One year ago, President Barack Obama delivered an address full of hope and promise at the Human Rights Campaign’s 2009 Annual Dinner, saying, “I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight. For even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot — and we will not — put aside issues of basic equality.”
“Now, I’ve said this before, I’ll repeat it again — it’s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago. But I will say this: We have made progress and we will make more.”
One year later, just two and a half weeks ago, the president sent his senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to speak at HRC’s annual dinner.
This year, after a tenacious spring and disappointing summer, the Obama White House has, some would say, almost gone out of its way to antagonize voters from one of its steadfastly loyal constituencies, the gay community. News over the past few months that the administration’s Department of Justice would appeal federal court rulings that declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA,) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT,) unconstitutional, along with the White House’s almost utter silence on the federal court ruling that found California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, have been met with sheer dismay, disappointment, and growing anger by the LGBT community and its supporters.
Before last week, when little more than lip service was paid — and by only the Department of Education — to news of a rash of anti-gay bullying-related teen suicides that gripped the nation, the gay community rose into anger — and action.
The growing perception throughout America that churches are partly to blame for gay teen suicides, along with many Americans finally equating the anti-gay statements and actions of some religious and so-called “pro-family” organizations with bullying and suicides, has led members of the gay community, a large percentage of whom have remained staunch Hillary Clinton supporters, to see the Secretary of State’s quick response and recent record on LGBT issues within her own domain, as a standard this White House has not met.
Even President’s Obama’s “It Gets Better” video to gay and questioning bullied and harassed teens felt to some as an important, albeit late, gesture, especially given that his Secretary of State had released her own video message days earlier. And when the Department of Justice filed for and received an emergency stay, effectively placing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” back into law on the same day as the first-ever and astonishingly, widely-observed “Spirit Day,” a day designed to honor LGBTQ teen suicide victims, many in the gay community took that as yet another example of a callous and tone-deaf administration.
(Of course, the fact that Secretary of State Clinton wore purple on Spirit Day to a Situation Room meeting in the White House, and the president did not, only helped to cement this perception in the minds of many.)
But could an Associated Press (AP) article, “Gay Voters Angry At Democrats Could Sway Election,” published Sunday afternoon, that spread rapidly throughout major media outlets, be responsible for the Obama White House finally waking up to a problem?
Late Monday night, word was leaked of a high-level legislative-strategy meeting Tuesday for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That meeting included several LGBT organizations, including HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans. Tuesday, the news was all over the Internet, along with varying degrees of support, skepticism, more skepticism, and analysis, depending on the source.
There has been a hush from all participants at Tuesday’s White House meeting, but rumor has it, as Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner reports, that “the president stopped by the meeting ‘to directly convey to the participants his personal commitment on this issue.’”
“A person outside the White House familiar with the meeting agenda told Metro Weekly that there were three main points the White House was looking to impress upon attendees: (1) President Obama was pushing for lame-duck Senate action, (2) there would would more meetings up to the vote and (3) executive options are not being looked at right now.”
It is easy to feel a degree of ambivalence with this message, given earlier reports Tuesday, one via the Washington Blade, that “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday heâ€™s unaware of any outreach the president has done in the Senate to advance â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ repeal,” and another via Igor Volsky at Think Progress, again placing Gibbs at the center of attention when he “refused to say whether President Obama would be willing to use his stop-loss authority to end discharges under Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell should Congress fail to repeal the policy.”
But also Tuesday came another AP article, some might wonder if by way of an apology, titled, “Record number of openly gay officials serving in Obama administration.” (Wildly right-wing news outlet One News Now saw fit to re-write the piece as, “Obama most ‘gay’-friendly president in history.”) (Skepticism is truly in the eye of the beholder.)
Yet another pro-gay announcement came from the Administration Tuesday, although sources say it has been in the works for some time. The Department of Education announced a campaign to prevent anti-gay harassment and bullying. The Washington Post reported, “The Obama administration is launching a campaign to prevent anti-gay bullying and other harassment at school, advising educators that federal law protects students from many forms of discrimination.”
“The advisory from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, to be made public Tuesday, does not break new legal ground, officials said. But the officials described it as the federal government’s most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative.”
So, unlike other times when the Obama administration finally woke up to extreme unrest within the LGBTQ community, and miraculously found its way to regift some rights and provide a few tokens of appreciation, like extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees a year ago June, this time there is little new in the offing, but at least the message has been sent that gays matter. At least, a little. At least, for now.
Despite the confusing messages this administration continues to send, a few things are clear. The administration is trying, but needs to learn to explain its workings and processes, and work with groups, like the LGBT community, like labor, that support it more than many others. And equally clear: it’s time, despite all our frustration, to explain our frustration to this administration, not by not voting, and not by voting Republican, but by voting for Democrats who will be in position to speak our truth to power, and to vote for the change we need.
