Illinois GOP failed to ask right questions about Keyes

September 04, 2004|By GREGORY KANE

WE HAVE Alan Keyes, the Marylander running on the Republican ticket for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, for this week's lesson in what happens when erudite people are asked stupid questions.

We also have Keyes to thank for another question: How stupid are Illinois Republicans?

The first order of business is to deal with the stupid question a radio show host put to Keyes this week after he called homosexuality "selfish hedonism." The questioner asked if Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, was a selfish hedonist. Keyes answered, "Of course, she is."

The media had a field day reporting that Keyes had called Cheney's daughter a "selfish hedonist." But note that Keyes didn't bring up Mary Cheney's name. The questioner did. What was Keyes supposed to say? All homosexuals except Mary Cheney are selfish hedonists, and the only reason she's not is because she's Dick Cheney's daughter?

Keyes answered the question about a controversial social topic the way he always does: honest, straightforward, pulling no punches. He ran for the Senate here in Maryland partly on a platform that strongly opposed abortion. I was working part-time at the Maryland Science Center then and asked three or four young women who worked there what they thought of Keyes' position on abortion.

"That's none of his business," all replied.

"I don't think Keyes is going to win this election," I remember telling each of them.

Keyes never will win an election. He's too blunt and too uncompromising to be in public office. He also should be reminded -- I suspect Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama, who actually lives in the state, will do this -- that the question isn't whether homosexuality is or isn't "selfish hedonism." We all have a bit of hedonism in us, and it seems odd to attribute it to gays alone. The question is whether even "selfish hedonists" -- of the gay and ungay variety -- have citizenship rights under state constitutions and the U.S. Constitution.

The 14th Amendment, with its clear language that all people born here are citizens (it makes no exception for "selfish hedonists"), seems to say yes. But the 10th Amendment, which succinctly distinguishes between federal and state powers, seems to say such matters as gay rights and gay marriage are best left to state legislatures. And for all the debate about both, here's where Keyes and I part company on "selfish hedonists": I'd vote for a gay conservative candidate for public office over a liberal heterosexual one, the way Democrats once did, which is to say early and often.

Keyes and other conservatives may not realize it, but a conservative gay legislator or judge who believes that things like abortion and gay marriage are the purviews of state legislatures -- not federal judges who root around in the "penumbra" of the Constitution where they don't belong -- will do far less damage than liberal heterosexual ones. Such a judge or legislator might be the one who will break the sad news to conservatives that a federal ruling that outlawed abortion in states where it was legal would have been just as wrong as the one that legalized it in states where it was outlawed, or who believes, as members of the gay group the Pink Pistols do, that the Second Amendment gives gays -- and by extension all people -- the right to publicly carry firearms to ward off gay-bashers.

Indeed, it is such conservatives who might be members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay and lesbian GOP stalwarts. They took umbrage at Keyes' remarks, and I can't blame them.

Now Illinois Republicans are left tongue-tied and apologetic about the "selfish hedonism" controversy. It serves them right. By what logic do they ask a Marylander to run for the Senate in Illinois? Because he's black, Republican and conservative? Didn't they bother to ask anybody here why Keyes couldn't win a senatorial race in the state where he lived?

Folks will give various reasons why. I'll stick to the ones above. Keyes is a brilliant man, schooled in the Constitution, who believes, unlike many today, that the document means what it says: The powers of the federal government are extremely limited, and those powers not specifically delegated to it are reserved to the states and the people.

When Keyes is debating his opponents and making those points, that's when he's at his best. He wasn't earlier this week. But when you get Alan Keyes, you get the whole package. Someone should have told Illinois Republicans that when it comes to social issues, Keyes speaks his mind.

Or, since they figured they had to put one black guy up against another, they might have heeded that famous Afro-American adage: If you don't know, you'd better ask somebody.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.