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Is Bush a sadist, or does he just need a Queer Eye?


One of the great benefits of blogging and writing columns is that I don’t watch much television these days. But try as I might, I cannot entirely avoid one of the more bizarre phenomena of recent years, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” In case any of you have been lucky enough to have spent the last two years in a parallel universe uncontaminated by “reality” television, each installment of QESG features a different sartorially challenged hetero male who gets a makeover from a panel of fashion consultants who range from the slightly swishy to charter membership in the Judy Garland fan club.


Incredibly, this pouf pageant is knocking them dead in Red State America. It seems odd that these bible-thumping holy rollers invite people into their homes a few nights a week who they would prefer to never see in their communities. Combine this oddity with the Bible Belt popularity of that other gay minstrel show, “Will & Grace” and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the militantly hetero middle is fascinated by at least some aspects of gay culture.

I can offer no explanation for this societal-level rubbernecking, but recent events offer considerable evidence that such cognitive dissonance is not limited to the shows Republicans watch. It appears that the White House has no problem casting its own productions with gays in supporting roles, though a deadbolted closet door is a prerequisite.

Raw Story regulars are familiar with dapper David Dreier’s closet. The gay-bashing Congressman from Rancho Cucamonga has been outed more times than a poodle with a bladder infection, yet he remains a favorite spokesman for the Administration.

I assumed that Dreier’s manifest self-loathing was relatively uncommon among the Bush inner circle. But shortly after the gay Kristallnacht in November, when the passage of 11 state-wide anti-gay ballot initiatives helped to re-elect George Bush, rumors began to swirl around former White House political director and current RNC chief Ken Mehlman – rumors that Mehlman studiously avoids addressing, and that other prominent Republicans refused to discuss on the record (at least until GQ magazine came knocking).

Then there was Gannongate. It simply begs belief that the White House could have been unaware that Gannon was a gay prostitute, and that it was unable to find a less compromised shill. Someone must have known and either not cared, or actually liked the idea of having him close at hand.

And now, as night follows day, Gannongate has brought speculation into the highest levels of the White House. Rumors swirl around Press Secretary Scott McClellan. Was he seen in gay bars, as has been reported by Raw Story?

Finding a growing number of gays in the Bush White House seems as notable as finding an equal number of card-carrying Communists in Joe McCarthy’s office. But the apparent contradiction is not sui generis. Such cognitive dissonance figures prominently in the Presidential psyche. Dubya likes Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas even if he is indifferent at best and hostile at worst to blacks in general. He favors Alberto Gonzales despite policies harmful to Hispanics.

By now it is painfully obvious to all but the folks P.T. Barnum warned us about that Karl Rove uses the prejudices of the prejudiced to persuade them to vote for people (like Dubya) they would otherwise recognize as a threat to their wellbeing. Republicans fan homophobia for profit in the same way their perennial “Southern Strategy” stokes racism.

But being gay is different, at least in the eyes of the radical right. Condi can’t help being black; there is no question that Gonzales was born Hispanic. The Christian Taliban insists that homosexuality is a choice, which makes gays not merely sinners, but inferior.

Yet Wayne Besen has been quoted as calling the Republican Party a “gay affirmative action program” and saying that the Republican leadership looks like a “Harvey Fierstein cocktail party.”

So why? What do these queer eyes do for the top Republican guy? As part of my ongoing and utterly unschooled psychoanalysis of our president, who manifests more psychopathology than most residents of the extra-long-sleeve wing of Bellevue, I can offer a theory: George W. Bush is a textbook sadist.

A sadist is someone who obtains pleasure from inflicting pain or others. We can still see glimpses of this characteristic in our President’s distant, heavily sanitized past. It has been reported that the young George Bush tortured frogs, and shot at his younger brother with a BB gun. We know he saw nothing wrong with branding fraternity pledges while at Yale.

For a man of Bush’s current station, personally dishing out such physical abuse is far too risky. But the absolute power he now enjoys creates unmatched opportunity to inflict psychological pain, which can be worse for the victim, and thus more exquisite for the tormentor. Recall that the Abu Ghraib guards force-fed inmates pork and alcohol because those things were banned by their religion – torture in the form of forced betrayal of the victim’s beliefs. Cause and effect may not apply here, but either way, Bush could well have progressed from his childhood pleasure of torturing small animals to taking pleasure in the willingness of minorities who betray their own in order to advance their careers.

George W. Bush doesn’t just torture minorities, of course. Witness his comedy routine at this year’s Gridiron Club dinner at which the President joked that he had the “dangedest puppy” who would roll over on command - but only some of the time. “I renamed him ‘John McCain.’”

But there must be a special thrill when this patrician in cowboy boots uses the oppressed to do his dirty work for him. How many death row Hispanics did Texas Secretary of State Alberto Gonzales encourage Governor Bush to fry? How many poor blacks did Colin Powell and Condi Rice send to their deaths in Iraq? And how many gays have suffered from the way Ken, Scott and David helped to engineer the triumph of homophobia?

Now, George Bush could scratch his itch without taking a chance on alienating his homophobic base by allowing untouchables into the inner sanctum. So why gays? I’m guessing the reason he especially likes having gays around is this: Bush cannot, in polite society tell Gonzales to “screw the Hispanics,” but in what passes for genteel company among Republicans, he can bash queers in front of Mehlman, Dreier et al and expect them to silently take the abuse. It would not surprise me to learn that Bush knows these closet cases are gay, and that he lets them know he knows it. It would make his abuse of them that much more satisfying.

So perhaps our Maximum Leader keeps a few self-loathing gays around because he enjoys watching them lick his boot heels for the right to borrow a smidgen of Bush’s power, even if the price is their own souls.

John Steinberg bloviates regularly @


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