McCain’s Chief of Staff Outed

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 23, 2008

Following gay talk show host and blogger Michaelangelo Signorile's purported "outing" of John McCain's chief of staff, Mark Buse, the GLBT media and the blogosphere has lit up as to what it means for a gay man to serve a political apparatus that demonizes GLBT Americans--and whether it is morally acceptable to out a gay person working for those who obstruct GLBT equality.

In his blog The Gist of Sept. 22, Signorile wrote, "What does John McCain's loyal chief of staff--a man who apparently is in a long-term relationship with another man, and appears to be open about it to John McCain--think about the fact that Sarah Palin devoutly worships at a church that promotes 'converting' gays to heterosexuality?"

Continued the blog, "What, conversely, does she think of him?

"More importantly," Signorile went on, "what does John McCain think about all of this? And don't we deserve some answers from the American media?"

Signorile claimed to have been notified by three different people (two of whom he said belonged to the Log Cabin Republicans) that Buse was gay, as well as by a fourth individual, Brian Davis, who declared himself a past partner of McCain's chief of staff.

Signorile also noted that another blogger, Mike Rogers, who Signorile said broke the news of the Larry Craig scandal in which the anti-gay Idaho senator was arrested in an airport men's room for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover male police officer, had written a separate, contemporaneous article outing Buse, and relying on separate sources for his information.

Signorile quoted Davis as describing the night, in summer of 1986, when he met Buse: "It was at a bar in Phoenix called Connections," Signorile quoted Davis as saying.

"I will never forget it, because it was a big night," Signorile's article quoted Davis further. "Divine was performing there that night."

Signorile went on to argue that Buse's sexual orientation is relevant because of the policies that his boss, McCain--who, if his campaign is successful, will become President next year--"is opposed to every single gay rights measure of recent years--from a hate crimes bill, to an anti-discrimination bill to an attempt to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays in the military--and," continued Signorile, "is publicly on record supporting a ballot measure in California this November to strip gays and lesbians there of their legally-won right to marry in that state."

Continued Signorile, "If that isn't enough to make it relevant to report on his 20-year-relationship with a close aide and chief of staff who is gay, the fact that Sarah Palin is now on the ticket--garnering support for McCain from previously reticent antigay leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family--surely does."

Referring to Buse as "a public figure in his own right," Signorile also called into question McCain's choice of running mate, Ala. governor Sarah Palin, who, Sigorile said, "has been a prominent and visible member of two controversial churches in Wasilla, though much of the media has shied away from telling us much about them (even though cable networks had no problem giving us every minute detail about Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, and his church)."

Wrote Signorile, "Palin adheres to Pentecostalism, a religious fundamentalist movement that is vehemently antigay and believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible."

After outlining Palin's anti-gay actions as governor of Ala., including an attempt to strike domestic partnership benefits for state employees, Signorile added, "Mark Buse's sexual orientation and his relationship with McCain certainly are relevant facts in light of Palin's positions, beliefs, past political career and silence on the issues right now.

"And John McCain is the person responsible for making them relevant by choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate."

Relevant or not, not everyone in the GLBT community agreed with Buse's outing.

Those commenting on a Sept. 22 recap of the story at Queerty offered a gamut of arguments against such involuntary exposure of a person's private life.

Wrote one commentator, "I know they are pointing to the hypocrisy here but I really have a problem with a gay man purposely outing another gay man. It just bugs me."

Wrote another, "Unless McCain and/or Palin are sleeping with this guy I don't see an issue nor should it become one for the country as a whole.

"I can see why we might take exception to it," continued the blogger, "but it's not the biggest problem this country is facing today."

Another chimed in, "I really hate when people get outed. That is such a personal decision.

"This does not make McCain look bad, it just makes those who outed him look bad!"

To that comment, another blogger fired back, "...and how does it make those who hide in shame look?"

This viewpoint, too, was met with a moderate outlook on the issue, with a respondent writing, "I think most queer people, especially men, purposely don't out themselves because they have made a choice against a society which doesn't give them much leeway."

Suggested one user, "When McCain responds: 'Well I don't speak about my staff's private lives' THERE NEED TO BE IMMEDIATE FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS."

Added the user, "Q: Senator, how specifically is the relationship you've had with either of your wives more deserving of the 'sanctity of marriage' than your Chief of Staff and his spouse?

"Q: Senator, why should your Chief of Staff be unqualified as an adoptive parent while you and either of your wives are not?

"Q: Senator, would you knowingly retain a staff member whom you knew to not only be an alcoholic, a drug abuser, or a swinger--but actually embraced that lifestyle as normal and healthy? Would such a person reflect the values and character of the McCain campaign?"

Where that user saw the issue in terms of identifying and rejecting hypocrisy, another aspect of the debate was presented by another commentator, who wrote, "All of you people bitching about them outing this guy are missing two major points."

Continued the commentator, "1. Why would you object to the outing of somebody working to further the career of somebody hurting the gay cause (McCain has appeared in ads in AZ supporting a state law banning gay marraige [sic], and down't not [sic] believe gays should adopt)

"2. Mark Buse is not in the closet, you cannot out somebody who is not in. His family, friends, and collegues all know his sexuality. Therefore there has been no 'Outing'"

Signorile's mention of Palin also invited assorted comments, such as the following: "any queer working to elect PRAY-AWAY-THE-GAY Palin... gird your loins, it's gonna be a BUMPY RIDE."

One commentator offered lukewarm consolation in hoping that McCain's opposition to GLBT equality is a political smoke screen, claiming, "Senator McCain is far more socially liberal in private than he is as a Republican politician running for office."

Added the commentator, "He is gay-friendly, but he's in the closet about it. This is well known among gay Republicans."

The commentator went on, "All politicians lie to win elections (including Mr. Obama). The trick is to figure out what they're really thinking and what they'll really do once they're elected, when they can afford to break campaign promises."

In another story involving McCain's underlying attitude toward gays, Ben Smith at Politico posted an article on Sept. 22 saying that, despite reports that the McCain camp had returned a contribution from Jonathan Crutchlyy, the co-founder of gay dating site Manhunt, no such refund is reflected by the campaign's financial records.

Noted Smith, "Indeed, while the contribution caused a bitter backlash against Crutchley inside the gay political world (and a backlash against that backlash), there was never any indication of a backlash from the Republican side."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.