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Monday, March 14, 2005

JOHN BOLTON'S NOT A LOCK FOR AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Progressives around the world were dismayed this past week when the president announced the appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control during the president's first term in office - the man responsible for taking the United States out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for making nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and Iran more difficult with his hardline policies - had been thought to have lost out when Rice did not promote him to Deputy Secretary of State. There were even those who thought his "sidelining" might mean that the power of the neocons within the Bush Administration was on the wane. Thus, the sudden announcement - after several weeks of the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense having "played nice" with allies around the world - was definitely a bucket of cold water in the faces of those who thought George W. Bush might become more moderate in his dealing with the world.

As several writers have pointed out, Bolton has been a long-term foe of the United Nations, a perfect example of the old John Birch Society cry, "Get the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S."

In the early 1990s, Bolton stated, "If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

As Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in The Guardian, "Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue. He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina... Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally, implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms's Dixiecrat Republicanism, not the neocons' airy Trotskyism or Straussianism."

Harry Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early Cold War "primitives." Bolton is the modern version of the "primitives," and he could be properly classified a "neoprimitive." He was Colin Powell's enemy within. In 2001, he forced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons convention, scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was the leading force behind the renunciation of our signature to the 1998 Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. He described sending his letter notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, of American withdrawal from the treaty as "the happiest moment of my government service".

In 1999, at the outset of American involvement in Kosovo, Bolton managed to make even an idiot like Bill O'Reilly look like a thoughtful commentator when he visited the "The O'Reilly Factor":

O'REILLY: And I find it difficult to stand by and watch another Cambodia, another Rwanda, unfold. And I believe the United States has a responsibility here.

BOLTON: Let me ask you this, Mr. O'Reilly. How many dead Americans is it worth to you to stop the brutality?

O'REILLY: I don't think I would quantify that because...

BOLTON: I think you have to quantify it. I think if you don't answer that question...

O'REILLY: ... I think if you're going to be a superpower...

BOLTON: ... you're ducking the key point that the commander in chief has to decide upon before putting American troops into a combat situation. We are now at war with Serbia. And the president has to be able to justify to himself and to the American people that Americans are about to die, or may well die, for a certain specific American interest.

O'REILLY: ... I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered.

BOLTON: ... Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests.

As Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation put it, "This debate about John Bolton is not just about him, or the United Nations -- it is about restoring a sense of integrity and common purpose among the great nations of the world and restoring U.S. leadership after the debacle that preceded the Iraq War."

The Bush Administration knows that Bolton is controversial, to say the least. They moved this past week to try and get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fast-track the confirmation process for Bolton. This ran into a roadblock when Senator Richard D. Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, refused to allow the confirmation process to move forward this coming week. With the Senate and House set to go on a two week Spring Recess this coming Friday, March 18, it means the Bolton nomination hearings will not happen before the second week in April at the earliest.

This means there is still time to derail this terrible nomination. Phone calls from voters to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee this past week were responsible for derailing the fast-track strategy the White House was banking on.

Now we need to tell all the members of the Senate that we the people want someone at the United Nations who will actually take steps to improve our relations with the rest of the world, not make them worse. The President doesn't have to nominate a UN true believer. There are any number of Republicans with solid backgrounds who have some skepticism over the operations of the United Nations - and this is not a bad thing - who believe in the value of the organization and the possibilities of improving America's position in the world through our work with the UN.

Call your Senator! E-mail them at senator@yoursenatorsname.senate.gov - let them hear from you.

Call the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff at 202-224-4651 and tell them you want to see another Republican nominated to this important position.

We can win this one. Bolton is so far out of the mainstream, so far to the radical right, that even Republicans are worried by this nomination.

Steve Clemons published a sample letter at his blog, The Washington Note which can give good guidance as to the tone to take and the points to make. I am quoting it here in full:

Dear Senator Lugar:

You are the kind of outstanding citizen committed to principled American leadership in the world that our Ambassador to the United Nations should also exemplify.

Many of your fans and those who feel that America must make some credible efforts at rebuilding bridges with parts of the world that have traditionally been friends and allies are hopeful that America will begin demonstrating fresh and revitalized, principled global leadership. President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations inflames world opinion and may undermine America's efforts to constructively assist in UN reform efforts.

John Bolton has served in government a long time and deserves a fair hearing -- but that hearing must be fair for those who have serious questions and doubts about his candidacy.

Please do the right thing. The fair and balanced thing to do is give advocates and skeptics a reasonable amount of time to make their case or lodge their concerns.

