Just 8 Years Ago, White House’s LGBT Pointman Jim Messina Was Gay Baiting for Republicans

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.

The above ad, which isn’t new to the web, arrives on our radar via The American Prospect‘s Tim Fernholz.

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?

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  • Lanjier

    It is amazing how Messina is not as up-to-date as the public was in repealing DADT. If he is smart, he will realize that gay issues are not toxic assets, they are highly valuable political leverage.

    – Obama can succeed where Bill Clinton failed, so back down, Republicans.

    – Obama protected veterans and national security with the repeal compromise on DADT. Now loyal and trained soldiers will not be dumped for an un-American reason.

    – Republicans would rather spend millions on retraining dumped gay soldiers that just keeping the excellent soldiers we have.

    – By standing up for equality on one issue, Obama demonstrates he understands that all Americans should be treated equally and have their views heard.

    – By supporting repeal of DOMA the president is upholding the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the principle that the Constitution will not be abused in other contexts, like the tea party people believe.

    – No one disputes equality under the law, and that is something the President believes in and is will to fight for.

    Hey Messina: OWN it, love it, and it won’t bite you in the ass again.

  • Justin Normand

    @Lanjier: What PLANET are you on, Lanjier? I’m sure we’re both less unhappy with Obama in than we would have been with McCain and Miz Palin in, but in answer to your points:

    – Obama did NOT compromise on DADT, and it is patently untrue that “loyal and trained soldiers will not be dumped…”. In fact, they continue to be dumped today, they will tomorrow, they will at least through December, and will be indefinitely thanks to this “piece of work” legislation

    – “Obama demonstrates that he understands… have their issues heard”. Untrue. For one thing, he’s NOT “standing up” for equality. Instead, he’s waiting for the Congress to do it (showing no initiative or leadership), and then grudgingly going along. Nor does he understand that all Americans should be treated equally. Have you ever even READ his stated positions opposing same-sex marriage? If you have, you could never ever believe that he thinks all Americans should be treated equally. He states outright that they should not. Do you refuse to believe his own stated positions?

    – Obama actually DOES “dispute equality under the law”. First there was the first DOJ brief. Then, a second one. How many briefs must the Obama justice department file in court – “disputing” your rights -, calling you no better than a pedophile, for you to give up this notion that Obama somehow has our best interests at heart?

    Obama wants from us: 1. Money, and 2. Votes. That’s all. ANYTHING at all we get or have gotten is simply due to his algebra at achieving those two things. The altruism simply is not there, dude.

    Like I said, he’s a sight better than his opposition was. But, we are a long, LONG way from having a “fierce advocate” ANYWHERE in this administration.

  • Jason_Activist

    It’s NOT repeal. Congressional “review” begins in December.

    ALL that has happened is this is deferred until after the mid-terms. It’s NOT progress.

    We need to put more pressure on people. Everyone that disagrees with us. Get outside and raise your voices. Make demands. Enough demands and we get repeal. No demands and we get more tricks.

    Demanding = Rights

    If you go out this weekend instead of Acting Loud, buy an Activist a drink. Or two. They deserve our support.

  • ColinATL

    Messina worked for a Democrat in 2002, not a Republican, just to correct that last sentence in the first paragraph. Baucus, though conservative, is a Democrat.

  • Lanjier


    Right you are.

  • alan brickman

    Sounds like a career good for equal rights!??

  • Justin_Activist

    We should heckle this jerk-off. He’s just looking out for himself. Demanding is the only way to fix him. We should organize something at his house.

  • jeffree

    Messina is kind of like the slave who got to work inside the master’s mansion on the plantation in the 1800s, who thought he was better than the other slaves. Messina however is a free man, but he’s still taking orders and being the mouthpiece of his bosses. In this case, I think chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel is calling the shots [maybe it’s Axelrod] and Messina doesnt have the pride or cojònes to do what’s right for the LGBs.
    I have even ++less++ respect for him than I would if his spot were filled by a raving fundie, because Messina should KNOW better as a gay guy, and because he is other than the CA$H thing, he’s fighting against his own self interests.
    That makes him a sell out, a hypocrite and
    a harlot.

    @Justin_Activist: Find out where he lives & we’ll be there to join you. Please do check on Jason_Activist when you can. We’ve not heard from him for a few days. Thanks [i’d join u in the hungerstrike but i’m hypoglecemic & faint if i dont eat every three hours…. cant do THAT now that my final exams are a.l.m.o.s.t. here. Sorry dude]

  • Lookyloo

    I see ZERO gay-baiting in that commercial or the content of the flier. Someone please explain to me what I’m missing.

  • Jeffrey

    @ LookyLoo: footage of a man stroking another man’s face and engaged in a gay-stereotypical profession / setting is akin to a whisper campaign or code, sort of like Kagan’s softball photo that is all the rage. A bit subtler than asking a Jewish person what they did last Christmas, but wedge-riddled nonetheless.

    I also think the “not the way we do business here in Montana” line is more than a bit innuendo-laden.

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