John McCain released a statement on the anti-gay initiative in California last Thursday:
I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions.
Not much of a statement, completely in line with Republican ideology, and poorly released. Par for the course for the McCain campaign.
What is interesting is some of the analysis from Patrick Range McDonald's column on the statement, linked above. It's along the lines of what I've been hearing from many LGBT people, that John McCain would be a step in the right direction on LGBT issues from the Bush administration because deep down inside he's with us:
McCain didn't have to make that uneasy alliance. Instead, if the senator really wanted to stick out as a man of change and blow the minds of millions Americans--even Obama's--he could have used his post-California Supreme Court ruling appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show to proclaim, 'Hey, I've been wrong. I'm for love, I'm for the pursuit of happiness, I'm for same sex marriage.' That didn't happen. McCain sat next to the popular lesbian talk show host, grinned awkwardly when she asked him about gay marriage, and said he had a "respectful disagreement." Opportunity blown.
Now a window opens for the other side. It's not hard to imagine a political advertisement popping up some day soon featuring a Vietnam veteran who served with McCain, or spent time in the same North Vietnamese prison as a fellow prisoner of war, wearing a silver medal on his lapel and shedding a tear from his eye. Next to the gray-haired vet, a gay son or granddaughter sits on a stool and looks up at him reverently, while the man stares straight into the camera and says, "Senator John McCain has let my family down." It could be the "Willie Horton" ad for a new generation, and it could have been avoided if John Sidney McCain III, a man known to make some very righteous and difficult decisions in his life, looked into his heart and stood up for something that he probably knows is right.
Underlying the idea that John McCain should have done the right thing and stood up for what he "probably knows is right" is the assumption, based on absolutely nothing and counterintuitive to everything McCain has said and done on the subject, that deep down inside he's OK with gay rights.
It's part of the larger narrative that McCain's been constructing for years - that he's a moderate Republican straight-talkin' maverick. So when he does things like support anti-gay constitutional amendments, he's only doing it because he has to, or because he thinks he has to, in order to get the Religious Right's vote. McDonald doesn't seem to consider that maybe, just maybe, when McCain speaks out against same-sex marriage, says that it's "one man and one woman," supports his state's and other states' marriage amendments, supports DOMA, and promises to nominate judges who'll prevent gay rights, that he actually opposes same-sex marriage.
Here's another example from America's third-favorite gay Republican, Jamie Kirchick, on why nothing McCain does that's homophobic counts:
But while McCain has racked up an unimpressive voting record in Congress -- he supports "don't ask, don't tell" and DOMA, and opposes adding sexual orientation to the federal hate-crimes bill and ENDA -- what distinguishes him from many of his Republican colleagues is that he has also taken some courageous stands.[...]
McCain's opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment is emblematic of his tempestuous relationship with the religious right. After the bruising 2000 Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, McCain labeled the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" and "corrupting influences on religion and politics." Sure, McCain spoke at Falwell's Liberty University in 2006, but he didn't pander.
At the end of the day, McCain loathes the religious right, and the feeling is mutual. A notoriously stubborn man, he will probably not feel the need to appease the anti-gay wing of his party, especially considering how outspoken its members have been in their denunciation of him.[...]
Some gays will ask why they should support McCain over presumptive Democratic nominee Obama, who -- at least in his rhetoric -- promises to do more for gay rights. To be sure, McCain will not win over single-issue gay voters. But if you're concerned about Obama's foreign policy naïveté or his proclivity for raising taxes, give McCain a serious look. Obama's pleasant speechifying about gay rights is belied by his thin legislative record, and it didn't stop him from parading around the hateful "ex-gay" preacher Donnie McClurkin to win black votes in South Carolina.
You see, McCain doesn't really like the Religious Right. He opposes everything they stand for, and he won't appease them while in office. There's no evidence to support this, other than the fact that he's a "notoriously stubborn man," which you can see because he doesn't flip-flop. Except when he does, but when he does he doesn't really believe it.
The Log Cabin Republicans also bought into this, running primary ads against Mitt Romney and then promising to work for McCain to get gay votes for him. Doesn't matter that Romney's sin against the gays - opposing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts - is pretty much what McCain did by opposing same-sex marriage in California and Arizona.
I just can't get my mind around the fact that McDonald is publicly fantasizing about McCain doing something that goes completely against everything we know about him and then saying that he "probably" wants to do it. It's frustrating, because the answer to why he didn't just say he supported same-sex marriage on Ellen is rather simple: he doesn't.
No, McCain isn't breathing hatred of gay people 24/7, but neither is Bush. Any argument that McCain is just pandering makes just as much sense for GWB, considering that the latter said he supported civil unions back in 2004.
In the end, it doesn't matter much why McCain supports the ballot initiative in California, just that he does. It makes a whole lot more sense than making McCain into an empty vessel into which people pour their own beliefs, constantly wondering why he does the things he does, because they just know he's one of them.
No matter how much he tries to prove them wrong.