Article added at 11:19 PM EST

JOHN BOLTON'S NOT A LOCK FOR AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Progressives around the world were dismayed this past week when the president announced the appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control during the president's first term in office - the man responsible for taking the United States out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for making nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and Iran more difficult with his hardline policies - had been thought to have lost out when Rice did not promote him to Deputy Secretary of State. There were even those who thought his "sidelining" might mean that the power of the neocons within the Bush Administration was on the wane. Thus, the sudden announcement - after several weeks of the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense having "played nice" with allies around the world - was definitely a bucket of cold water in the faces of those who thought George W. Bush might become more moderate in his dealing with the world.

As several writers have pointed out, Bolton has been a long-term foe of the United Nations, a perfect example of the old John Birch Society cry, "Get the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S."

In the early 1990s, Bolton stated, "If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

As Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in The Guardian, "Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue. He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina... Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally, implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms's Dixiecrat Republicanism, not the neocons' airy Trotskyism or Straussianism."

Harry Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early Cold War "primitives." Bolton is the modern version of the "primitives," and he could be properly classified a "neoprimitive." He was Colin Powell's enemy within. In 2001, he forced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons convention, scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was the leading force behind the renunciation of our signature to the 1998 Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. He described sending his letter notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, of American withdrawal from the treaty as "the happiest moment of my government service".

In 1999, at the outset of American involvement in Kosovo, Bolton managed to make even an idiot like Bill O'Reilly look like a thoughtful commentator when he visited the "The O'Reilly Factor":

O'REILLY: And I find it difficult to stand by and watch another Cambodia, another Rwanda, unfold. And I believe the United States has a responsibility here.

BOLTON: Let me ask you this, Mr. O'Reilly. How many dead Americans is it worth to you to stop the brutality?

O'REILLY: I don't think I would quantify that because...

BOLTON: I think you have to quantify it. I think if you don't answer that question...

O'REILLY: ... I think if you're going to be a superpower...

BOLTON: ... you're ducking the key point that the commander in chief has to decide upon before putting American troops into a combat situation. We are now at war with Serbia. And the president has to be able to justify to himself and to the American people that Americans are about to die, or may well die, for a certain specific American interest.

O'REILLY: ... I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered.

BOLTON: ... Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests.

As Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation put it, "This debate about John Bolton is not just about him, or the United Nations -- it is about restoring a sense of integrity and common purpose among the great nations of the world and restoring U.S. leadership after the debacle that preceded the Iraq War."

The Bush Administration knows that Bolton is controversial, to say the least. They moved this past week to try and get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fast-track the confirmation process for Bolton. This ran into a roadblock when Senator Richard D. Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, refused to allow the confirmation process to move forward this coming week. With the Senate and House set to go on a two week Spring Recess this coming Friday, March 18, it means the Bolton nomination hearings will not happen before the second week in April at the earliest.

This means there is still time to derail this terrible nomination. Phone calls from voters to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee this past week were responsible for derailing the fast-track strategy the White House was banking on.

Now we need to tell all the members of the Senate that we the people want someone at the United Nations who will actually take steps to improve our relations with the rest of the world, not make them worse. The President doesn't have to nominate a UN true believer. There are any number of Republicans with solid backgrounds who have some skepticism over the operations of the United Nations - and this is not a bad thing - who believe in the value of the organization and the possibilities of improving America's position in the world through our work with the UN.

Call your Senator! E-mail them at senator@yoursenatorsname.senate.gov - let them hear from you.

Call the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff at 202-224-4651 and tell them you want to see another Republican nominated to this important position.

We can win this one. Bolton is so far out of the mainstream, so far to the radical right, that even Republicans are worried by this nomination.

Steve Clemons published a sample letter at his blog, The Washington Note which can give good guidance as to the tone to take and the points to make. I am quoting it here in full:

Dear Senator Lugar:

You are the kind of outstanding citizen committed to principled American leadership in the world that our Ambassador to the United Nations should also exemplify.

Many of your fans and those who feel that America must make some credible efforts at rebuilding bridges with parts of the world that have traditionally been friends and allies are hopeful that America will begin demonstrating fresh and revitalized, principled global leadership. President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations inflames world opinion and may undermine America's efforts to constructively assist in UN reform efforts.

John Bolton has served in government a long time and deserves a fair hearing -- but that hearing must be fair for those who have serious questions and doubts about his candidacy.

Please do the right thing. The fair and balanced thing to do is give advocates and skeptics a reasonable amount of time to make their case or lodge their concerns.

