. Think of it as an intervention. My esteemed colleagues have a dirty little secret, and I’m going to out them, right  here, right now. Okay…are you ready?

Hypocrisy is their bread and butter.

There, I’ve said it. Mind you, this “hypocrisy” of which I speak is not in reference to what they write, but what they write about. Because let’s face it-if hypocrisy did not proliferate in politics like the weeds on the banks of the Potomac, they would not have much to write about. And I’ll wager that they would sleep better, stop yelling at the tube, and not have to keep blood pressure pills in a Pez dispenser.

Political hypocrisy is certainly nothing new, nor is it a particularly partisan phenomenon when one is speaking in general terms. However, one of the biggest head-scratchers in recent years is revelation after revelation concerning closeted Republican politicians who refuse to publicly address gay rights issues and have a record of consistently voting down legislation that would benefit the LGBT community. The explanations for this  behavior may not be as cut and dry as you might think, according to a fascinating, provocative new documentary from Kirby Dick, called Outrage.

Dick grabs your attention right off the bat, with audio excerpts from the police interrogation of Senator Larry Craig after his arrest for “homosexual lewd misconduct” in a restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. However, it soon becomes clear that the film is not going to be just a collage of sensationalized “outings” or a prurient rehash of high-profile media circuses like the Craig case.

Instead, the film specifically targets those closeted politicians who play the charade by cloaking themselves in the time-honored “family values” meme of the conservative Right. It’s not about calling these public servants out on the fact that they are living a lie in their personal life, per se; rather, it patiently illustrates how this type of self-deluding behavior by people in positions of power not only does a disservice to their constituents at large, but contributes to the continued sociopolitical suppression of the LGBT community.

The director finds a perfect framing device by profiling Blogactive’s Michael Rogers, who has been on a diligent one-man crusade to out every closeted politician who has voted down gay rights issues. There are also archival and new interviews with the likes of ex-New Jersey governor James McGreevey (who outed himself after resigning his post), the former Mrs. McGreevey, current Florida governor Charlie Crist, and Congressman Barney Frank (who offers the most pragmatic perspective on the issue).

In one of my favorite scenes, Dick cleverly parses the by-now-familiar footage of McGreevey’s final press conference as governor by deliberately zooming in on his wife’s blanched, incredulous facial expression (I think I now understand what they mean by “looking daggers”) There are surprises as well, like several well-chosen Freudian bloopers by TV anchors (Dick, like Michael Moore, does not forget to entertain, as well as outrage).

The film also gives  historical perspective on the phenomenon; particularly in regard to notorious McCarthyite Roy Cohn (playwright Tony Kushner briefly discusses the fictionalized Cohn character he created for Angels in America). Curiously, the most dangerously powerful closet case of all time, J. Edgar Hoover is not mentioned. Then again, Dick may not have even known where to start; Hoover’s decades-long reign of hypocrisy could easily provide enough material for a Ken Burns-length miniseries in and of itself.

The takeaway for me was this: Anyone who would lie to themselves (about anything of conscience or consequence, not just sexual identity) ideally should never, ever be entrusted to power over the lives of others. Which begs a question: If that credo could be magically imposed, how many people would be left in government? Do you think we could count them on more than one hand?

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