Open Mic

Rick Perry's Debate Gaffes Make For Choice Comedy. However, What He's Chosen to Say About Gays, Sadly, Only Points Out a Tragic Flaw in His Character

Chuck Ross Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:06 AM

Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy.

And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. Dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back. And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground.

For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone. It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend.

The recounting of this true story is from a speech President Obama delivered a year ago, when he signed the legislation ending the military’s policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Later, I heard Lloyd’s son, Miles, talking about his dad and Andy and gays in the military on the public radio show “The Story.”

Miles put a fine exclamation on the issue: “Valor has no sexual orientation.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry must have been absent in Sunday school the day that was taught. Or, perhaps more likely—and sadly—it was a lesson that wasn’t taught in the Sunday school Perry attended.

We know how Perry feels about this because of what he says in an ad he’s just released in Iowa, as he coddles—and cuddles up to—the evangelical vote there.

Here’s how the ad—titled “Strong” by the Perry campaign—opens: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

I’m not even going to address the rest of what Perry said about our kids, nor what he says in the rest of the ad, which you can watch at the bottom of this column.

But it’s not the only slur against gays he’s delivered lately.

Earlier this week both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave impassioned support to gays. Clinton gave a speech that “equated gay rights with women’s rights during a speech in Geneva,” reports ABC News. That same article said, “In a memorandum released today, Obama said foreign aid should be used by U.S. agencies operating abroad to 'promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,' including combating the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct by foreign governments, along with protecting LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.

“ ‘I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation,’ Obama said in the memo.”

The report also tells of Perry’s reaction: “ ‘Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights. This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop,’ Perry said in the statement. ‘Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.’

“ ‘But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea,’ Perry said. ‘This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many [Americans] of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong. President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.’ ”

I would posit it’s Perry who's out of touch with America’s values.

For example, a number of conservative commentators have said they are OK with gays in the military. When asked about it on ABC’s Sunday morning news show “This Week,” conservative commentator George Will said, “For people of [Matthew Dowd's] son's generation, being gay is like being left-handed. ... The Supreme Court has a famous phrase it used in some opinion, the evolving standards of decency that mark a maturing society. Clearly these are evolving, and the case is over, basically."

In a column posted in June 2010, on the site “View From the Right,” Lawrence Auster quoted Washington Post conservative Robert Knight as follows:

“Charles Krauthammer, who has written some of the best critiques of Obamacare and the rest of the left's assault on America, is also aboard the gay express. He's smarter than God. So, too, are Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, Weekly Standard columnist Stephen Hayes, Fox News analyst Margaret Hoover and American Spectator columnist Phillip Klein, all of whom have called for repealing the military ban. Mr. Klein called it a ‘no-brainer.’ No arguing with that.

“The silence of other talking heads is deafening while Democrats ram through their immoral assault on our military. So I have a couple of questions for these pundits: First, given that you've warned us repeatedly about many dangers of the left, why are you embracing the centerpiece of their war on American values? Homosexual activism is the spear point of the larger cultural blitzkrieg. Without Judeo-Christian morals, liberty and freedom cannot thrive, as observers from Tocqueville to Adam Smith to George Washington have warned. Or just visit any inner city where socialist sexual values have prevailed.”

I’m sorry, but what crap. Supporting gay rights does not violate Judeo-Christian values. Supporting gay rights does not mean liberty and freedom cannot thrive—just the opposite, in fact.

Back in the days of Congress’ Communist witch hunt of the 1950s, Lillian Hellman wrote a famous letter to a congressional committee saying that she refused to testify about other people who she believed had done nothing wrong. The sound bite for all time was “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”

But Hellman also wrote in that letter, “I was raised in an old-fashioned American tradition and there were certain homely things that were taught to me: To try to tell the truth, not to bear false witness, not to harm my neighbor, to be loyal to my country, and so on. In general, I respected these ideals of Christian honor and did as well with them as I knew how. It is my belief that you will agree with these simple rules of human decency and will not expect me to violate the good American tradition from which they spring.”

Human decency demands that Perry and those of his ilk stop their incessant attack on gays and those who support ending discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation.

Obama and Clinton are right on this one. Their stand IS the moral one, and is the one that’s right for the country.