Article added at 11:18 PM EST

JOHN BOLTON'S NOT A LOCK FOR AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Progressives around the world were dismayed this past week when the president announced the appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control during the president's first term in office - the man responsible for taking the United States out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for making nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and Iran more difficult with his hardline policies - had been thought to have lost out when Rice did not promote him to Deputy Secretary of State. There were even those who thought his "sidelining" might mean that the power of the neocons within the Bush Administration was on the wane. Thus, the sudden announcement - after several weeks of the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense having "played nice" with allies around the world - was definitely a bucket of cold water in the faces of those who thought George W. Bush might become more moderate in his dealing with the world.

As several writers have pointed out, Bolton has been a long-term foe of the United Nations, a perfect example of the old John Birch Society cry, "Get the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S."

In the early 1990s, Bolton stated, "If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

As Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in The Guardian, "Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue. He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina... Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally, implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms's Dixiecrat Republicanism, not the neocons' airy Trotskyism or Straussianism."

Harry Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early Cold War "primitives." Bolton is the modern version of the "primitives," and he could be properly classified a "neoprimitive." He was Colin Powell's enemy within. In 2001, he forced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons convention, scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was the leading force behind the renunciation of our signature to the 1998 Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. He described sending his letter notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, of American withdrawal from the treaty as "the happiest moment of my government service".

In 1999, at the outset of American involvement in Kosovo, Bolton managed to make even an idiot like Bill O'Reilly look like a thoughtful commentator when he visited the "The O'Reilly Factor":

O'REILLY: And I find it difficult to stand by and watch another Cambodia, another Rwanda, unfold. And I believe the United States has a responsibility here.

BOLTON: Let me ask you this, Mr. O'Reilly. How many dead Americans is it worth to you to stop the brutality?

O'REILLY: I don't think I would quantify that because...

BOLTON: I think you have to quantify it. I think if you don't answer that question...

O'REILLY: ... I think if you're going to be a superpower...

BOLTON: ... you're ducking the key point that the commander in chief has to decide upon before putting American troops into a combat situation. We are now at war with Serbia. And the president has to be able to justify to himself and to the American people that Americans are about to die, or may well die, for a certain specific American interest.

O'REILLY: ... I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered.

BOLTON: ... Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests.

As Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation put it, "This debate about John Bolton is not just about him, or the United Nations -- it is about restoring a sense of integrity and common purpose among the great nations of the world and restoring U.S. leadership after the debacle that preceded the Iraq War."

The Bush Administration knows that Bolton is controversial, to say the least. They moved this past week to try and get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fast-track the confirmation process for Bolton. This ran into a roadblock when Senator Richard D. Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, refused to allow the confirmation process to move forward this coming week. With the Senate and House set to go on a two week Spring Recess this coming Friday, March 18, it means the Bolton nomination hearings will not happen before the second week in April at the earliest.

This means there is still time to derail this terrible nomination. Phone calls from voters to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee this past week were responsible for derailing the fast-track strategy the White House was banking on.

Now we need to tell all the members of the Senate that we the people want someone at the United Nations who will actually take steps to improve our relations with the rest of the world, not make them worse. The President doesn't have to nominate a UN true believer. There are any number of Republicans with solid backgrounds who have some skepticism over the operations of the United Nations - and this is not a bad thing - who believe in the value of the organization and the possibilities of improving America's position in the world through our work with the UN.

Call your Senator! E-mail them at senator@yoursenatorsname.senate.gov - let them hear from you.

Call the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff at 202-224-4651 and tell them you want to see another Republican nominated to this important position.

If your telephone blocks Caller ID, you can call the office of any of the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, and tell them you are a concerned constituent who wants a sane nomination.

We can win this one. Bolton is so far out of the mainstream, so far to the radical right, that even Republicans are worried by this nomination.

Steve Clemons published a sample letter at his blog, The Washington Note which can give good guidance as to the tone to take and the points to make. I am quoting it here in full:

Dear Senator Lugar:

You are the kind of outstanding citizen committed to principled American leadership in the world that our Ambassador to the United Nations should also exemplify.

Many of your fans and those who feel that America must make some credible efforts at rebuilding bridges with parts of the world that have traditionally been friends and allies are hopeful that America will begin demonstrating fresh and revitalized, principled global leadership. President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations inflames world opinion and may undermine America's efforts to constructively assist in UN reform efforts.

John Bolton has served in government a long time and deserves a fair hearing -- but that hearing must be fair for those who have serious questions and doubts about his candidacy.

