NYers Debate Socarides' Punditry
& Bloomberg's Gay, HIV Record
Writer and activist Larry Kramer started a conversation a few days ago, after lawyer and pundit Richard Socarides published an essay at Huffington Post titled "A Summer for Gay Rights." Included on Larry's CC list were longtime New York City advocates of widely differing experiences and opinions, and myself out in San Francisco. The exchange has further educated me about the troubling record of Mayor Michael Bloomberg on lots of gay and HIV/AIDS concerns, none of which have been addressed by his loudest and most visible gay booster, Socarides.
I've taken the first round of emails, excerpted them here, and since the second volley of exchanges are extensive and would make this post a mile long, I've placed them in the comments section. As you'll read, Bloomberg may be a candidate for the Oval Office in 2012, and Socarides may have latent motives for being the primary gay critic of President Barack Obama. It's never too early to scrutinize potential presidential candidates and the gays who support them.
Let's get to the arguments and debate:
From Larry Kramer:
richard, an excellent and VERY IMPORTANT piece. thank you!
From Jon Winkleman, longtime gay/AIDS/union advocate:
I personally like Richard Socarides and wish more LGBT people would have their criticisms of the White House be aired on CNN and WSJ. However as a matter of credibility the recently published Clinton White House talking points regarding DOMA [in the pages of Gay City News], seem to point to Socarides as being a co-architect of the Clinton administration’s DOMA policy. I am and have been very aware that the original DOMA compromise consisted of a deal to allow DOMA to go to the floor for a vote if ENDA was tacked on and passed as well. [...]
However Socarides has ignored questions and refused to make any public statements regarding the authorship of the pro-DOMA talking points and the less than truthful statements he had previously made claiming he had no involvement whatsoever with DOMA. [...]
As a separate matter of credibility, most NYC White House critics are very worried about Bloomberg testing the waters again for a possible presidential bid. Socarides goes on national television and talks about Bloomberg as a champion of equality when the mayor has actively and aggressively worked against equality in NYC while contrasting a president who deserves much criticism but merely does not see us as a cause to expend a quantum of effort to make good on his promises. [...]
More from Larry Kramer:
richard has no obligation to apologize or explain to anyone! you are acting like you are running the Nuremberg trials here. you are acting like a little hitler. people are entitled to do the work they do and support the people they do. it is called democracy. i sent you this most recent article of his to show you what a fine piece of work it is and hope that you would appreciate it for that and calm down. my mistake. i should have known you would not change your really out-of-all-proportion behavior.
From Art Leonard, veteran gay legal eagle:
In 1996 Socarides was a White House staffer of Bill Clinton assigned to write talking points articulating the president's position, in the midst of a presidential election year in which Clinton was running for re-election in the context of the GOP having swept the Dems out of power in the prior mid-term elections. He was doing a job for the boss to whom he was accountable.
We may not like the way he did it, or we may disagree with Clinton's political judgments at the time about how to deal with the DOMA issue, but I think it's wrong to demonize Socarides for doing his job at that time, or for resisting talking publicly about internal White House assignments he had back then.
[...] He is not a public official, he is not drawing a salary, as far as I know, from a movement organization, and so he is accountable only for himself. [...]
I really appreciate what you [Michael Petrelis] do in uncovering and publicizing the money trails, and the failures of organizations and their leaders in our community to follow democratic, transparent procedures in making important policy decisions. And, of course, it is always appropriate to criticize the merits of positions people are taking, when you make substantive arguments about why you think their positions are wrong. [...]
Socarides has been very critical of the Obama Administration in public on quite a few occasions, and he has also pointed out when the administration has done things that are good for us. I'm not sure it is all that relevant to attack him by dredging up what he is alleged to have done in 1996 when he was not acting as a free agent.
I must digress at this point and share a July 8 letter in the New York Times from Socarides, because it bears directly on the comment that follows:
Re “A ‘Kagan Doctrine’ on Gay Marriage,” by Jonathan Rauch (Op-Ed, July 3): On the surface, Mr. Rauch’s argument has appeal: why not let the political process solve political controversies, like the question of gay marriage, rather than look to the courts to impose solutions? But it ignores political history.
I, for one, am glad that the Supreme Court did not follow Mr. Rauch’s advice in Brown v. Board of Education.
Comments from Andy Humm, longtime gay/AIDS/human rights advocate:
It is pretty rich reading Richard citing Brown v. Board of Education when he continues to be totally uncritical of the Bloomberg administration which was just cited in a lengthy piece in the Times as even less racially diverse than the Giuliani administration.
In one of these previous e-mail exchanges, Richard acknowledged that there might be some problems with the Bloomberg LGBT and AIDS record. Where are the posts in the Huffington Post or elsewhere about that? When Bloomberg appealed the one good decision on same-sex marriage in New York that would have forced the City to give licenses to gay couples, we didn't hear a peep out of him. Instead, he vigorously worked for his re-election. And then there are the Bloomberg false arrests of gay men for prostitution, the rising HIV rate among teens in NY unchecked by any serious prevention program in the schools, the Bloomberg support for anti-gay Republicans, etc., etc., etc.
This is not ancient history. This is today.
Richard: unless you are willing to apply the same standards to Bloomberg, you will have no credibility.
Please jump over to the comments section to read more emails continuing this necessary debate.