In his recent Blade op-ed (“Forgotten Americans,” Nov. 25) James Driscoll makes some reasonable sounding suggestions for LGBT Republican AIDS policy advocacy in the Trump years were it not the year 2016. After the sad history of Republican AIDS activism during the first term of George W. Bush, some 17 years ago, anyone who is serious about history should know better than to dust off old-school Log Cabin messaging, especially Driscoll who served for years on George W. Bush’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Indeed, why are George W. Bush and Karl Rove and their gay supporters nowhere mentioned in Driscoll’s piece on Trump?
Driscoll is not so much a “forgotten” American as a “forgetting” American. He conveniently forgets the train wreck of the Bush presidency and LGBT-related AIDS policy. So much of LGBT history is “deleted” or remains sealed in government vaults, it is easy to forget how the first White House openly gay AIDS czar Scott Evertz was pressured to resign his post, while Rove surrogates like Claude Allen and Patricia Ware were elevated along with a host of other anti-gay ideologues fighting for “abstinence” prevention education over condoms. Bush/Rove/Ware “AIDS advocate” Jerry Thacker even described homosexuality as a “deathstyle” and AIDS a “gay plague,” while Rove and others were trying to appoint him to the Bush PACHA. That did not go so well.
Driscoll’s AIDS strategy for these so-called “forgotten” LGBT Republican Trumpsters was tried and spectacularly failed on his team’s watch during the Bush years. No one remembers Jay Lefkowitz, the Orthodox Jewish conservative attorney who was Bush/Rove’s director of domestic policy (2000-2003), described as the “in-house ethicist” and primary liaison to Christian conservatives like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. This West Wing ethicist may presage the unfolding role of Vice President Pence and his team.
The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. has made multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to the George W. Bush Presidential Library to open up the now-processed Lefkowitz AIDS papers, which include “AIDS PR Strategy” memos from Patricia Ware and HIV/AIDS policy memos from Claude Allen. THAT Claude Allen, former aid to Jesse Helms; deputy secretary, Department of Health and Human Services; opponent of science-based LGBT policy proposals, later to be arrested for shoplifting after being named Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. The Lefkowitz Papers at the Bush Library include some 40 boxes of materials, including high-flown “ethicist” memos and speeches on AIDS, even as the Bush administration would pivot from gay “access and affordability” issues to African AIDS, working with Pastor Rick Warren in Uganda.
The judgment of history on this period for LGBT Americans is an unforgiving one, especially since George W. Bush was another one of these “pro-LGBT” candidates in transition to the presidency. Driscoll’s advocacy for Trump/Pence’s “forgotten” LGBT supporters — without addressing the Bush disaster culminating in the Federal Marriage Amendment — mocks history.
Charles Francis is president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. He organized the meeting of then-Gov. George W. Bush with the “Austin 12” in 2000, the first time a Republican presidential candidate had ever formally and publicly met with a group of openly gay individuals to discuss his presidential candidacy. In 2001, Francis was appointed by President Bush to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.