And How The Gays Can Set Things Straight

Howard Dean’s Convenient Amnesia

deanhowardbw.jpg Howard Dean’s memory continues to fail him. The Democratic National Committee Chairman claims his organization fired Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council director Donald Hitchcock for “poor job performance,” not as retaliation for his boyfriend, Paul Yandura’s open letter criticizing the party’s lackluster gay politics. Taking a look at Dean’s sworn deposition, however, one has to wonder whether his shady recollection says more his parsed replies. And gay Democrats should be wondering how they can stand up and save their party. We’ll start with Chairman Dean’s sworn testimony, during which time he claims never to have read Yandura’s letter, which lambasted the party for not doing more to combat anti-gay ballot initiatives.
Q: Now, if you recall, do you recall coming to learn at some point that Paul Yandura had written a letter that was critical of the DNC? HD: No. Q: You never came to learn that? HD: Are you talking about the famous e-mail — Q: Yes. HD: — or whatever it was? No.
It would be great to believe Dean, but his contemptuous response contradicts an early testimony given by Tom McMahon, in which the DNC executive director says he gave Dean the “heads up” in late April of 2006, directly after the Washington Blade published Yandura’s letter. Testified McMahon: “The briefing was in conjunction with a press interview he would be doing or press he would encounter at the meeting.” Hitchcock’s lawyer, Lynne Bernabei, offers McMahon’s testimony to jog Dean’s memory, but Dean maintains that he only heard talking points from the letter, never physically saw it and certainly didn’t know Yandura penned it. When pressed on the matter, Dean attempts to explain his ignorance by pinning it on McMahon: “He doesn’t bring me up-to-date on all this kind of stuff.” We personally find it hard to swallow that a press briefing wouldn’t address the source of such a letter, especially when the author’s partner works for the criticized organization. Yet, that’s the story Dean tells, insisting that if McMahon told him Yandura wrote it, he totally forgot about it and didn’t become aware of Yandura’s involvement until months after the DNC fired Hitchcock. It seems to us that a piece of press as explosive as Yandura’s letter would have received a little more attention than just a “heads up.” Even if McMahon had only mentioned it briefly, does Dean have such a disregard for gay constituents that he wouldn’t explore the matter further? No disrespect, Mr. Dean, but weren’t you curious enough to inquire or did you simply not care?
Despite Dean’s assertion – Hitchcock wasn’t doing his job – the DNC has yet to produce any records indicating internal discussions regarding Hitchcock’s future. More damning, perhaps, is the fact Chief of Staff Leah Daughtry that when she and McMahon approached Hitchcock about resigning, which he refused to do, leading to his firing, McMahon told Hitchcock, “We haven’t been planning [your firing] for weeks.” One would think such a decision – firing the organization’s ranking gay – would have required considerable planning, but we could be mistaken. Dean’s hazy recollection of Yandura’s letter isn’t the only example of the Chairman’s convenient amnesia. Take, for example, his “understanding” of the American Majority Partnership, the initiative he spearheaded to consolidate the DNC’s constituency outreach desks. Dean explains the AMP as an effort to “do unified outreach to all our constituency groups.” Former DNC leader Chris Owens, who acted as the AMP’s founding director, remembers things a little differently. In a confidential exit memo obtained by Queerty, Owens offers Daughtry and McMahon this definition:
The original plan had been for the AMP to focus on outreach to three communities only: Women, African Americans and Hispanics. However, for a variety of reasons, we decided to add a stafer to handle AAPI outreach and later, we created a dotted line relationship between the GLLC Executive Director and AMP, in order to house LGBT political outreach within our larger constituency outreach effort.
That “dotted line” relationship became quite contentious for Hitchcock, who wanted a closer relationship with the AMP. DNC officials justify keeping him housed in the Finance Department because he – unlike other constituency leaders – had a staff. That definitely makes sense – as does Daughtry’s explanation that there simply wasn’t enough physical space in the AMP’s office – but the fact that his request was not granted only reinforced Hitchcock’s theories: the DNC would rather “use the gays as an ATM” than give them a place at the political table. Howard Dean was pressed on the matter of Hitchcock’s role in the DNC, but repeatedly testified that he didn’t personally know the margins of Hitchcock’s duties, which is quite queer considering that Dean not only acts as Chairman, but, again, implemented the AMP. If Dean’s to be believed and the AMP was meant to include all the constituencies, we would at least hope he could remember the purview of his staff’s positions. Or be slightly in touch, at least. It seems to us that much of the resultant lavender anger stems directly from Dean’s apparent ineptitude.

It may be tempting for a gay voter to totally disregard the Democratic National Committee, we must remind you guys that the DNC has taken some significant steps over the past few years. For example, the party garnered some positive headlines earlier this month when it announced that Chairman Dean had appointed trans man Diego Sanchez to the platform committee, a historic first for the party. Marisa Richmond also signed on to help the party, the first black trans delegate in the party’s history. More than that, however, the DNC made a serious effort to amend its delegate selection rules.

