This is necessarily a reprise of a column I wrote
here a little less than a year ago, asking, with similar basis (that is, knowing nothing), “Is Sonia Sotomayor Gay?”
I asked that question then in an effort to make fun of the question.
But my subtlty, playfulness, and, if I do say so, impishness, went over or under just about everybody’s head. The issues that I was trying to make fun of became the issues with which I was beaten senseless: a) Who’s business is it if she is? b) How could I ask this question without any evidence or knowledge? c) Didn’t I understand how I was poisoning the debate? d) What was I, a reactionary slob of an unreconstructed man? e) And didn’t I know I was playing into the hands of the right, if I wasn’t myself a right-winger?
It could, I suppose, be my fault that my mildly sardonic question has now graduated to a mainstream political accusation and, from the other side, operatic offense. Early last week, a blogger at the Atlantic
took note of a whisper campaign about solicitor general and potential Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation. Then a blogger at CBSNews.com, one with an ostensible right-wing view, wrote a post assuming that Kagan was, in fact, gay and her prospective nomination part of the gay-liberal agenda (although he subsequently seemed to apologize for assuming this, or for assuming that everyone else knew what he knew). Then the White House, strangely, denied the accusation, which means all evidence about the poor woman’s sexual comings and goings suddenly becomes fair game.
Let me return to trying to make fun of everybody about this issue.
To say the obvious about Elena Kagan: It’s the hair. Let the opprobrium begin, but who isn’t, in their own mind, putting it exactly so: She sure looks gay.
Among professional right-wingers, with their own gay mafia, there is a kind of breathlessness and, even, obvious titillation, about the subject. Lesbianism seems, to them, not just an ultimate misogynistic target, but the zenith of the left wing. Your can’t get more left than a lesbian (even though the left seems down on Kagan because she’s too moderate).
The left, in a triumph of intellect and bureaucracy, takes the view that there is or should be no sexuality, that sexuality is just gutter innuendo of the right.
For the media, it’s ideal. The deacons get to take umbrage that such suggestions might exist in responsible journalism, as they eagerly repeat them.
Everybody else tries gamely to believe sexual situation shouldn’t add to the story, but secretly suspects it might. For one thing, it makes these dull figures more interesting. For another, such issues now infuse all aspects of American life (we know, or speculate about, the sexuality of our co-workers, friends, family, and favorite celebrities), so why should politics be exempted? Actually, that’s the point: It isn’t exempted anymore.
This is probably good, not bad. The all-time blockbuster political novel, Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent
, is about a presidential nominee who kills himself because his sexual secret is about to be exposed.
Now it’s just part of the passing conversation—however hysterical.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.