Ken Mehlman Comes Out of His Glass Closet

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman announced this week that he was gay. ”œIt’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” he said to reporter Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic

Mehlman makes it sound like he has engaged in a titanic internal struggle to understand and face up to his sexuality, and that recently, in his fifth decade, he has finally accepted the liberating truth that he prefers to sleep with men. Congratulations are coming in all around, from other former officials in the Bush Administration who admire Ken Mehlman’s ”œhonesty”, to gay activists enthused that there is at least one closeted Republican who hasn’t fondled little boys.

Ken Mehlman is a man who took his boyfriend to the 2004 Bush Inaugural. How confused could he have been about his sexuality six years ago when he was so open about it on the Washington cocktail party circuit? Which high Republican officials in the Bush Administration or Congress could possibly have doubted that the head of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign was gay?

In this very same campaign that Ken Mehlman ran, anti-gay venom and anti-gay initiatives were at the core of the Republican strategy to bring out the evangelical vote. Ken Mehlman, along with Karl Rove and George Bush, sponsored in state after state legislation that outlawed gay marriage. A tactic that was especially popular was to put on the ballot an amendment to the state constitution that would forbid marriage to anyone other than a man and a woman.

The tactic worked. Not only did Bush’s culture warriors flock to the polls to provide him a second term – to this day states that would otherwise not have considered the matter now forbid gay marriage. Ken Mehlman says that lately he has been ”œsecretly” working to defeat California’s Proposition 8 that forbids gays to marry, as this will somehow atone for the instrumental role he played in denying equality to millions of Americans.

When Ken Mehlman left the Bush Administration, he took an extremely lucrative job as an executive vice president at the leveraged buyout firm KKR. Mehlman has an apartment in Manhattan worth $3.7, and no doubt has become seriously rich after spending eight years working for peanuts as a public servant, sacrificing personal gain for the public good.

It’s just too bad that part of the public wasn’t well served at all by Ken Mehlman’s devoted public service. Part of the public was vilified and exposed to hate crimes so that Republicans could get elected. Part of the public was not allowed to be with their loved ones when they were dying in a hospital because the two of them weren’t legally married. Part of the public had to hide who they were when serving in the military, and part of the public has gone to their deaths in Iraq or Afghanistan, making the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, while their nation’s leaders denounced them as sub-human.

Do not believe for one minute that Ken Mehlman has spent years in internal torment, wondering whether he was gay or not. He’s known all along. The torment he has gone through has been of a different kind: when is it convenient for a hypocrite who has instigated homophobia as federal government policy, and who has profited handsomely off homophobia, to admit he is a homo himself?

Ken Mehlman’s coming out ceremony is a matter of convenience for himself only. It shouldn’t be celebrated as an example of personal honesty, and the forgiveness Mehlman seeks cannot be given to him by a merciful public. Only those who have been on the receiving end of Mehlman’s self-loathing and hypocrisy are entitled to grant him any absolution, and it will probably be a long, long time before the majority of gays in this country are willing to welcome Ken Mehlman as someone who can stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have spent their lives fighting for equal rights.

If Ken Mehlman wants to use his fame, his rolodex, and his skill at raising money to help the gay marriage cause in the US, fine. Let the gay community exploit him for a good cause, the way he exploited them for malevolent purposes. Just don’t pat him on the back, congratulating him on the courage he has displayed in coming out publicly. Courage has nothing to do with a decision that seems terribly convenient now that public opinion on gays and gay marriage has changed to such a degree that the Republicans can no longer profit from homophobia.

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Numerian is a devoted author and poster on The Agonist, specializing in business, finance, the global economy, and politics. In real life he goes by the non-nom de plume of Garrett Glass and hides out in Oak Park, IL, where he spends time writing novels on early Christianity (and an occasional tract on God and religion). You can follow his writing career on his website,

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Which high Republican officials in the Bush Administration or Congress could possibly have doubted that the head of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign was gay?

    EVERYBODY. Bush had that black lesbian foreign minister.

    Stupid questions like that create an illusion that the top politicians live in the same world as we do. They don’t and to overcome that they create a fake illusion of their lives for voters.

    — 80% of Americans believe they are better-than-average drivers

  • Republican party has moved towards pro-gay position, for example in Utah. As soon as they lose their anti-gay position, they will fall on the right side (pro-gay). That’s called politics.

    That story is part of that campaign. And then it has that pro-fake-democracy substance too: “The Elite are just like us!”

    — 80% of Americans believe they are better-than-average drivers

  • and honesty with one’s self is never a bad policy.

    If Ken Mehlman is gay, I congratulate him on coming out as gay. He could have just as easily kept it in the closet and continued to be a little slimy weasel for money the rest of his life while having an all-male revolving door in his bedroom.

    Now that he has come out it is time to see whether he is honest about the change, or as Numerian implies if he is still a little shit who works the game both ways. If he condemns his past, says he regrets going along with those anti-gay diatribes, and if he shoulders fighting the good fight for his fellow gay activists – then I’ll believe him and forgive. If he doesn’t and still backs the Republican line, then you know he’s a toady, always was a toady, and will be until the day he dies.

    But I give him a fair chance at redemption. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes those mistakes trap us, and he has a chance in my eyes to make it right.

  • while they are all fine diaries and postings, does there really need to be 3 seperate postings on this latest distraction?
    less on the circus and more on the bread, please.

  • When this news hit, a friend wrote me, “I don’t know whether to feel sorry for him as a tortured soul, or loathe him as a monster hypocrite. Maybe both?” and I responded that I was caught between pity and loathing. This was when I believed that he’d struggled with self-acceptance. After hearing that Mehlman brought his boyfriend to the 2004 Bush Inaugural, I feel pure loathing. Thinking of the numbers of people dead (suicide, AIDS, and violent hate-crimes) as a direct result of the Religious Right’s reprehensible approach to lesbians, gays, and the transgendered–some of whom I personally knew–I feel sick. And don’t forget the multitudes who live wasted, unhappy lives trying desperately to be “straight,” as a result of their religious faith.

    Mehlman and the Republican party quite literally have blood on their hands.

  • all day. thanks!
    I should be happy that so many see Mehlman for what he is. Coming out doesn’t make one a hero nor does being gay make one a victim.

  • WaPo “The Fix”, By Rachel Weiner, March 2

    In an interview with Salon, the chairman of President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign says he personally apologizes to people who “were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved.”

    Ken Mehlman came out as gay in 2010.

    At the time, he expressed regret that he didn’t push back against the Bush campaign’s support for a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and anti-gay marriage initiatives on state ballots.


    Now he’s gone a step further:

    “At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” Mehlman said. “As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”

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