Jim Messina is Obama’s deputy chief of staff. He’s been the pointman on all things gay at the White House. And thus, he’s been the whipping boy for gay activists disappointed with the administration’s slow (and sometimes, reversing) actions on LGBT equality. So it makes sense that the blogs would drum up some of Messina’s career history, like the time he was helping get a Republican elected by gay baiting the opposition.
As Marc Ambinder points out, he’s been the administration’s point-person on changing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and deserves considerable credit for managing the process through last night’s votes.
That’s a fascinating turn, since in an earlier stage in his career, Messina was a Montana political operative who managed the 2002 re-election campaign of Senator Max Baucus. The effort has become something of a legend in political circles because of the above advertisement, ostensibly a spot on student loans but in effect a case of gay-baiting.
The ad knocked Baucus’ opponent, Republican Mike Taylor, who was already trailing in the polls, right out of the race. A flier associated with the effort read “At Mike Taylor’s hair care schools, someone besides the customers got clipped.” Yipes. When Taylor, whose name could not be removed from the ballot, got back in the race, Messina wrote a letter to the GOP candidate, subsequently leaked to the press, challenging Taylor to sign a clean campaign pledge: “We take you at your word that you want to turn over a new leaf and run a positive campaign.”
It was Messina who, after Obama addressed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in his State of the Union speech, told advocates from Gay Inc. that the White House would not be backing a repeal in the Defense Department’s budget bill. Fast forward to this week, when the White House did back a (compromised) repeal. And Messina is the guy singing HRC’s praises, which alone should make you skeptical of him.
It’s hard to debate that the above ad, with all its talk about a politician running a nelly hair salon, isn’t an example of gay baiting. But that will forever be a part of Messina’s history. And now he’s the man acting as the go-between for the White House and The Gays. That should inspire optimism, ey?