Consider Rule 5c of the Democratic Party’s rules, which insists that each state party shall “develop and submit Party outreach programs, including recruitment, education and training, in order to achieve full participation by such groups and diversity in the delegate selection process and at all levels of Party affairs.” What’s more, despite some key leaders objections to including gays in the party’s affirmative action guidelines, the party made it a priority to accommodate queers:

The National and State Parties shall adopt and implement Inclusion Programs in order to achieve the full participation of members of [LGBT] and other [under-represented] groups in the delegate selection process and in all party affairs, as indicated by their presence in the Democratic electorate. As is already the practice in some states, State Parties may use goals to achieve these ends; however, in no event may such participation be accomplished by the use of quotas.

Setting concrete quotas remains a challenge for a variety of reasons. While DNC spokesman Damien LaVera suggested that gay populations vary from state to state, a sliding scale can also be explained in terms of the closet. For example, while New York may have a plethora of out, politically active queers, more conservative or rural states don’t necessarily have that luxury, which obviously impedes the growth of a gay delegate group.

The new plans have, according to the DNC, be a complete success. Brian Bond, who took over on the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council following Hitchcock’s sacking, gave us his take on the new delegate rules. Sure, he’s a staffer and perhaps has a bit of spin, but he makes some valid points:

The DNC’s new delegate selection rules are historic for our community, and one of the real accomplishments of the AMP… As a result, 50 out of 56 states and territories have set goals, up from 16 in 2004. Our goal now is to work with the candidates, state parties and national LGBT organizations to ensure that the goals are met… Another example of our commitment to this empowering the LGBT community is the fact that Governor Dean appointed a significant number of individuals from our community to the powerful platform committee – 4 out of the 25 slots.

Bond also rightly points out that the delegate rules “ensure that a continuous dialogue is maintained between the community and the state parties.”

More importantly than any dialogue, of course, is the participation of gay Democrats. Gay voters should keep in mind that the Democratic party as a whole have a much better track record than their counterparts over at the Republicans. One need look no further than the GOP’s 2004 platform, which contains 19 references to “marriage,” most of them “traditional” or healthy” and decidedly between one man, one woman. And that says more than anything Dean ever could.

The DNC may not explicitly support gay marriage – although it should – but at least it ain’t out to amend the constitution for discriminatory purposes. Even Hitchcock, whose sacking started all this drama, remains committed to the DNC: “It’s important to remember, when I was fired in April 2006, I remained silent about the incident, respecting the Democrats opportunity to regain the majority in Congress that year.” It wasn’t until one year later, after talks with the DNC crumbled and, he alleges, they attempted to “defame and discredit” him, that Hitchcock filed his suit.

It seems to us that gay Democrats have a duty to their party: get involved and set things straight. Lord knows Howard Dean’s not going to do it for you.

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  • H'Mo

    Howard’s HOT!!

  • kellygrrrl

    OMG! Politicians lying under oath? I’m shocked!

  • Konrad

    “That dotted line’ relationship became quite contentious for Hitchcock, who wanted a closer relationship with the AMP…but the fact that his request was not granted only reinforced Hitchcock’s theories”

    In other words, the little boy was hired to do one job, but he wanted to do a different job and he cried and stomped his feet until Uncle Howard said he could help out a little bit with the AMP. But the temper tantrums kept coming and the little boy would barge into other people’s staff meetings. You see, he wasn’t an employee with a job to do. He was DONALD — the precious little child.

    Behavior like that wouldn’t be tolerated for a day with any other employer. Dean’s biggest wrong was that he pampered this infant for far too long.

  • Bill Perdue

    KONRAD = DNC shill. H’Mo = bad taste in politics and in men.

  • Charley

    The DNC can’t just come out for gay rights. We have leprosy and are the untouchables. When we die, they just step over us, like on the streets of Calcutta.

  • Desi Dem

    Charley, I find your comment tasteless.

    As a South Asian-American, I resent your casual use of “the exotic” to try to make a point, and find your reference misinformed and tacky.

    And as an openly gay DNC employee, I can assure you that my GLBT co-workers and I have always been treated as family and part of the team.

  • DenverGrrl

    Desi Dem,

    Sometimes people in the party let us gays fall to the wayside so that they can keep their jobs.

    great posting on DNC and Donna Brazille at

    The deposition given last month by Democratic Party chair Howard Dean shed some ugly light on longtime operative Donna Brazile, who headed up Al Gore’s 2000 election and is a regular political analyst on CNN.

    Dean admitted it was Brazile who objected most strenuously to a proposal put forward by gay Democrats to add GLBT delegates to affirmative action guidelines states follow when selecting those who attend the party’s national convention:

    Dean said some “influential individuals” within the DNC Black Caucus, such as Donna Brazile, opposed the plan because it was seen as “an affront to the civil rights movement.”

    Brazile, who chairs the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, declined to comment for this article.

  • tpagy

    Well what I want to no is why the Democratic Party Embraces Black Homphobic Churches and Pastors for there Votes and Condem The Republicans for doing the same thing with White Evangelical Christians and there Pastors and why is it Ok? Hate and Homophobia is wrong no matter which race uses it and should not be tolerated but it seems as if its Ok and acceptable in the Democratic Party or am I wrong?

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