Every now and again, you get whiplash. Here is Bill Clinton's former chief liaison with the gay community demanding that Chuck Hagel account more fully for his past statements and actions on gay people. Let me repeat: Bill Clinton's "principal adviser to Clinton on gay and lesbian civil rights issues" from 1993 to 1999. Think about that for a minute.
Socarides was paid to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in public and certainly didn't quit over its passage, as any gay person with true commitment to gay equality would have. In this respect, I think of him as the opposite of Bob Hattoy, an old dead friend who, like Socarides, worked for the Clinton machine, but, unlike Socarides, didn't put his gay soul on eBay to do so. Dee-Dee Myers said of Bob:
He wasn't wrong, but he wasn't necessarily helpful to the administration cause…. He had one foot inside and one foot outside.
Which brings me to Socarides. He had both feet firmly inside the administration's cause and did all he could to back the Clintons against the real lives of gay people.
Recall: he was paid to spin the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, even as it doubled the discharges of gay servicemembers in the military under Clinton's term. He was paid by an administration that made every effort to kill the marriage movement (believe me, I was there and saw it up-close), a movement in which Socarides was AWOL until the political tide safely turned. With Socarides as chief adviser, Bill Clinton also signed the law that made me and countless other non-Americans with HIV forbidden to enter the US and live under a brutal legal surveillance system which Clinton did nothing to change. Clinton even broke a clear campaign promise not to codify and sign the measure into law. How does a gay person work for someone who signs such a bill, stigmatizing countless people with HIV and putting the US on the same level as Saudi Arabia? And when will Socarides apologize to me and countless others for being there and not stopping it and not resigning?
In fact, I recall no moment in his career in which Socarides apologized for selling out the gay community in every single possible way in order to stay comfortably ensconced in the Clinton White House. And notice the gay issues Socarides focuses on:
[Hagel's] record earned him a zero-per-cent rating (three times) from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay-rights lobby. Among other things, Hagel voted against extending basic employment nondiscrimination protections and the federal hate-crimes law to cover gay Americans.
If you read Virtually Normal, you will find that I too opposed such initiatives because they ducked the core issue of how government treats its gay citizens, which, in my view, should come before the same government regulates the actions of its own citizens. And because hate crimes are a bullshit legal category. Would I be deemed by a Clinton-hack as insufficiently in favor of gay rights – back when Socarides was advising a president who was eviscerating them? The truth is: I would have been and was at the time. Because I was a limited government conservative – not because I was anti-gay at all.
Socarides summarizes with this statement:
Hagel will have to show not only some genuine regret for his past actions and statements about gay Americans but also a real command of the civil-rights issues facing the military in order to convince people of that.
Here's a better idea: let's have Richard Socarides not only show some genuine regret for his working for a president who signed more anti-gay laws than any other in American history – but also offer proof that he has evolved from enabling attacks on gay Americans to backing their rights. Let's get that apology now, so that he and Hagel are on equal ground.
(Photo: Richard Socarides attends The 2012 Emery Awards at Altman Building on December 11, 2012 in New York City. By Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images.)