Please do the right thing. The fair and balanced thing to do is give advocates and skeptics a reasonable amount of time to make their case or lodge their concerns.

Article added at 11:18 PM EST

JOHN BOLTON'S NOT A LOCK FOR AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Progressives around the world were dismayed this past week when the president announced the appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control during the president's first term in office - the man responsible for taking the United States out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for making nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea and Iran more difficult with his hardline policies - had been thought to have lost out when Rice did not promote him to Deputy Secretary of State. There were even those who thought his "sidelining" might mean that the power of the neocons within the Bush Administration was on the wane. Thus, the sudden announcement - after several weeks of the President and his Secretaries of State and Defense having "played nice" with allies around the world - was definitely a bucket of cold water in the faces of those who thought George W. Bush might become more moderate in his dealing with the world.

As several writers have pointed out, Bolton has been a long-term foe of the United Nations, a perfect example of the old John Birch Society cry, "Get the U.S. out of the United Nations and the United Nations out of the U.S."

In the early 1990s, Bolton stated, "If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."

As Sidney Blumenthal pointed out in The Guardian, "Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue. He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina... Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally, implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms's Dixiecrat Republicanism, not the neocons' airy Trotskyism or Straussianism."

Harry Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early Cold War "primitives." Bolton is the modern version of the "primitives," and he could be properly classified a "neoprimitive." He was Colin Powell's enemy within. In 2001, he forced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons convention, scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was the leading force behind the renunciation of our signature to the 1998 Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. He described sending his letter notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, of American withdrawal from the treaty as "the happiest moment of my government service".

In 1999, at the outset of American involvement in Kosovo, Bolton managed to make even an idiot like Bill O'Reilly look like a thoughtful commentator when he visited the "The O'Reilly Factor":

O'REILLY: And I find it difficult to stand by and watch another Cambodia, another Rwanda, unfold. And I believe the United States has a responsibility here.

BOLTON: Let me ask you this, Mr. O'Reilly. How many dead Americans is it worth to you to stop the brutality?

O'REILLY: I don't think I would quantify that because...

BOLTON: I think you have to quantify it. I think if you don't answer that question...

O'REILLY: ... I think if you're going to be a superpower...

BOLTON: ... you're ducking the key point that the commander in chief has to decide upon before putting American troops into a combat situation. We are now at war with Serbia. And the president has to be able to justify to himself and to the American people that Americans are about to die, or may well die, for a certain specific American interest.

O'REILLY: ... I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered.

BOLTON: ... Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests.

As Steve Clemons, President of the New America Foundation put it, "This debate about John Bolton is not just about him, or the United Nations -- it is about restoring a sense of integrity and common purpose among the great nations of the world and restoring U.S. leadership after the debacle that preceded the Iraq War."

The Bush Administration knows that Bolton is controversial, to say the least. They moved this past week to try and get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fast-track the confirmation process for Bolton. This ran into a roadblock when Senator Richard D. Lugar, Chairman of the Committee, refused to allow the confirmation process to move forward this coming week. With the Senate and House set to go on a two week Spring Recess this coming Friday, March 18, it means the Bolton nomination hearings will not happen before the second week in April at the earliest.

This means there is still time to derail this terrible nomination. Phone calls from voters to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee this past week were responsible for derailing the fast-track strategy the White House was banking on.

Now we need to tell all the members of the Senate that we the people want someone at the United Nations who will actually take steps to improve our relations with the rest of the world, not make them worse. The President doesn't have to nominate a UN true believer. There are any number of Republicans with solid backgrounds who have some skepticism over the operations of the United Nations - and this is not a bad thing - who believe in the value of the organization and the possibilities of improving America's position in the world through our work with the UN.

Call your Senator! E-mail them at senator@yoursenatorsname.senate.gov - let them hear from you.

Call the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority Staff at 202-224-4651 and tell them you want to see another Republican nominated to this important position.

If your telephone blocks Caller ID, you can call the office of any of the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, and tell them you are a concerned constituent who wants a sane nomination.

We can win this one. Bolton is so far out of the mainstream, so far to the radical right, that even Republicans are worried by this nomination.

Steve Clemons published a sample letter at his blog, The Washington Note which can give good guidance as to the tone to take and the points to make. I am quoting it here in full:

Dear Senator Lugar:

You are the kind of outstanding citizen committed to principled American leadership in the world that our Ambassador to the United Nations should also exemplify.