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‘Poisonous’: Former Advisor Says Republicans Have ‘Just Switched Trump Off in Their Brain’
In an interview with The Guardian, one of Donald Trump’s former senior advisers stated that the word he is getting from people he has spoken to is that they want the former president to be put out to pasture after the poor midterm election results for Republicans weeks ago.
According to John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, it’s time for the GOP to move on from the former president if the party wants to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024.
Bolton, whose tenure serving under Trump ended acrimoniously, told the Guardian’s David Smith that there are a multitude of reasons to put Trump in the rearview mirror, but the impact that the former president had on GOP fortunes in the midterms seems to be the final straw with many conservatives.
“There are a lot of reasons to be against Trump being the nominee but the one I’m hearing now as I call around the country, talking to my supporters and others about what happened on 8 November, is the number of people who have just switched Trump off in their brain,” Bolton explained.
Elaborating, he continued, “Even if they loved his style, loved his approach, loved his policies, loved everything about him, they don’t want to lose and the fear is, given the results on 8 November, that if he got the nomination, not only would he lose the general election, but he would take an awful lot of Republican candidates down with him.”
“There’s no doubt Trump’s endorsement in the primary can be very valuable to a candidate in the Republican party. But relying on that endorsement or trumpeting yourself as the Trump-endorsed candidate is poisonous in the general election. So if you actually want to win elections, Trump is not the answer,” Bolton continued. “William F Buckley [the conservative author] once had a rule that in Republican primaries he supported the most conservative candidate capable of winning the general election and, under that theory, Trump loses.”
The Guardian’s Smith notes that Bolton “… joins Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, attorney general William Barr, UN ambassador Nikki Haley, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and onetime ally Chris Christie in a growing rebellion among alumni making the case – overtly or subtly – that Trump has become an electoral liability.”
You can read more here.
Trump’s Dinner With Kanye Also Included a Former Aide Accused in Pay-for-Pardon Play, and White Supremacist Fuentes
Donald Trump‘s dinner earlier this week with antisemite Kanye West and holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes may also have included two other right-wingers, hinted at by the former president himself.
After Axios‘ reporting confirmed that Fuentes had in fact had dinner with Trump, Trump issued a statement saying, “Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.”
But later, on Friday afternoon via his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote a defense of the dinner with an expanded guest list.
“This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump wrote. “Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport.”
As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted, Trump did not denounce his guest’s extremist beliefs.
“Three of his friends,” according to the far-right wing website Breitbart, apparently includes Fuentes, far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and former Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno.
Breitbart states, “two people who say they were at the dinner on Tuesday evening–Yiannopoulos and onetime Trump aide Karen Giorno–have publicly stated that Fuentes was in fact at the dinner with West and Trump.”
“’Nick attended the dinner and sat across from the president. I sat to the president’s right and Ye to his left,’ Giorno said in a statement to podcaster Tim Poole’s website Timcast,” Breitbart reports. “‘The president was by himself for dinner but invited Ye to meet some people on the patio.'”
Politico reports Giorno “confirmed to Politico that she was also at the dinner with Trump, West and Fuentes,” but does not mention Yiannopoulos as a dinner guest.
Referring to Kanye West by his new name, VICE News adds: “Ye, who has been been on an antisemitic spiral in recent months, announced he is going to be running for president in 2024, and Yiannopoulos is his campaign manager. He claimed that he asked the former president to run with him as his vice-president. According to Ye, the dinner involving the billionaire, the rapper, and the white nationalist devolved into screaming and derogatory epithets.”
Yiannopoulos is the former Breitbart editor who became disgraced after saying, “I think in the gay world some of the most important, enriching and incredibly life-affirming, important shaping relationships very often between younger boys and older men.” Earlier this year U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene came under fire for hiring, as an intern, Yiannopoulos, even after he appeared to support sexual “relationships” between boys as young as 13 and older men.
Karen Giorno, The New York Times reported early last year, “had access to people around the president, having run Mr. Trump’s campaign in Florida during the 2016 primary and remaining on board as a senior political adviser during the general election.”
“In July 2018, Ms. Giorno signed an agreement with Mr. Kiriakou, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, ‘to seek a full pardon from President Donald Trump of his conviction’ for $50,000 and promised another $50,000 as a bonus if she secured a pardon,” The Times reports.
Kiriakou is John Kiriakou, who The Times identifies as “a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information.”
On what appears to be her Instagram page, Giorno has photos of herself with numerous Republicans, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Flynn, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida attorney general Ashley Moody and several other top Florida elected officials, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, and Sarah Palin, among others.
