Bobbie Kilberg for Vice President?
Someone called Sunday morning to say that I was the topic of conversation on the Rush Limbaugh radio program. Rush had picked up on a Bob Novak column criticizing McCain for naming Bobbie Greene Kilberg, “a female” as his Liaison to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. And Kilberg, as the story went, was the liberal who helped squeeze me out of the White House during the Herbert Walker administration.
The truth is that no Republican can get elected without the help of moderate Republicans like Bobbie Kilberg and she is an effective and talented administrator who has worked loyally for Republican candidates for thirty years. McCain would be wise to put her to work.
Sure, we were rivals in the White House but much of it was “good cop-bad cop” theatre which is part of the game in any administration. Blame the conservative staffer or blame the liberal staffer but keep it away from the president.
The story is that we fought over Gay Rights and that too is bogus. The president wanted to include gay leaders in the signing of the Hate Crimes Bill. Bobbie was not pushing for this as part of some agenda of her own and contrary to published reports I had never objected to it, didn’t even know it was happening. Both Bobbie and I were there to serve the President and his interests. Besides, my own brother, Bill, had lived most of his life as a gay man and I had helped land him a job as White House liaison at Health and Human Services. My only public comment on gay rights was to The Daily Tennessean, May 5, 1990 when I was quoted as saying that “gays just want to be treated like any other constituency.”
When I left the White House and a story broke in The Washington Times claiming that I was pushed out over opposing gay invitations to White House events, I wanted to respond but was asked specifically by Andy Card, then deputy chief of staff, to refrain. The Times was threatening to expose what they believed to be our own gay staffers in the White House and we were hoping to avoid the story. So I kept quiet.
Much of the misunderstanding could be laid at the feet of my faith. I am an evangelical Christian, so all sorts of assumptions were made about what I believed and what I was doing and thinking.
And then there was “the letter” which had upset a couple of our staffers. The New York Catholic Archdiocese was outraged when they decided that some of our gay invitees had been the very same people who had broken into a mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, poured blood (or red paint) on the altar and shouted the “F” word to shocked women and children in the audience. “Not since Nazi Germany have religious services been so violated,” they told us. “Bigotry cuts both ways, you can’t celebrate Hate Crimes by rewarding anti-Catholic bigotry.” I agreed and sent a letter of apology to the Cardinal’s office which the White House Chief of Staff’s office used for three months as their standard reply to complaints. But the letter was not about gays, nor a recommendation banning gays from White House events, since we had them quietly in our administration anyway. Rather, it was about particular individuals who had broken the law, who happened to be gay.
I had served the Bush family for seven years by that time and was broke. I had to get out of the White House to make a little money and six months before any of this I had negotiated the details of my departure with my boss, David Demarest. The president was not even aware of this decision. When George W. Bush, the son and my noble protector, learned that I was leaving he flew back to the White House to make sure I was okay and to smooth my landing on the outside.
When the bogus story broke my literary agent, Jed Mattes, who just happened to be the representative for most of the nation’s gay authors, about had a stroke. There I was on the dart board at the Stonewall Club in Manhattan. LOL. He had known me for twenty years and knew that the story had to be false. He flew me up to New York, heard what happened, and a few days later called back to say he could get me $ 1 million if I would write a book about it before the 1992 election. Of course, I would have to out all the gays in my account. Jed Mattes was big into that at the time, he had just represented Michelangelo Signorile’s book, Queer in America and would soon take on Rich Taefel’s book. I declined. I would have surely been blamed for Herbert Walker’s defeat if it had been published. It would not be the last time I would turn down a lot of money to write about the subject.
And so, by default, I became one of a handful who donated $ 1 million to the Bush campaign, soft money, of course. And my donation was not laundered into the NRA or some other surrogate of the campaign. And that, as Paul Harvey might say, is the rest of the story. Although there is really much, much more.
Now, no one can question my conservative credentials. I ghosted the Jim Watt book, Courage of a Conservative, which pretty well spells out what I believe. And then I ran for congress in 1992 so all my positions are out there on the record, dated and copyrighted. Having said that, if Republicans want to win elections they cannot enjoy the luxury of a staff with ideological purity. And if John McCain lets columnists and radio talk show hosts dictate his campaign strategy he may one day be a good columnist and radio talk show host himself but he will go nowhere in presidential politics. But then, he knows that.
So, cut John McCain some slack. And Bobbie Kilberg too. He’s got to get elected and that means welcoming in anybody and everybody who can help. That is the nature of politics and that is the neccessity of winning in our imperfect two party system. Get over it.