Many of your fans and those who feel that America must make some credible efforts at rebuilding bridges with parts of the world that have traditionally been friends and allies are hopeful that America will begin demonstrating fresh and revitalized, principled global leadership. President Bush's nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations inflames world opinion and may undermine America's efforts to constructively assist in UN reform efforts.

John Bolton has served in government a long time and deserves a fair hearing -- but that hearing must be fair for those who have serious questions and doubts about his candidacy.

Please do the right thing. The fair and balanced thing to do is give advocates and skeptics a reasonable amount of time to make their case or lodge their concerns.

Article added at 11:15 PM EST
Monday, March 7, 2005

DO THE RIGHT THING

By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who - in a time of great moral crisis - preserve their neutrality."
-Dante, "The Divine Comedy"

I began writing this column on the day that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that there was nothing unconstitutional to a revision of the Canadian marriage law to allow "marriage between any two persons," and a bit more than a week since the Supreme Court of the United States refused to overrule the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court of a year ago, in which that Court found the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts in opposition to the laws governing marriage in that Commonwealth, thereby legalizing "gay marriage."

Since then, Canada has gone on to offer a national law legalizing gay marriage, presented to the Canadian parliament by a Prime Minister who is a practicing Catholic, who says he considers it a defense of religion, not to impose the particular beliefs of any specific religion on a secular society. And people wonder why I have called Canada "the civilized sector of North America" for the past thirty years.

After riding to victory on his claim of defending marriage by proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Bush seemed to backtrack after the election - as Republicans always do - by saying there was little likelihood the Senate would approve such an amendment unless the Supreme Court were to hold the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. His fundamentalist supporters - who hold themselves responsible for his victory and thereby due their pound of flesh - rose up in holy wrath over that, with the result that in the State of the Union speech, Bush stated, "Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage."

Thus, as any number of observers have stated, this has become an issue that is not going away, like it or not.

I will admit to the fact that, a year ago when Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco turned this issue into a national political crisis by issuing marriage licenses for gay couples, my reaction was "Oh God! Not this! Not now!" My reaction was purely pragmatic, as I looked forward in 2004 to a political struggle for the Presidency in which the deck was sufficiently stacked against the Democratic nominee that we didn't need to chain an anvil around our neck and then attempt to fly.

I am of an age that I can remember - as a teenager in Denver, Colorado - having friends tell me they were going out to "get some faggots" on a Saturday night, and asking me if I wanted to come along for the fun. I am glad to say that I didn't go, but I don't think it was from any grand awareness of moral authority and a personal decision not to commit what wasn't at the time a crime (or at least not a crime where the victim was likely to report his attackers to the authorities). The truth was, I didn't like fighting; but I didn't think at the time that the plan was anything abnormal, and didn't think badly of my friends for the fact they would want do such a thing. In fact, a bit over a year later, I found myself, as a young sailor in San Francisco, agreeing to go along with a friend in a scheme in mug the man who would attempt to pick us up in his car as we walked along Mission Street back to the East Bay Terminal - our justification for this being that sailors in those days weren't paid enough money to get through the month and we needed the money. As it turned out, I ended up as the one in the front seat, and I choked in the clutch, as it were. Perhaps my subconscious was more of a liberal on the topic than I was at the time.

After I got out of the Navy, I ended up living in San Francisco for about ten years, and - as will happen to anyone living there - I ended up with gay friends, people I really liked for their creativity, their wit, their awareness, and their just plain general likeability - not to mention they introduced me to the wonders of a well-cooked meal (having grown up the son of a mother who - on her last day on earth - could burn water). I remember as if it was yesterday the time 35 years ago, when friends I already knew were gay felt compelled to tell me this fact about themselves, as a result of an event now known to history as "The Stonewall Riots." Those of you too young to have been aware of the world around you (in other words, anyone under about 50 or so) cannot have the slightest understanding of the significance of that event. Gays, the group everyone - no matter their politics - could hate and discriminate against with no negative reaction, had stood up for their rights of who they were, and had won at least respect, if not acceptance. It was liberating for my friends, and it was liberating for me, too, not to have to say to my wife, "so-and-so has to be gay, it's the only explanation for this and that of the way they are," for us to both agree on the analysis, and to then never mention our knowledge of that fact to our friend. I well remember the first weekend we spent with an "out" gay couple, long-time friends of ours who we had never spoken to of our knowledge of them, scuffling through the leaves in a green-tunnel street in East Sacramento, just talking like friends, not having to say anything, everyone knowing everything and thinking nothing of it.

