Aside from long-shot Fred Karger, the only openly gay GOP presidential candidate and the only one who is supportive of LGBT issues, the Republican field is filled with kooks and wingnuts and politicians with feet permanently stuck in their mouths.
Karger is working hard to be taken seriously by the Grand Old Party, hitting the road to meet Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key states for early voting. A recent Fox poll showed that Karger hit 1% of GOP supporters, putting him in the company of Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson and Ray Moore.
Leading the pack was Mitt Romney at 19%, followed by Mike Huckabee at 17%, Sarah Palin at 9%, Donald Trump at 8%, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul at 7%, Herman Cain at 4%, and Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum at 3%. Mitch Daniels hit 2%.
While 1% seems minimal, it is actually the magical cut-off number to get invited to presidential debates. Karger was invited to the South Carolina debate tonight, but he and several other GOP hopefuls could not meet all the requirements to qualify. Most of the big-name hopefuls declined to participate, so Cain, Johnson, Paul, Pawlenty and Santorum will be the only ones who agreed to show up.
“I had hoped to be on stage with the other candidates, but I understand the rules set by the organizers, and as long as they were uniformly enforced, I have no objection," Karger said in a statement issued early today.
Faux pas, missteps and blunders
Romney, the front-runner, keeps shooting himself in the foot. Romney is already facing scrutiny over his Massachusetts health-care plan, which preceded the so-called Obamacare that riles up many on the far Right. Then last week Romney blundered in a speech in New Hampshire when he called for “hanging” Obama, sending his political camp into major damage control. Then there is the issue of him being a Mormon, a faith that raised millions of dollars to pass Proposition 8 in California and take away marriage equality from gays and lesbians.
Huckabee heads the list of homophobic candidates, spewing lies and distortions about the LGBT community to gain traction with the Tea Party faithful and other fringe players on the far Right. The ordained Southern Baptist minister has a bloody pulpit on Fox News Channel, and his folksy and friendly mannerisms mask a mean-spirited soul that adamantly opposes equality for all. And Huckabee has other warts, including his clemency controversies while governor of Arkansas.
Palin, like Huckabee, is a Fox News Channel benefactor, as the right-wing news organization run by Australian conservative Rupert Murdoch gives her a platform for her wacky political commentary. Palin’s popularity has seriously plunged since she was Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential race, and her favorability ratings have not improved since she embraced the Tea Party movement. Palin’s positions on most political issues dove-tail with other conservatives, including opposition to marriage equality. Like Romney, Palin is known for her faux pas and over-the-top criticism of Democrats. Remember the Palin crosshair on Rep. Gabby Giffords’ district? Her ability to “see” Russia from her front porch? Her astounding lack of geography and international politics?
Trump is the P.T. Barnum of the GOP, a shameless self-promoter who is transforming himself almost daily. For many who have followed Trump’s career for years, it came as a great shock that he suddenly was anti-gay, anti-marriage equality, anti-gun control, anti-foreign aid and for everything that the Tea Party supports. The blowhard billionaire uses his fame and “Celebrity Apprentice” TV reality show to shamelessly hawk his business and brands, then “generously” gives out a check for $20,000 to the winning celebrity’s favorite cause. He makes more money in one TV commercial to cover that puny check, which shows that he is a cheap SOB despite his reputation for “luxury.” And who really believes that Trump is seriously running for president? His huffing and puffing about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and his allegations that he sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to check its validity, got a free pass from the media. Trump will not run for president because he is terrified that he will have to show his tax records and reveal his real worth, and that he will have to explain his bankruptcies, controversial business dealings and multiple marriages.
Gingrich has so many blemishes that he is a has-been even before he declares. His Contract With America may have ushered in the Republican control of the House, but he will always be remembered for shutting down the government and his ethics sanctions. As House Speaker, he led the charge to impeach President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, while he was having a not-so-secret affair with one of his congressional aide. The candidate who is against marriage equality is also notorious for cheating on his wife while she was fighting cancer as well as his other well-publicized infidelities. Why conservative religious leaders give Gingrich the time of day is puzzling and hypocritical.
Paul is a darling of the Tea Party, and sees a conspiracy behind every tree. The longtime politician from Texas has a terrible record in Congress and even acknowledges that he is a bad lawmaker. Critics note that Paul is the ultimate “angry white man” who rails against blacks and other minorities, and that he is too cozy with right-wing militia groups that are counted among his supporters. His newsletters attest that he is a bigot, and he once wrote that "Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."
Cain is a conservative African-American who is former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. He supports the gold standard and is beloved by the Tea Party faithful. He has been accused of being a racist for pandering to white right-wingers while ignoring African-American issues. He has said that if elected, he would refuse to considering any Muslim for a government appointment – because they may support Sharia law. And he absolutely is against equality for LGBT people.
Pawlenty is pandering to the right on all the hot-button issues, coming out against gay marriage and against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” While governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty pushed a right-wing agenda that melded with his conversion from Roman Catholic to Evangelical Christian. He is no friend of Dorothy.
Bachmann, another Minnesotan, is founder of the House Tea Party Caucus. She sees conspiracies under every stone, and her rantings on the House floor are now legendary. She and her husband own a Christian counseling service in Stillwater, Minn., have five children, and have provided foster care for 23 other children. Bachmann supports federal and state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and their legal equivalents. She is supported by Focus on the Family, named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Santorum is the biggest homophobe this side of the pope. He is outspoken against gay rights and thinks DADT is just swell because it discriminates against gay and lesbian troops from serving openly. The Roman Catholic is devoted to his faith, and it shows in his political positions on key issues. Pennsylvania voters turned against him and his confrontational style, tossing him out of the U.S. Senate.
The Karger effect
Karger was the first official GOP candidate for president. He won the St. Anselm College Republican Straw Poll in New Hampshire in late March, beating Romney and Trump and the rest of the field.
Karger is a longtime Republican, so his conservative collar is tightly fitted. He rekindles memories of the Taft-Rockefeller type of GOP, moderate and/or progressive on social issues and conservative on financial and military issues.
You’ve got to be rooting for Karger, because he is already on the attack against his likely opponents. He slams Huckabee and argues that he is unfit to be president. He also is taking potshots at Romney.
Karger calls himself a Reaganite and an independent Republican. He also once was a key player in the campaign for George Herbert Walker Bush, or “Poppy Bush,” and he helped craft the infamous Willie Horton ads that helped to derail the campaign of Michael Dukakis. With Huckabee, Karger has found another Willie Horton moment, since Huckabee granted clemency to criminals who then went on to commit worse crimes.
Now 61, Karger says he didn’t come out until he was 41. And that clearly transformed his thinking on social issues near and dear to the hearts of gays and lesbians.
Karger went to bat for marriage equality in California, where he amassed a wealth of friends of the cause. He went on the attack against the Mormon Church for aggressively raising multiple millions of dollars to support Proposition 8, and exposed the church’s questionable tactics that practically forced its members to contribute to the kitty. Karger is no fan of Romney because he failed to speak out against his church’s leadership on the issue.
The candidate with the tongue-in-cheek "Fred Who?" campaign also got sued by the hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM), over his investigative work exposing their shady work during Maine's Amendment Two campaign. Karger had to raise money to cover his legal defense, and he has said publicly that it made him realize that he had learned the tools to organize a run for the presidency.
He may be a long shot, but Karger has the power to transform the Republican field for president. We can tip our hat to him and wish him well.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.