Trump Claims He ‘Knew Nothing About’ the White Supremacist Antisemite Who He and Kanye West Dined With at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump and Kanye West had dinner at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night and the disgraced artist who goes by “Ye” brought a guest, the white supremacist, antisemite and “America First” and “Big Lie” purveyor Nick Fuentes. Now the former president is claiming Fuentes was a guest of West, and he knows “nothing” about him.
“Trump’s direct engagement with a man labeled a ‘white supremacist’ by the Justice Department, one week after declaring his 2024 candidacy, is likely to draw renewed outrage over the former president’s embrace of extremists,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report.
Axios notes that in a video West posted to his recently restored Twitter account, he says, “Trump was ‘really impressed’ with Fuentes because ‘unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he’s actually a loyalist.'”
“Ye, who has lost major sponsorships over his anti-Semitism and recent far-right associations, has said he wants to run for president in 2024,” Axios adds. “The rapper claims Trump started ‘screaming’ at him at the dinner and told him he would lose — ‘most perturbed’ by Ye asking Trump to be his running mate.”
Swan says Trump issued a statement in response to his reporting, claiming he does not know Fuentes.
“Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago,” Trump’s statement says, an apparent attempt to minimize his dining with two racists and antisemites. “Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.”
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman observes that Trump’s “statement does nothing to denounce that background, including Holocaust denialism, or even acknowledge it.”
Trump first claiming West just wanted to see Mar-a-Lago, but immediately after calling it a “meeting” is notable, given that West has since suggested he is running for president.
Axios importantly adds that “Fuentes first gained notoriety after attending the white supremacist ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in 2017,” and, “Trump was heavily criticized at the time for his response to the racist violence.”
Journalist Jeff Sharlet is the executive producer of Netflix’s “The Family,” based on his books that exposed the secretive Christian right organization of the same name. The Family, also called The Fellowship, hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Its members were involved in Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.
Sharlet warns this is an “inflection point.”
“Trump dinner with Ye, at this point, is a major story,” Sharlet tweeted. “But with Nick Fuentes? That’s an inflection point even for a former president already committed to fascism.”
Journalist and activist Elad Nehorai tweeted: “Never let a single right winger or Republican claim they care about Jews after this. Fuentes openly praises Hitler. He is a Holocaust denier. He is one of the US’s most dangerous white nationalists. Trump hosted him & not one Republican had said a word.”
Attorney and former Republican Ron Filipkowski, who tracks and reports on right wing extremism, says Trump’s statement “reminds me of the time when Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was in the WH in Dec 2020 and said he was just there to check out the Christmas decorations.”
Tarrio told ABC News last year he “got invited to the White House Christmas decorations tour through ‘Latinos For Trump.'”
Top national security attorney Brad Moss mocked Trump’s claim about the Mar-a-Lago dinner.
“Trump legal team: MAL is a totally secure place where we can be trusted to store classified records,” he tweeted. “Trump PR team: Security at MAL is so lax that a raving white supremacist can just crash Trump’s dinner party with Ye.”
Indeed, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman commented, “It’s not the central issue with meeting with Fuentes, but the fact that people can show up unvetted and meet with Trump at his club is part of what alarmed the DOJ about his retention of government records, including classified material, when he left office.”
She also posted a screenshot from her book, relevant to Trump’s embrace of the two racists and antisemites. She quotes him saying, “A lot of these people vote,” in relation to “Trump’s refusal to condemn David Duke’s support forcefully in early 2016.”
Related: from CONFIDENCE MAN, Trump’s refusal to condemn David Duke’s support forcefully in early 2016. “A lot of these people vote.” pic.twitter.com/BcsX7pXKbb
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 25, 2022
The AntiDefamation League (ADL) in a 2021 report wrote, “Nicholas Fuentes is a white supremacist leader and organizer and podcaster who seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP.”
Some of Fuentes’ antisemitism has been documented by ADL.
“Fuentes has made a number of racist and antisemitic comments under the guise of being provocative and ironic,” ADLs report states. “For example, he has referred to Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh as ‘shabbos goy race traitor’ because he works for Jews (Ben Shapiro, a Jewish conservative, runs the Daily Wire). On a livestream episode, Fuentes ‘jokingly’ denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven. On May 24, 2021, Fuentes participated in a debate on right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones’ InfoWars with Robert Barnes, a man described as a ‘constitutional lawyer’ who has legally defended both Jones and Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. During the debate, Fuentes made numerous antisemitic remarks, including, ‘I don’t see Jews as Europeans and I don’t see them as part of Western civilization, particularly because they are not Christians.'”
Fuentes is strongly pro-Trump, as West alluded to.
“Fuentes promoted election fraud narratives and encouraged his adherents to participate in nationwide ‘Stop the Steal’ protests,” according to ADL.
This article has been updated to include Jeff Sharlet’s remarks.
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