The Eighties were a killer. Literally. I lost five friends to "gay cancer" and to the other "syndromes" it got called before the plague became known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. I remember getting drunk at the local writer's watering hole in 1986 with a fellow writer - who felt the need to tell me what I had already figured out about him a couple years previous - so that he could tell me (as the only person he knew who had lost friends in difficult circumstances, mine having been lost in a war), how awful it was to go to funerals of good friends who had been healthy, wonderful, creative, young men only weeks before they died a wasted near-skeleton.

But still, when it came to standing up and being counted when doing so would make achievement of a long-sought goal even more difficult than it already was - even after all the history outlined above - my reaction to the possibility of gay marriage rights becoming a reality was "Oh God! Not this! Not now!"

And then...

I didn't go to the 40th reunion of my high school graduating class, for all of the good reasons I didn?t go to the 10th, 20th, 25th, or 30th reunions. For me in high school, the best day was the day they opened the cage and the bird flew free; 72 hours later I was on an airplane headed for California and the Navy - the poor boy's ticket out of town - and I never looked back.

But my good friend from childhood - a guy I knew from Kindergarten to 12th grade, the way boys know their friends - did go to that 40th reunion. He came with his partner, a man he has lived with for three times longer than I have ever managed in two marriages and two Committed Relationships combined. I was definitely as surprised as everyone else who e-mailed me the information, and as unsurprised as all of us who had been his friends were when we thought about him and our friendship for maybe 20 micro-nanoseconds. It was like taking a picture - you fiddle with the focus, and then you "get it" and everything is sharper than sharp. Everything I remembered about my friend "made sense" with that knowledge.

I got back in touch, to tell him how brave I thought it was, what he had done, and with the people he had done it with. I don't know about you, but my definition of a Really Close Friend is someone you haven't talked to in a really long time who - when you finally do - it's like the last time you talked was yesterday. Well, my childhood friend is a Really Close Friend.

Over the past year, I have heard the Defenders of Marriage say that this most important event must be the union only of a man and a woman, solely for the purpose of propagating the species. So what does that make of my relationship? She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are both far past the age of propagation; in fact, the main reason both of us have been able to come up with for making the relationship official is our desire to have someone we trusted have the power to make medical decisions for each other, depending on the circumstances, so that we don't die alone with idiots keeping us around past our time because of their fear of a nonexistent malpractice suit. According to the Defenders of Values, our relationship is as worthless as that of my oldest friend, the difference being that SWMBO and I can marry, with our decision unquestioned by anyone, and yet my oldest friend and a partner he trusts more than we trust each other cannot. What crap!

What does all this have to do with politics? Over all the time I have been involved in politics, I have found that not only was Tip O'Neill right when he said "all politics are local," he would have been even more right had he said "all politics are personal." Who we are, who we believe we are, has everything to do with the political choices we make.

I still wish this wasn't a fight we had to make now - not against this enemy, not in this situation. But my great-great-grandfather didn't have a lot of choice when he and his fellow soldiers had to save the Union on the crest of Little Round Top at Gettysburg on his 16th birthday, and yet they made that choice - hard as it was - and we live in the world that was created as a result.

I think of Grover Hall, the editor of the "Montgomery Advertiser" - a man I was fortunate to meet at the end of his life when I was researching another historical event he'd been involved in - who went on at length about how Martin Luther King's Montgomery Bus Boycott didn't come at a "convenient time" for him and the paper, yet he went on as the Editor to state publicly what he had come to know about race relations in the South as a reporter whose first assignment had been to cover the trial of the Scottsboro Boys because he knew that - however inconvenient the event was - he had to make "the right choice" this time, regardless of the difficulties so doing would involve. He won a Pulitzer for his decision. His name isn't in the Pantheon of Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, but it should be.

Stepping up to "do the right thing" is never convenient. If it was, no one of us would honor those who do so. It always comes at a moment when one would rather be doing anything else. To choose to "do the right thing" is a test, a test of our humanity. I don't believe in God in any traditional sense (I agree with Rabbi Maimonides that "to understand the universe is to know god"), but I do believe that those moments when one is forced to make a decision one way or the other are the moments which define us as who we are.

So who am I to say that my best friend from childhood, who has been far more successful at maintaining a committed loving relationship than I have been with all of society's mores and laws on my side, is wrong, that his existence is a threat to Life As We Know It, that he is someone whose freedom to be is somehow unworthy of my deciding to "do the right thing" and support him?

Article added at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2005 12:52 AM EST

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