It's no secret that last week was not a good one for John McCain. His old friend, Phil Gramm, demonstrated such a sad case of foot in mouth disease with his "mental recession" line that it was almost as though Gramm was acting as an Obama campaign covert operative. Then McCain had a little trouble performing, shall we say, when asked by a reporter to clarify his position on insurance coverage of Viagra but not of contraception. But those may not be the only media moments from last week that come back to haunt McCain on the general election campaign trail.
In an interview with the New York Times, McCain sought to affirm his conservative credentials. This included stating definitively that he opposes adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples. On Sunday, celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton (real name Mario Lavandeira) selected McCain's statement on the matter as his "Quote of the Day." The quote simply reads, "I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption." At last count Hilton's post garnered around 700 comments, some of which are blatantly homophobic, (which is ironic considering Lavandeira himself is openly gay, which begs the question: if you disapprove of gay people so much why are you visiting a blog run by one?). But for the most part, the comments -- many of which are too colorful to print here -- highlight a fundamental problem for John McCain as he tries to formulate a winning strategy for November: How to win an election decided by voters in the middle, while continuing to pander to voters on the right.
It's no secret that gay marriage has long been a highly contentious political issue (one that arguably cost Democrats the 2004 election, since according to some polls gay marriage bans in states like Ohio had an impact on the presidential election) but gay adoption has emerged as a classic centrist issue. Barack Obama, who has been accused by the left of undergoing a political "Extreme Home Makeover" into a moderate in recent weeks, does not explicitly support gay marriage but does support equal adoption rights for gays and lesbians.
Younger voters in particular, who have been raised in a world of Will & Grace and Ellen have become increasingly intolerant of intolerance. John McCain may need to take particular note since polls show that young white evangelicals, once a cornerstone of the GOP, have begun to drift away from the party. Additionally, while she may be viewed as controversial now, (thanks to her lively stint on The View, Rosie O'Donnell certainly deserves some of the credit for helping to introduce the average American to the idea that gay parents are just like other parents.
While for some Americans religious beliefs remain an obstacle to their support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians, many of those same Americans have a tough time reconciling their religious conviction and compassion -- with the idea that a child may remain homeless in spite of the fact that a loving home exists in which they could be raised, simply because the home is inhabited by a same sex couple. A Pew Research Center poll shows that a clear majority of Americans now support adoption rights for gays and lesbians.
Like many Americans, I applauded Barack Obama's speech about absentee fathers. And I must say for the record, that I do believe that in an ideal world, a young black boy will be raised in a household in which he has the opportunity to see firsthand an image of a strong, responsible, black man; an image to serve as a roadmap for the type of man he will aspire to be someday. But I also believe that families come in all shapes and sizes (Barack Obama is living proof of this), and that when a family is both financially and emotionally sound enough to provide love and stability for a child, their skin color and gender matter don't matter as much.
Perhaps someone should ask John McCain, whose family rescued his youngest daughter Bridget from an orphanage in Bangladesh, if she would have been better off remaining there, than raised by a loving gay and lesbian couple.