And now we present OutSmart contributor Josef Molnar's take on last night's GLBT forum for Democratic presidential candidates.
As stage personnel and security people swarmed The Production Group Studios in Hollywood last night, busily touching up the stars of the two-hour Visible Vote 2008 Presidential Forum, I decided to pay attention to the show taking place behind the scenes in the main theater. The event, which for the first time gave the candidates the historic chance to speak with gay people about their issues through three carefully chosen representatives, also required the media to be sequestered in a back room to observe the event on two small flat-screen television sets, where the floodgates of spin would continue to drown out the dribble of truth.
Seated on risers three persons deep and composed of representatives of the GLBT community, as well as their supporters, the live audience listened quietly as the stage manager directed them on the finer points of etiquette.
"The best analogy that I can think of is that this is like a Broadway show, so when your participants take the stage, feel free to applaud," he said. "If you like something, you should really applaud."
Which the crowd did rapturously when Sen. Barack Obama took the stage as the first Democratic presidential candidate. The moderator, Margaret Carlson, correctly stated that Obama is a rock star, to which he modestly agreed.
Which brings me to the real rock star there, Melissa Etheridge, the cancer-surviving musician with political connections throughout the Democratic party. What better for Los Angeles, where glitz is king? Etheridge admitted that her celebrity status was what put her in the center seat of the three-person panel interviewing the candidates, sandwiched between noted journalist Jonathon Capeheart and Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
For those tens of millions of people who do not receive the Logo network, it was a riveting production, with plenty of feel-good moments from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who breathlessly expressed his love for mankind and gay people and denounced those who were against love, as well as Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, and a pin-drop pause from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has a long record of supporting domestic partnership rights, when he was asked if he would sign gay marriage legislation. The pregnant pause was so long I thought Carlson was about to order an emergency C-section.
Richardson said no.
Then he compared domestic partnership rights with marriage, saying, "It's the same thing."
It was a classic moment that elicited laughter from the media room, who pounded out more notes. The media was certainly not without its opinions, and it seemed that a good third of the assembled group was content to play the part of television audience.
Sen. Edwards hit the ground running, jumping over the first hurdle, which was his support of nationalized health care. He showed his admiration for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center's support of homeless gay youth, as well as his hatred of Ann Coulter, the one-two punch of love and hate that's designed to balance his good-boy looks with his ability to get tough about his opinions.
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And then came President-to-be-elected Hillary Clinton, the showperson of the crowd, who swaggered in, content that she had the lesbian vote and the love of gay men. Carlson even commented on her coral jacket. Not much time was spent on that topic, however, or really any other, and she showed her true political training by deftly sidestepping pointed questions with quick one-liners and sympathy, followed up by a non-threatening: "I'm your girl."
She displayed her trademark smug smile and that mischievous glint in her eye, pausing long enough for the audience to love her. I could hear her popularity points ratchet up. She is a modern politician, able to sympathize with the plight of the less fortunate while crafting politicized answers. Clinton, as usual, agreed with everyone's opinion, but held steadily to her own, couching it in terms to make it seem less threatening, such as in the case of gay marriage.
"I am not in support of it, and that's a personal choice," she said.
Who can argue with that? – Josef Molnar