Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did Condi Gay Rumors Doom Her Chances as McCain's Running Mate?

Imagine if John McCain had picked Condoleeza Rice as a running mate rather than Sarah Palin. Say what you will about Rice -- and I certainly have -- but she perhaps could have been much more formidable than Palin, even with Rice's Bush baggage. It might be a whole different race -- if not, according to an investigative reporter, for the fact that Rice has been speculated about, particularly in the past year, as a lesbian. And a lot of that blew up on my show and right here on this blog.

Many of you will remember back to September of last year when Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler broke the news on my show that Condi Rice owned a home with another woman.

He'd written a biography of Rice, and I surely wasn't his first interview (though I was in that first dozen or so, probably, since it was the week the book was published). And yet, I was the first one to ask about some curious facts he'd unearthed and which were prominent in his introduction and then later in the book, regarding Rice's ownership of a home with a woman described as her closest female friend, Randy Bean, a Democrat and filmmaker who worked at Stanford. The two had actually owned the home with Rice's other best friend, a gay man who worked in the Clinton administration, Coit D. Blacker, a Stanford professor, who eventually sold his share to the two women. Even if Rice and the also-unmarried Bean weren't in a relationship, the fact that her second closest friend is a gay man (and also a Democrat) was quite fascinating.

My post about the interview that day was linked up up across the web almost immediately, and to this day is still popular. (Certainly it caused enough of a commotion that Bean felt compelled to give an interview weeks later to Radar, denying she is a lesbian or was involved with Rice.)

Well, now Ian Halperin, an investigative journalist, author and blogger who blew the lid off Scientology's homophobia (among other things), reports that a Republican National Committee source claims Rice was being pushed hard by some McCain advisers as a VP running mate, well before Palin, but that the idea was shot down eventually because they thought the fundies would go nuts over the rumors. He sites the Kessler book as having fueled the speculation about Rice:

According to a prominent member of the Republican National Committee privy to the search process, many in McCain’s inner circle argued furiously for the selection of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice over the other top contenders, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty.
“Once Obama selected Biden instead of Hillary,” said the source, ” they had this theory that Condi was the perfect candidate to put up against him. She’s tough, conservative and a hawk, not to mention a football fanatic, which would be more than enough for white men. They never expected traditionally Democratic Blacks and women to vote for her in large numbers, but argued that if she could just sway 5-10% of Blacks and 10% of women to defect, it could be enough to tilt the election towards McCain in a number of crucial swing states. At this point, Palin still wasn’t on anybody’s radar screen.”

So what went wrong? “It was the persistent rumors about her sexuality that ultimately killed her chances and removed her from the list,” says the mid-level RNC official. “In Washington circles, it’s just assumed Rice is gay and nobody really cares. But in the glare of the media spotlight, those rumors were bound to get magnified a thousandfold and the mainstream media would have had an excuse to reveal the facts that would have caused conniption fits among the Republican base.”

Very interesting.